Fun, fun, fun. Great fun. Jerry Weintraub's just-published autobiography When I Stop Talking, You'll Know I'm Dead is hugely entertaining. The big bonus is that the self-made, Brooklyn-born, Bronx-raised, Jerry Weintraub also teaches us artists and entrepreneurs some essential life lessons.
Jerry Weintraub has represented, promoted, or worked with hundreds of singers, bands, actors, directors, and writers over the last five decades. The long, long list of the singers and bands he has promoted includes Bob Dylan, Elton John, Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, Aerosmith, and Led Zeppelin.
Oh yeah, he also produced 22 films including the Ocean's Trilogy (Ocean's Eleven/Ocean's Twelve/Ocean's Thirteen) that has grossed more than 1.1 billion dollars.
The Jerry Weintraub and Elvis Presley Story:
In 1962, at age 25, Jerry Weintraub decided that he wanted to take Elvis Presley, then the biggest star in the world, on tour across America. He called Elvis Presley's manager, Colonel Tom Parker, every day for months until the Colonel finally gave Weintraub the opportunity of a lifetime.
The Colonel: "Do you still want to take my boy [Elvis Presley] on the road?"
Weintraub: "Yes, Colonel."
The Colonel: "Well, I'll be at the roulette table at the Hilton International Hotel in Vegas tomorrow at nine a.m. You meet me there with a check for one million dollars, and he's yours."
First of all, one million dollars was a helluva lot of money in 1962. More than 26-year-old Jerry Weintraub had ever seen in his life. But Weintraub managed to raise a million dollars in one day.
Weintraub then meets Elvis and Elvis says to Weintraub "There is only one thing I ask when we're on the road: Please make sure, when I perform, that every seat is filled. And please make sure my fans are in the front rows – not the big shots."
The inexperienced Weintraub books the first Elvis concert in Miami on the Fourth of July. According to Weintraub "[Miami] is a swamp. It's five million degrees and humid as hell. No one is there, and no one should be."
5,000 seats were unsold for the next day's matinee.
After a hellishly sleepless night, Weintraub goes to the local jailhouse and bribes the sheriff to get dozens of prisoners in orange jumpsuits to unscrew 5,000 seats at the convention center where Elvis would be playing, carry them out to the parking lot, and cover them with a blue tarp.
Elvis sang the matinee. It was great. Not an empty seat in the house.
As Elvis rested between shows, the prisoners went back to work, tore away the blue tarp, carried 5,000 seats back into the arena, and screwed them back into the floor.
Elvis's second show that day was even better. Back at the Fontainbleu Hotel Elvis said to Weintraub, "You know, Jerry, it's amazing. The crowd was good in the afternoon, but it's always so much better at night."
The "blue tarp" is an essential life lesson. All the glory goes to those few who continue to innovate and improvise long after almost everyone else would have given up.
Jerry Weintraub on getting what you want out of life:
"Persist, push, hang on, keep going, never give up. When the man says no, pretend you can't hear him. Look confused, stammer, say, 'Huh?' Persistence – it's a cliche, but it happens to work. The person who makes it is the person who keeps on going after everyone else has quit. This is more important than intelligence, pedigree, even connections. Be dogged! Keep hitting that door until you bust it down! I have accomplished almost nothing on the first, second or even third try – the breakthrough usually comes late, when everyone else has left the field."
I hope you're enjoying the holiday weekend!
One of the most important choices in life is whether to break rules or to follow rules. To be in a league of our own or to be a cog in some machine. To be a real artist or to paint by the numbers.
Dennis Hopper, the unconventional and iconoclastic actor, photographer, poet, painter, and sculptor, died today at the age of 74 after five decades of breaking rules and thinking along the edge where all art and change happens.
In a May 1993 interview with Spin Magazine (included in Ancient Gonzo Wisdom), Hunter S. Thompson is quoted as saying "As a journalist I somehow managed to break all the rules and still succeed." Of course, HST wasn't successful in spite of breaking all the rules but rather because of his personal courage to break rules his entire life and create art that has changed so many people.
From that same May 1993 interview in Spin Magazine:
Spin: You once said that if the movie [Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas] was ever made, you wanted Dennis Hopper to play you.
HST: . . . I still think Dennis might be good playing my role.
Hardly a coincidence that Hunter S. Thompson would have such high regard for a fellow hellraiser and rule breaker like Dennis Hopper.
"Every man dies, not every man really lives." - William Ross Wallace
This is a short article from today's "ACLU of Maryland Newsletter" about a very big topic: freedom.
The last sentence of this piece is chilling.
At the end is a link to the illegal YouTube video.
First Amendment: The Right to Record Police Encounters
The ACLU of Maryland has long been concerned about improper police threats that Maryland
Ancient Gonzo Wisdom is a collection of interviews with Hunter S. Thompson that bristle with authenticity and spontaneity. Anita Thompson, author of The Gonzo Way and Executive Director of the Gonzo Foundation, selected and edited this compilation of her late husband's interviews that span almost four decades.
Late last night I was reading through a few of the interviews in the book, one of which was HST's November 1974 conversation with Playboy. HST talks about the Hell's Angels, the Freak Power platform and his run for Sheriff of Pitkin County, Ibogaine poisoning, Nixon, and Gonzo Journalism. Perfect reading for a warm summer night while sipping on a beer.
Some artists are fearless but can't see the truth. Others can see the truth but are afraid to speak up against the status quo and their peers. They can't get through the resistance.
Hunter S. Thompson was both fearless and he possessed that rare and valuable quality of discernment. The ability to see things as they truly are. That is really difficult. It takes experience, expertise and discipline. It takes a true artist to both discern the truth and to have the courage to speak it.
Hunter S. Thompson's lifelong relationship with Playboy continues in Gonzo spirit to this day. Gonzo Imperial Porter brewed by Flying Dog Brewery in memory of HST with label art by Ralph Steadman was featured in the April 2010 Brazilian edition of Playboy (in Portuguese).
"Boa pra cachorro"? Maybe it's "good for dogs", but in the immortal words of Hunter S. Thompson "Good People Drink Good Beer", too!
You can stand out or fit in in life. You can't do both.
Baltimore-based director John Waters most definitely STANDS out.
John Waters' 1972 film Pink Flamingos has been called the most notorious cult film ever made due to the plethora of shocking, perverse, and taboo scenes in it. Pink Flamingos came in at #29 in the UK's ranking of the 50 Films to See Before You Die. In case your'e wondering, Apocalypse Now came in at #1 in that same ranking.
John Waters tells his life story through the lives of his role models in his new book aptly titled Role Models. According to Waters, he was always yearning for bad influences. His role models include Tennessee Williams, fashion designer Rei Kawakubo, the wild-and-crazy Little Richard, pornographer David Hurles, and Lady Zorro, Baltimore's legendary lesbian burlesque babe.
So I'm wondering, if I were telling my life story through that of the lives of my role models, who all would I include on that list?
Creating any kind of art is hard. Really hard. The emotional labor is often harder than the physical labor.
Here are some comments I overheard while hanging on the patio after a long week drinking some beers with the greatest group of people I have ever worked with. I admire, respect and love them more than they may ever know.
"He totally knows what he's doing but I'm glad he's leaving because he's bad for morale."
"I only care about making us the best we can be. Anyone without that kind of determination doesn't belong here."
"Yeah, you know, I haven't had an easy life. So? Who has?"
"He's fucking awesome. I love him."
"He's passionate and works his ass off. He's total Flying Dog."
"I just want to make people happy with the greatest fucking beer."
"We all want to be respected around here. Those who aren't need to stop looking around for someone to blame."
"I'm glad you had the balls to do that. It was the right thing to do." This comment was directed to me. I'd like to have it on my tombstone.
"I love you R. Love you, L. See ya."
We're on a mission here to repaint all of the beige walls ABB (Anything But Beige). Everyone has a wall to do with as they wish. "Very Berry", "Lime Twist", "Dazzle", "Sunshine Yellow", and other juicy colors are transforming the space. I'm loving it!!
One of several drawings from my marvelously creative friend Hugh MacLeod hangs on a wall here and I had to pull it down while we paint. It's one of my favorites. I thought you might enjoy it also.
We had an "Abilene Paradox" moment today, and a lot of laughs about it.
The concept goes back to 1974 and I'm quoting directly from Wikipedia.
"The Abilene paradox was introduced by management expert Jerry B. Harvey in his article The Abilene Paradox and other Meditations on Management. The name of the phenomenon comes from an anecdote in the article which Harvey uses to elucidate the paradox:
On a hot afternoon visiting in Coleman, Texas, the family is comfortably playing dominoes on a porch, until the father-in-law suggests that they take a trip to Abilene [53 miles north] for dinner. The wife says, "Sounds like a great idea." The husband, despite having reservations because the drive is long and hot, thinks that his preferences must be out-of-step with the group and says, "Sounds good to me. I just hope your mother wants to go." The mother-in-law then says, "Of course I want to go. I haven't been to Abilene in a long time."
The drive is hot, dusty, and long. When they arrive at the cafeteria, the food is as bad as the drive. They arrive back home four hours later, exhausted.
One of them dishonestly says, "It was a great trip, wasn't it?" The mother-in-law says that, actually, she would rather have stayed home, but went along since the other three were so enthusiastic. The husband says, "I wasn't delighted to be doing what we were doing. I only went to satisfy the rest of you." The wife says, "I just went along to keep you happy. I would have had to be crazy to want to go out in the heat like that." The father-in-law then says that he only suggested it because he thought the others might be bored.
The group sits back, perplexed that they together decided to take a trip which none of them wanted. They each would have preferred to sit comfortably, but did not admit to it when they still had time to enjoy the afternoon.
The Abilene paradox is a paradox in which a group of people collectively decide on a course of action that is counter to the preferences of any of the individuals in the group. It involves a common breakdown of group communication in which each member mistakenly believes that their own preferences are counter to the group's and, therefore, does not raise objections. A common phrase relating to the Abilene paradox is a desire to not 'rock the boat'."
We were headed in an "un-fun" direction with an initiative, decided to quit it, and then enjoyed poking a little (actually a lot of) fun at ourselves.
Winners quit stuff all the time.
Earlier today Jodi, the most wonderful HR professional in the world, was sharing some information with me in follow up to a question I had asked her. As I'm scanning through it I see the official U.S. Government definition of "employee". According to 29 U.S.C. Section 203(e)(1) the term "employee" means "any individual employed by an employer." I'm not kidding. You can't make this shit up.
So what's that got to do with motivation and the meaning of life?
Perhaps the only meaning in life is what we give it. Choosing something to be really great at, and giving it everything we've got. Getting up and getting to work at success instead of lying in bed dreaming about it. And by becoming great at something we'll be motivated to keep at it. And so goes the virtuous cycle.
But it's hard. Motivation is so unpredictable. It often seems not to be there when we need it the most.
That's why we can't wait to be motivated. We have to make something happen. Something that matters to us. And when we do, we're motivated to make more of it happen. It's a corollary to the defintion of "employee." Motivation is what we feel after we make something happen that we weren't motivated to make happen in the first place.
It's really hard to practice our art every day, especially on those days where the resistance is so strong that that the only thing that feels right is lying in bed all day with a pillow over our head.
But that's what real artists do. "Real artists ship", according to Steve Jobs. They produce. Not all masterpieces, of course, but they produce and they ship. The unpublished idea, view, observation or opinion has no possibility of ever making a difference to anyone or changing the world in any way.
So, it's early evening and I'm walking down W. 54th in NYC after a day with Seth Godin talking about his new book Linchpin. There was a lot of great discussion about the lizard brain and resistance. Here's a link to the audio of an unscripted riff Seth began the day with.
As I'm walking and thinking about my new big idea, my lizard brain is giving me some trouble.
Then, just as I passed the location of the former world-famous Studio 54 nightclub I see the "Lizard Lounge" and just start laughing.
Resistance be damned!!!
Thank you, Seth, for your extraordinary generosity in sharing your art with the world.
Welcome to my new blog,
This first post is dedicated to Anita Thompson. We must only believe in being HUMAN! We love you, Ralph Steadman.
Cut the leash. Stand tall, friends.