Kal Rudman with Bee Gees
KAL’S HAS LEFT THE ROOM — There was a major blip on the music-industry radar screens last week (yes, and it wasn’t even remotely about the Grammys), legendary Kal Rudman, of the Friday Morning Quarterback, retired. After 52 years of leading one of the most influential tip sheets in the business, Kal has left the room.
Kal was often referred to as the Man with the Golden Ears.
I remember going with an artist to the revered Friday Morning Quarterback offices in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, eons ago ago and as we got closer and closer to the door, I realized that not only was the door made of metal -or, at least something resembling metal- there was a guard right outside.
Knowing how influential the sheet was, it didn’t surprise me at all. There was a time in the music business, when records were promoted with things like cash or illegal substances, so there was a rhyme to the reason of it all.
Now, I’m not inferring anything here, a lot of good was done as well, but it was indeed distinctly ominous often back then. Once we entered, it was a jovial atmosphere inside and Kal treated my artist with tender-loving-care. He really did believe in the industry and took the care and time to greet the artists who visited him there; be it Bruce Springsteen or Boy George or Mariah Carey.
That’s where this whole thing gets a bit spooky; the music industry back then was such an infectious one, that everyone wanted to be in it. And, that said, along the way, it picked up some rather notorious figures.
As times changed; labels folded; creative people passed and the Internet reared its head; intimate visits to tip sheets and trade papers became a thing of the past.
I remember trade sheets like Joe Loris’ IMPACT and Sidney Miller’s Black Radio Exclusive being must-reads. I also loved Record World and Cashbox, which ultimately lost the trade-papers wars to Billboard. But, Billboard, owned by the Hollywood Reporter these days, isn’t even the same as it was.
Names like Irv Lichtman; Bill Wardlow; Radcliffe Joe; Bob Austin; Marty Ostrow; Mike Sigman; John Sippel; Nelson George; Brian Chin and Vince Aletti all gone.
Still FMQB was a standout trade of the times. Well down Kal!
LET IT BE — Director Peter Jackson previewed a few minutes of his upcoming documentary based on the Beatles’ Let It Be movie over last weekend.
Variety reports the screening took place at Universal Music’s annual showcase that coincided with the Grammy Awards. Jeff Jones of Apple Records said because of the perception that the 1970 movie was a depressing look at the Beatles coming apart, Jackson was brought in to digitally clean up old footage, removing what reporter Jem Aswad described as the “murky, shadowy atmosphere” of the original. It’s a process similar to what the director did when colorizing the World War I footage in They Shall Not Grow Old.
“We have created a brand-new film that will attempt to bust the myth that the Let It Be sessions were the final nail in the Beatles’ coffin,” Jones said.
According to Aswad, Jackson succeeded based on what was shown. “An amazing counter-narrative to [the] Let It Be film has ensued,” he wrote. “It’s brighter both visually and spiritually, with many, many shots of the Beatles joking around, making fun of each other, singing in silly accents and generally indulging in vintage mop-top hi-jinks. It also features many scenes of the group rehearsing songs from the Abbey Road album — their true swan song, which would be recorded over the following summer — and even rough versions of songs that would appear on solo records. On the basis of this clip, Beatles fans will lose their minds over this film.”
Jackson’s film was announced almost exactly one year ago, saying he was given access to 55 hours of video and 140 hours of audio in order to create the “ultimate ‘fly on the wall’ experience” about the sessions. He called it an “amazing historical treasure trove. Sure, there are moments of drama – but none of the discord this project has long been associated with.” He added that the material was “funny, uplifting and surprisingly intimate.”
While the title and release date of Jackson’s project haven’t been announced yet, it’s believed it will be called Get Back — the album’s original title — and coming out in October, based on an pre-order listing for a companion book that showed up on Amazon earlier this month.
I very clearly remember seeing the original Get Back movie when it first came … and, I loved it. It showed the group working and was a true cinema-verité project. I honestly don’t know if I want to see a happy-go-lucky documentary. What was the pitch to Jackson? make a happy-go-lucky Beatles movie?
Whatever truly happened – and, no whitewashing will ever really work – was something historic and I think I want it to remain that way.
SILVERMAN PASSES — Fred Silverman, the legendary television producer and executive behind such groundbreaking shows as All in the Family, Soap and Hill Street Blues, and the only executive to creatively run CBS, ABC and NBC, died Thursday at his home in Pacific Palisades, LA. He was 82.
Silverman’s knack for identifying hit shows in the making and programming them into memorable prime-time nights led Time magazine to crown him “The Man with the Golden Gut” in 1977.
“There are a lot of things that I can point to that I think are proud achievements,” Silverman said in a 2001 interview with the TV Academy Foundation. “Most importantly, I had the opportunity to kind of stretch the medium a little bit, to do some things that had never been done before.”
Born on September 13, 1937, in New York City, Silverman’s master’s thesis at Ohio State University examined ABC’s television programming. He started his career at WGN-TV in Chicago — where he created such programs as Zim-Bomba, Bozo’s Circus and Family Classics — and WPIX in New York City. The young Silverman so impressed the top executives at CBS that he was named head of CBS daytime programming at 25.
He rose to VP Programming at CBS and was responsible for a new wave of hit comedy, drama and variety series. Amid the famous “rural purge” of the early 1970’s, the likes of Green Acres, The Beverly Hillbillies, Mayberry R.F.D. and Petticoat Junction were replaced by socially conscious fare including All in the Family, spinoff Maude, The Mary Tyler Moore Show and M*A*S*H.
Other CBS series launched during Silverman’s tenure included The Waltons, The Jeffersons, Good Times, The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour, Kojak, Cannonand the animated — and later iconic — Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!
“I had always thought that kids in a haunted house would be a big hit, played for laughs, in animation,” he said in a 2001 interview. “[I] developed a show with Hanna-Barbera, and there was a dog in there, but the dog was in the background; it was much more serious. … [CBS President] Frank Stanton says, ‘We can’t put that on the air, that’s just too frightening.’ I booked a red-eye and I couldn’t sleep. I’m listening to music and as we’re landing, Frank Sinatra comes on, and I hear him say ‘Scooby-do-be-do.’ It’s at that point I said, ‘That’s it, we’ll take the dog — we’ll call it Scooby-Doo.”
After a successful run at CBS, Silverman was named President of ABC Entertainment. He green-lighted hit primetime series including Happy Days spinoff Laverne & Shirley — which was the No. 1 show in all of primetime for the 1977-78 and 1978-79 seasons — Charlie’s Angels, The Love Boat, Family, Donny & Marie, Three’s Company, Eight Is Enough, The Bionic Woman and Good Morning America.
Another popular Happy Days spinoff of the late 1970’s was Mork & Mindy, which dropped Robin Williams’ oddball alien into his own series and launched the future Oscar winner’s career. Williams called out the executive in a Roots-themed bit on his manic 1979 comedy album Reality … What a Concept, shouting, “I found you, Fred Silverman! I found youuuuuu!”
Silverman reinvented the television miniseries with the Peabody and Emmy-award winning Roots, which drew massive ratings over multiple nights in January 1977 and fueled a golden era of the format. He also reintroduced game shows to the network’s daytime slate, including The Price Is Right and Family Feud, which still are on the air today.
Under Silverman’s watch, ABC quickly moved from third to first place in the network ratings wars.
In 1978, joined NBC as President. There he greenlighted the influential cop drama Hill Street Blues, supervised the launch of the miniseries Shōgun and gave David Letterman his first series as a host. He scheduled series including The Facts of Life, Diff’rent Strokes, Gimme a Break! and reality forebear Real People and also was credited with revitalizing NBC’s news division.
Silverman memorably was spoofed by John Belushi in a 1978 Saturday Night Live sketch about TV programming. It wasn’t the only time SNL would poke fun at the veteran exec.
After decades as a television executive, Silverman turned his attention to production. He moved to Los Angeles to begin his own production company, quickly churning multiple hits including two series aimed at older audiences that brought back stars from 1960’s CBS hits: Andy Griffith in Matlock and Dick Van Dyke in Diagnosis Murder.
He also produced two other dramas that starred former Eye Network series frontmen: the Carroll O’Connor-led In the Heat of the Night and Cannon star William Conrad’s Jake and the Fatman, from which Diagnosis Murder was spun off. Silverman also revived CBS’ Perry Mason as a TV movie series that again starred Raymond Burr. Paul Sorvino and later Hal Holbrook stepped into the lead of those telepics after Burr’s 1993 death.
He went on to produce a number of TV movies into the new century, his last being Drive Time Murders in 2006.
Silverman never was even nominated for an Emmy or Golden Globe as a producer, but in 1995, he received the Women in Film Lucy Award, which recognizes excellence and innovation in creative works that have enhanced the perception of women through the medium of television.
Silverman loved television — as a medium and as a profession. At age 21, he applied for his first job in TV, saying later: “An employee in the industry should treat his job not just as a means of earning a living but as a challenge, always looking to better that which has been done in the past. Most important of all, such an individual must have a sincere interest and love for the profession.”
SHORT TAKES —ABC’S Emergence ended its first (and, hopefully not last) season last week with a finale that was good, but left a myriad of questions. As far as I’m concerned, this show was the best new show of the fall season …
Robert Miller’s Project Grand Slam is in the studio recording their next album. Not yet titled, expect it the spring. Remember their debut Long Island performance at My Father’s Place is February 21. Here’s a terrific article from Markos Papdatos in Digital Journal on them: http://www.digitaljournal.com/entertainment/music/project-grand-slam-to-make-long-island-debut-at-my-father-s-place/article/566165 … Celebrity-writer Mark Bego is off to LA next week for Elton John’s yearly Oscar-event at the Pacific Design Center. He’ll attend with Supreme-Mary Wilson. This year, however, EJ has to be at the Dolby Theater, where he’s nominated for Best Song from Rocketman. And, yes, he’s performing.
Speaking of Bego, we were leaked some fabulous news for one of his books. As soon as we can reveal it, we will … Actress Jennifer Westfeldt was simply terrific as Sophie’s mom Claire, who passed, on last week’s This Is Us. This NBC-show still has it with compelling performances and aces-on writing. Bravo … And, Harry Harrison, one of the legendary “Good Guys” of New York AM rock and roll radio, then later a member of talk radio’s so-called “All Americans,” has died. His death was announced on WCBS/101.1 FM, where Harrison ended his career, with a posting on its website which read: “Today we say so long to former American radio personality WCBS-FM and ‘Jack’ FM DJ Harry Harrison. He has passed away at 89 years old after battling health issues.” Over a 40-year span in New York, Harrison was once as familiar as the first cup of coffee or the drive to work. His “Good Guy” moniker — eventually shared with WMCA personalities Jack Spector, B. Mitchel Reed, Dan Daniel, Joe O’Brien and Dean Anthony — had indeed been earned. Harrison’s style was genial, non-combative and approachable, in sharp contrast to those who would come after, notably Don Imus and Howard Stern. How sharp? Best to recall Harrison’s famed sign-offs for that answer: “Stay well, stay happy, stay right here” or “Harry Harrison wishing you all the very best, because that’s exactly what you deserve.” And of course, “Every day should be unwrapped like a precious gift.” Or this: In 1965, he recorded a spoken-record hit called “May You Always,” with lines like “may you find a little island of time … to visit that lonely friend on the other side of town,” or “may that long and lonely night be brightened by the telephone call you’ve been waiting for.” Unashamedly sentimental, “May You Always” became both holiday staple and Harrison’s “Good Guy” validation. In tribute, the station posted a recording of “May You Always” on its website.
NAMES IN THE NEWS — Tom & Lisa Cuddy; Mark Simone; Jim Kerr; Randy Alexander; Richard Branciforte; Race Taylor; Jane Blunkell; Jodi Ritzen; David Criblez; Fred DiSipio; Herb Rosen; Fred Deane; Curtis Urbina; Abe Wald and ZIGGY!