By Patty Fantasia
Personal Managers Interchange Celebrates Inductees
The third annual Personal Managers Interchange, the conference for entertainment, music, sports and talent managers took place for the first time in Las Vegas at the Grand Hotel & Casino on May 17th and 18th. Featuring two days of panels, discussions and networking the festivities finished with the 2017 Reception and Induction Ceremonies for the Personal Managers Hall of Fame.
Presented by the National Conference of Personal Managers and hosted by National President Clinton Billups, Jr., the event drew members nationwide from all segments of the entertainment industry. Sponsors included: Celebrity Access, SAG-Aftra, Audio Visual Advisors and VIP Limousines of Nevada providing food, drink and transportation.
Clinton Billups - Photo credit: Patty Fantasia
Wednesday kicked off with a the State of the Industry overview from Billups and Barry Bergman, the President of Music Managers Forum-US followed by Showbiz Vegas Style panelists Jaki Baskow of Baskow & Associates, The Hard Rock Hotel & Casino's Andrew Courtney and Brian Saliba from Bogus Productions. They shared their thoughts on how to successfully manage artists while navigating Sin City.
The final two sessions focused on business starting with a panel moderated by Billups on Post-Termination Compensation. He shared the stage with veteran personal managers David Belenzon and Howard Wolf and Ed McPherson, Esq., partner at McPherson Rane LLP. In Show Me The Money Jason T. Goldberg from The Lexington Group at Morgan Stanley Wealth Management and CPAs CWA Management President Frank Page and Kelly Welter of Serl Keefer Welter CPAs LLP discussed how personal managers can protect their financial interests.
Thursday morning the Social Media Profile Puzzle panel consisting of Lisa Tenner from Tenner & Associates and Debbie Harris and Vanessa Gonzalez from Performance Intermedia LLC, took the stage exploring how today's digital world can affect an artist's marketability and revenue.
Clinton Billups, Jr, with Lisa Tenner, Debbie Harris & Vanessa Gonzalez - Photo credit: Patty Fantasia
Reality TV Realities delved into what it takes to be successful in this competitive and unregulated industry. Panelists Burke Allen from Allen Talent Management, Blue Hair Management's Anje Collins, Kaaveh Showman of Orange Brand Integration Boutique and Las Vegas Strip headliner and Reality TV personality Murray Sawchuck shared their experiences.
The next session dealt with handling break ups between personal managers and clients without jeopardizing reputations or causing financial harm. Discussing this topic were experts Peggy Becker from Parkside Talent, Dr. Victoria Coleman who is also known as The Anger Doctor, and Rita Powers of Rita Powers Management.
The final and perhaps most entertaining panel was the Wild Card, which addressed unanswered questions from attendees. Rick Siegel moderated panelists Nelly Neben from Axis Artist Management, Avnet Management's CEO Brian Avnet, the CEO of Jeff Grinstein Management Jeffrey Grinstein and Jeff Wald Entertainment's Jeff Wald, who was inducted in the Hall of Fame in 2016. The group told amusing anecdotes during the Q&A providing an entertaining lead in to this year's induction ceremony.
Clinton emceed the festivities, which were live streamed. The list of 12 inductees comprised of six living people and another six chosen posthumously, represented different areas of entertainment. "We try to get diversity," Clinton explained. Nominees come from email blasts, the trades, Celebrity Access and other industry connections before a list is presented to the National Board of Officers for final selection.
This year Brian Avnet, Eric Gardner, Elliot Roberts, Rich Siegel, Delores Robinson and David Sonenberg represented the still living inductees while Sid Bernstein, Jerry Weintraub, Richard Linke, Lois Miller, Arthur Shafman and Eileen DeNobile were honored posthumously. The latter were spoken about and lovingly remembered by family, friends and close colleagues, while those able to attend accepted their red jackets and award certificates with grace and humor.
Delores Robinson and Jeff Wald - Photo credit: Patty Fantasia
Jeff Wald took some ribbing for not wearing the red jacket presented to him the year before, to which he retorted, "It's not the Masters." DeNobile's husband spoke affectionately about her and their life together, while Jerry Weintraub's son Michael recounted several highlights from his father's illustrious career. A heartfelt tribute came from Jeff Grinstein honoring his mentor Sid Bernstein, who he referred to as "a visionary and a man with a heart of gold."
The history and stories shared by the inductees and their colleagues was engaging. Roberts recalled meeting Wald in the William Morris mailroom and gave a special shout out to his partner of 50 years, David Geffen. He also credited singer Joanie Mitchell with being responsible for launching his career. She introduced him to client Neil Young after he accompanied her from New York to California during her pursuit of a record deal.
Delores Robinson announced that she celebrated turning 81 in May by making her hair multi-colored and getting tattoos. As the first female African American manager she described herself as the woman who got in a car after her husband left her and had to find a way to support her children. One of those offspring there offering support was actress Holly Robinson Peete. Acknowledging her famous daughter Delores joked, "I now live in her guest house."
"I'm here cause I love my profession," Rick Siegel shared. He acknowledged that he wouldn't wish the 15 year journey he took pursuing the repeal of the Talent Agency Act on anybody reminiscing how Jerry Weintraub was the first person to call and thank him after the Supreme Court decision. No stranger to controversy with clients like Leah Remini and Seth Rogan Rick loves finding and managing special people. "That's what we do, we change lives," he said.
After 47 years in the business Eric Gardner claims that it's the joy he derives between him and his clients that drives him. He also said that nothing prepared him as well as fatherhood for being a personal manager. Working with such celebrities as Paul Schaffer, Todd Rungren, Elvira and Kiss in the 70's, he enjoys cherry picking clients who are multi-faceted.
However, maybe the truest words spoken about the industry that night came from inductee Brian Avnet when he took the stage to receive his red jacket and proclaimed "There's no school for this. You have to learn it on your own."