Niagara Gazette

Columns

July 14, 2013

SINGER: Managing the stars of summer

Niagara Gazette — Summer’s the time for concerts galore around here, and Elvis impersonators or those inspired by Sinatra will doubtless be coming to the fore. What the King and Frank had in common, besides being iconic, is an agent who took on both in the latter stages of their careers. With initial underestimation in place, I reluctantly bought Jerry Weintraub’s autobiography (“When I Stop Talking, You’ll Know I’m Dead”), thinking he’d be some superficial guy puffed up about trivialities (and hey, there are such types around).

The book, however, turned out to be fascinating pretty well all the way! Weintraub has Bronx-reared guts, a certain nobility, and the improvisatory genius you’d expect from someone who pushed a balky Colonel Parker into giving him a piece of the King.

Which then led to a phone call from someone claiming to be Frank Sinatra, wanting some of Weintraub’s promotional magic for his own career of the early ‘70s. At first Weintraub thought it was some kook on the line; once he got off the floor, so to speak, and started speaking to Mr. Sinatra, as he called him, he kept being chided–the name to be used was Francis, always Francis, OK? And meetings with the Rat Pack Chairman were when he called them, i.e., now.

What the book shows in a tasteful way is this super agent going from one adjacent opportunity to the next, rather as golfer Greg Norman did in his later business career. It helped that Weintraub wouldn’t take no for an answer. And that he brought out the best in people. And that he married the glamorous singer Jane Morgan (of “Fascination” et al.), becoming part of a power couple.

Even George H. W. Bush was taken with him (they met in Maine), and in turn, Weintraub had the independence of mind to value Bush, Sr., becoming his friend and seeing his potential for high office. (Not all people in Weintraub’s trade obviously this ecumenical!) Mainly, the super agent loved scouring New York or LA for new talent, and rightly, gets credit for “breaking” (his term) John Denver, finding him working for peanuts in Greenwich Village and soon plastering the world with billboards for the folk singer who made “Country Road” and other big hits of the ‘70s.

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