Wednesday, December 7, 2016
The Tale of Me and the Hollywood Billionaire
Last week my daughters were home for Thanksgiving. As one of them was rummaging through the drawer full of CD's and DVD's, vestiges of an earlier era, she stumbled upon not one but two discs featuring the JammX Kids.
What? You've never heard of the JammX Kids?
Well, back in 2004, when I was still able to ride the last fading wave from our ABC Yellow campaign, I got a phone call from Merv Adelson. In some circles Merv was known as Mr. Barbara Walters, they had been married twice. In other circles he was known as the President of Lorimar Television.
He was a Hollywood macher. A man worth billions of dollars.
And when a man worth billions of dollars reaches out to you, you return the call. Particularly when you're a fresh freelancer who had just left the so-called "security" of agency life and you're still trying to find your legs as a mercenary.
Plus, and I know I just mentioned this, he was worth billions of dollars.
So I broke out the khaki pants and the heavily-starched button-down shirt and made my way to Merv's fancy-schmancy Lorimar office. He was every bit the old-timey Hollywood producer.
He was right out of Central Casting -- ironic since he was literally one of the architects of Hollywood Central Casting.
Anyway, Merv had plans to launch a 'huge enterprise' which he was calling the JammX Kids. An ensemble of ethnically diverse pre-teens who would go on weekly adventures, all thinly-veiled plots designed to demonstrate their quite ample hip hop skills.
As he was explaining the premise of the new show, he was sizing me up and came to the quite natural conclusion that if anyone could kickstart a fresh show about urban kids in fresh clothes breaking down the fresh beats with their awesome super tight dance moves, it was Rich Siegel.
Of course, I was sizing him up as well.
And immediately recognized the man's incredible negotiating power. He knew from my portfolio page and resume that I was new to the freelance game. Accordingly, he offered me an embarrassingly low day rate. Caveated by the promise of steady work and the opportunity to get in on the JammX Kids ground floor.
I saw this man swimming in a giant pool of money and thought it would be wise to hang around the edges, should any of that free-flowing money lap over the sides.
After an initial one-sheet poster I had done for Merv, which mercifully never got produced, our relationship became a non-stop series of fruitless meetings. Wherein, Merv would graciously pump me for free ideas and marketing advice.
"Can I get you some water? Maybe a latte? I have a new espresso machine. I can have my assistant bring in some rugalah. What can I get you?"
And I would be scratching my head wondering how to invoice him for all my time.
Soon after, Merv and I parted ways in the most satisfying Hollywood fashion.
I stopped taking his calls.