Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Oh My Godzilla

I never had more fun working on a movie that I did on Godzilla.

For the most part, marketing movies is a long and hard process. It takes months…there are always problems…and you seldom get what you want. Godzilla was exactly the opposite. We secured the rights to the movie and got everyone (marketing, sales and production) in a room together and came up with a strategy. It was done in a matter of weeks with a real team effort from everyone at New World.

Understand that this was a Godzilla movie dubbed for the the US market…bad lip sync, toothpick models and a small man in a rubber suit. You know…everything you'd expect a Godzilla movie to be. But the ‘big guy’ was coming back to the big screen, and we had to make sure that people knew it.

Only the hard core Godzilla fans knew that Raymond Burr was in the first Godzilla movie. We put together a small cast and shot a few new scenes with Mr. Burr. We used footage from two other New World classics, The Philadelphia Experiment and Def Con 4 .

Most importantly, we wanted to make sure that the audience had a good time, so my wife Jill had a great idea and we put ‘Bambi Meets Godzilla’ on the head of the film. If you haven’t seen this, you’re in for a treat.

Next, we were faced with a monster of a PR challenge... so we decided that it was time to put Godzilla on the road. We made arrangements to bring in the actual costume from Japan. Godzilla may look 100 feet tall on film, but as costume he barely broke 5' . And the suit was 100% rubber, which means that it was very very heavy. We hired a small stuntman (which is not the easiest thing to do). After he fainted in the costume during rehearsals, we threw in an extra oxygen tank to make sure he didn't collapse live on national television.

Godzilla returned to NY, for a visit with Regis Philbin, who had just started his syndicated show, and then it was on to Times Square and a BBQ at Shea Stadium. But the fun didn’t stop there. We had put together a big deal with Dr. Pepper and they saturated TV with a huge (naturally) campaign to support one of the most obvious product placements ever filmed. We were shameless.

But for me, the best part wasn’t the 250 ‘beach patrols, or the Godzilla parties, or the merchandise or the classic poster or the 10 foot standee…it was the song.

My wife Jill is a terrific singer, and she had an old demo that I thought was just what we needed. And it was free. We laid down some updated instrumentals for one of the few movie monster love songs ever to have been re-recorded.

The campaign worked. We got tremendous PR, the promotional screenings were packed and the movie was a hit.

I Was Afraid to Love You, the love theme from Godzilla went gold! And I should know. It cost me $250 to have the record goldplated and framed for my wife.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Dress British

My life as a personal manager started at company in Beverly Hills called D'Blity.

D'Blity was an acronym for Dress British, Look Italian, Think Yiddish!

A group of very talented comedians from Chicago's Second City had come out to LA to claim fame and fortune. I was working at Columbia Pictures TV for Ed Fishman and Randy Freer on an NBC game show called The Fun Factory. We hired them for the show. They were very talented and funny writers and performers. It was a daytime comedy-game show. It was the first and last of the genre.

I was lured away by their manager...a smooth talking man named Stan Sirotin. I would come to find out later that smooth was the least of his issues. But I packed my bags and left game shows to become a manager. Personal management is a hard business. It's faith, compromise, baby sitting and full time problem solving. It is also a business of feast or famine, and the feast was about to end.

Stan was the expert. His wife Beryl kept the books. I was a manager and next door to me was Jerry Cutler. Jerry was part manager, part client and full time Rabbi for the Synagogue for the Performing Arts. If Jerry wasn't auditioning for a congregant, he was giving Bar Mitzvah lessons to Charlie Matthau. We were down the street from a Chinese take out place and a block away from the Friar's Club. It was a perfect recipe for disaster.

Stan fashioned himself as a real Hollywood deal maker. One minute he was helping negotiate a deal for a Johnny Carsey's wife (Marcy) for her first job at ABC as the Manager of Comedy. The next minute, he was renting Neil Diamond's house in Malibu. But Stan's greatest gift was also his worst. He didn't know how to tell a client that some jobs were better than others. He recommended everything. For Stan, it was 'all great' because there was a commission.

He talked Mert Rich into doing a local show on KNBC called The Busing Game. The title alone screamed...stay away. Not Stan. He bought the rights to a movie called Spade Cooley, because he was told that Dustin Hoffman was interested. They guy who sold him the rights was a producer of pornographic movies from the Valley.

And it went on like that for about 6 months. Each day was a new adventure, into Stan's own little Hollywood. The breaking point for me came one day when I looked out my window. Across the railroad tracks was the Beverly Hilton Hotel. Each day, one of the maintaince guys would come out and hose down the sidewalk. Nobody in LA ever uses a broom. Anyway, it pouring and this guy walks out in rain gear and an umbrella and starts hosing down the sidewalk.

It was time to go.

And I went from the famine to feast. Within a few days, I hired by Howard Rothberg who represented Mel Brooks, Anne Bancroft, Dom DeLuise, Larry Gelbart and Richard Dimitri. At D'Blity I couldn't get my calls returned...and literally the next week my phone didn't stop ringing.

PS. That small group from D'Blity went on to great success. Execpt for Stan. He had some legal troubles a few years later in Pasadena and the last anyone heard had moved to France.

The clients did much better. Mert Rich is an award winning TV producer and writer in Los Angeles. Marcy Carsey went on to become one of the most successful TV executives, and with her partner Tom Werner created some of the best shows on TV, including The Cosby Show and many more. Mitch Markowitz's writing career took off with movies like Good Morning Vietman and Crazy People, Dick Blasucci is the executive producer of MAD-TV, Bette Thomas directs feature films, and Doug Steckler became a big star on LA Radio.

And I moved to Seattle where it rains all the time.