Gary James Interview With Entertainment Attorney
Freddie Gershon is an entertainment attorney. Drawing upon twenty-plus years in the music business, he's written a novel titled Sweetie Baby Cookie Honey.
Q - I would like to see all aspiring singers / musicians read your book. Having said that, I realize that even if that happens there would still be Rick Firestones (one of the characters in the book) out there.
A - I wanted the book to be sort of a guide to what I think is a mine field out there. It's very hard to read instructional books which tell you what a management contract is, what an agent is and what they do for you. But if you can see them in fictionalized form, you can realize all the pitfalls and dangers and booby traps out there. Maybe it will save some young person who is talented and wants to make it from getting into trouble.
Q - Are musicians smarter these days when it comes to financial matters?
A - They're much smarter these days. They're more sophisticated. They're very clever. If they're not, at least they're aware so they surround themselves with people who are clever. There has been a lot of interesting books written on the subject. I think every young kid today who grows up in the business, reads Billboard magazine, reads about the lawsuits, ex-managers, publishers, rip-off artists, people who've taken advantage of them and that they're better protected. I also think they invest their money more. I think they save for a rainy day. I was at Rod Stewart's house in Los Angeles and it's filled with treasures, 1920's - 1930's lamps, tables and beautiful pieces, all of which have great value.
Q - You said something in one interview that gets to the heart of what it takes to be a superstar and I quote: "A pathological drive to succeed."
A - They're almost a little crazy. The drive defies all logic and reason. These are people who believe so much in themselves that the sun rises and sets on them, their life and their career. It's very difficult because it doesn't give them much room to have personal lives or room for emotional relationships with other people because they're so committed and driven. I believe that passion is the most critical thing in their lives. It keeps them going. It produces an energy to make their adrenalin keep going. Most human beings when they knock on a door ten times and get it slammed in their faces and told that they're worthless and no good and their music isn't good and they don't look good and they don't sound good, most of us tend to be sensitive to that and break down. We feel rejected. We feel hurt. We go away with our tail between our legs. But the people with great inner strength and fortitude who have this passion, this pathological belief in themselves just keeps coming back for more. Nothing dissuades them from their appointed task. That really measures the winners from the losers, if you look out and see who has made it and survived. Miss Tina Turner, Miss Patti La Belle, Miss Streisand, Miss Midler, Billy Joel, Elton John, Bruce Springsteen.
Q - So, no matter how much talent you have, you must have an equal amount of determination and persistence?
A - I think in everything in life, it takes more than what the next guy's got. Certainly talent isn't everything, and it's not just your determination. Elvis Presley had the Colonel. The Bee Gees had Robert Stigwood. The Beatles had Brian Epstein. In every instance there seems to be a major catalytic factor. Most stars don't see themselves objectively enough and some of them don't even believe in themselves as much as the next guy. Mr. Epstein, Mr. Stigwood and Mr. Parker, none of them could sing, play or perform. But they had a vision of their client which is so astounding, remarkable and incisive that they sell the public on that and they built the client. So, it's not just the talent. It's the drive. And then, you need people around you who are kicking, fighting and screaming for you all the time.
Q - Why didn't you write a non-fiction book about your experiences in the music business?
A - When I started to write Sweetie Baby Cookie Honey, it was a chronicle of twenty years of Rock 'n' Roll told through a lawyer's diary, all telling the truth. And after six months I ripped up everything I wrote because it was too cruel and I would be a person totally lacking in compassion to allow something like this to be read. It would hurt too many people who are innocent. That's why I converted it to fiction.
Q - You've said about you're book, "Maybe it will make people wonder about the stars." What would you like people to go away with after having read Sweetie Baby Cookie Honey?
A - I'd like them to know just how painful it is, how lonely it is, how much hard work it is and that it's not overnight success. And it's not just a lightning bolt out of the blue hitting some kid who becomes a hero to every kid in the world overnight. David Lee Roth has been breakin' his chops for a long time. Elton has been there for fifteen years. You just don't make it overnight. If you do, you don't keep it unless you know the art of working it, supporting it and nurturing it. I wanted them to see something that they're not going to see in People magazine or The National Star or some Teen Beat magazine. I wanted them to read about the painful, unglamorous world of Rock 'n' Roll and popular music, to see how tough it is and to have more concern and consideration for a star. Yes, I want an audience to be little bit more sensitive to people like Peter Frampton who are trying to make it and come back again and who were discarded. People like James Taylor. Both of these gentlemen were on the cover of Time or Newsweek. These were the most popular singers of the year at the time. We sort of discard these people. Do you know how difficult it is for Billy Joel to introduce any new material at a concert? All he hears is people screaming out "Play the Piano Man", "Play Allentown!" The public doesn't know and I wanted them to be aware of the pressures stars are under. It's very hard to be sympathetic to people who are very rich, very powerful and leading glamorous lives. These people are human beings. Yes, they're driven. Yes, they're compulsive. Yes, they're ambitious. But there's a lot of pain and suffering.
Q - If you had it to do over, would you have chosen another career? Do you have any regrets?
A - Absolutely not. I've loved every minute of it. I was a songwriter. I was a cocktail pianist. I was a student. Then I was an attorney. Then I was a producer. And now I'd like to think that I'm an author.