By Robert Marich

White Plains, NY  Sept. 5, 2016

I recall the Go-Go Boys, Golan and Globus, in all their glory, particularly Yoram. Though I’m disadvantaged by not having clips in front of me, I recall that Variety assigned me a special issue story in the early 1990s saluting Pathé Communications, which then had taken over MGM.

Yoram was a money guy in the merged entity and while interviewing him in his office none other than Giancarlo Parretti—another money guy—walked in. Despite crushing debt and what seemed exhausted credit, they assured me all was well with the MGM/Pathé/Cannon Film Group combine, though Parretti—a flamboyant and mysterious fellow out of Italy—didn’t speak English particularly well (nodding with agreement to Yoram got his view across). Most of Hollywood runs on hope. Alas, their combine soon fell apart a victim of heavy debt, little money to make films and aggressive film-selling for short-term revenue that wasn’t particularly mindful of protecting the MGM film library’s long-term value.

Many years earlier, a friend of mine who worked at the old Cannon Film when under the sole stewardship of Yoram and Menahem (before Parretti and MGM) explained their approach to film development. My friend said that “on days they had money in the bank, they always said ‘yes’ to whatever pitch for films came through their office. On days they didn’t have any spare money, they just said no.”


Madrid, Aug. 16, 2016

Recently my son alerted me to a documentary about Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus which he thought old muggs might find interested. I viewed the 100 minute documentary made in Australia in 2014 and it brought back so many memories about the two men I called “the chutzpah boys”, whom we met every year at the Cannes Film Festival in the 80s, that I thought I’d pass on the discovery to other muggs who may not have heard of it.

The film is called “Electric Boogaloo” (an unfortunate title, in my opinion) subtitled “The Wild Untold Story of Cannon Films” and is a no-holds-barred history of the rise and fall of Cannon Films. Many of us personally witnessed the amazing spectacle of their filmic saga, and knew the cousins first-hand, even if it was only doing an interview with one, or selling them ads, or collecting them (a more difficult proposition), or sitting opposite Menahem slurping his soup.

Certainly, Cannon was one of the biggest advertisers in Variety. Mort Bryer recalls doing a 50-page section on Cannon for the fifth anniversary of them taking over the company. “I even went to Israel,” he writes, “where some people called them crooks.  They wanted to know who DID NOT support their section.  I gave them a report almost every week.  Aka blackmail. They were our best customers for years and used to run a huge number of pages of ads in each year’s Cannes issue as well as at the MIFED and the American Film Market.”

The documentary traces the careers of Menahem and Yoram from their beginnings in Israel to their apotheosis in the States. At their high point they owned a huge building in LA and had bought theatre circuits in Holland, Germany and Italy. In the UK they snatched up the ABC Cinemas circuit and at one point owned 40% of cinema screens in the country. The budgets of their films starting getting higher and higher, and near the end it wasn’t just Van Damme, Chuck Norris and Charles Bronson actioners, with little stories and lotsa special effects and violence, but even Sylvester Stallone. According to the documentary they paid him $14 million for one film, far from the one million plus budgets of their old days, which, they claimed, could not fail to make a profit when sold worldwide.

Electric Boogaloo was made in Australia and premiered at the Melbourne Film Festival in August 2014. It was written and directed by Mark Hartley, who interviewed close to 100 persons all over the world, ranging from dozens of thesps who appeared in the Cannon films over the years to Hollywood executives and film critics.

While at Variety we closely covered the evolution of the boys’ progress and later its downfall and gave them the appropriate space in the paper. As is done by some of those interviewed in the documentary, we’d often mimick their  speech. “Ya vanta make a deal?” The film touches on the time that in Cannes Menahem signed a pact with Jean-Luc Godard on a napkin in a restaurant, which I, too, remember and was the talk of the festival one morning. And it touches on other outlandish incidents, with many of those interviewed lambasting the couple and their schlock films. And then there was Paretti… I remember on one occasion Menahem hosted a gigantic reception in the largest salon in the new Palais, handing out invites to just about everyone at the festival. I think it was to announce some new “blockbuster” with Roger Moore. After Menahem made his pitch, the mob was served trays full of ….potato chips! That was all.

After Yoram and Menahem separated, the latter started up a new company, 21st Century Films, and I recall him waiting for customers in front of his stand in the Cannes film market, a  very small stand, not like the huge ones Cannon had in its glory days. He was still trying to make the old schlock, but by now his light was fast fading.

In the documentary there is a shot of the two men where Menahem looks old and beaten. At the end of the film it is noted that both declined to be interviewed. Menahem died on Aug. 8, 2014 in Jaffa. Yoram, who is now 75, probably still lives in Israel.

Finally, for those interested, I came across another documentary made on Cannon back in 1986 by the BBC. It was when the Chutzpah Boys were at their peak.

Both films seem to be available on YouTube, for those nostalgic enough to want to have a look-see.


PS: If anyone out there wants to send his own recollections of Menahem and Yoram, please forward them to me for posting on Simesite.


Remembering Bill Greeley

By Steve Knoll

Back in the days when Variety’s TV-radio section was the principal source of news for the broadcasting industry (which was most of the 20th century), one of the essential ingredients that made Variety so successful (and unique) as a writer’s newspaper were the writers/reporters themselves. Among the members of that iconic breed from the Fifties through the mid-Seventies was Bill Greeley.

His actual name was Horace William Greeley, and, yes, he was a descendant of the legendary editor of the New York Tribune who uttered the immortal words. “Go West, young man, go West.”

Long before the general press was covering broadcasting as a serious beat, Bill was digging up scoop after scoop. It was Bill’s report on how New York station WPIX had doctored file footage from Eastern Europe (by adding the super “via satellite”) that led to the station’s license being challenged.

Bill was always willing, if not eager, to bite the hand that fed Variety (the advertisers). And since this was Variety, he was able to operate with a free hand. Over his many years on the paper, he built up a network of sources and tipsters throughout the industry. One lesson I learned was that those sources were non-transferable. Once, in a spirit of generosity, he gave me the name of a contact on the ABC Evening News (as it was then known). When I called the man, he was cordial enough, but he wouldn’t give me the time of day.

When it came to the networks, Bill was a cynic, appalled by their slavish devotion to the bottom line at the expense of quality documentary and cultural programming. In those days, Nielsen did not issue ratings reports for every week of the year. Once or twice a year, there were “black weeks”, weeks for which no rating book was issued. The networks would cram their documentary and cultural offerings into those weeks, since they didn’t have to worry about low ratings depressing their Nielsen averages

Bill was not amused.  He would tally all the quality shows that were saved for the Nielsen holiday, and write about “TV’s Black Week Festival.”

On a personal level, it could be said of Bill (in the famous words of Will Rogers) that he never met a man he didn’t like. Unless, that is, that man was President of CBS News or President of NBC News. Richard Salant was President of CBS News. He is now regarded by broadcast historians as the patron saint of broadcast journalism, who preserved the independence of CBS News in the face of government and corporate pressure. His opposite number at NBC was Reuven Frank, an industry pioneer with an equally impressive legacy.

Both of these men couldn’t stand Bill, and the feeling was mutual. This was the time that the Vietnam War was splitting America apart, and Bill repeatedly accused the networks of timidity and buckling under pressure. One of his page-one banner stories was headlined, “Era of No-Guts Journalism.”

Variety reporters, of course, were expected to pound the beat, and Bill’s beat was NBC. Bill once told me that Reuven Frank would not enter the NBC elevator when he saw Bill there. He sounded hurt. I was amused that this hard-nosed investigative reporter had a sensitive side.

At the 1970 NBC affiliates convention, the assembled stations by a vote of 60 to 40 declared that NBC News was biased. This was an extraordinary moment in broadcast journalism history, and the world would never have known about it if Bill had not broken the story in Variety.

As a Variety TV reviewer (his signature was Bill.), Bill was at his perceptive and often hilarious best. Often, reviewing the insipid sitcoms of that era, he would remark on how the laughtrack greeted the most unfunny lines with side-splitting guffaws.

He also made his contributions to Variety’s “slanguage.” The hard-driving rock-and-roll stations that dominated the radio ratings were “boomchuckers.”

Bill’s disdain for the industry establishment extended to the National Association of Broadcasters. One year, Bill and I were in Chicago covering the annual NAB convention. At the convention, the NAB was scheduled to issue its annual report on the public’s preferences among the news media (since 1963, television had surpassed newspapers). Seeking an advance on the latest report for that week’s issue of Variety, I spoke to an NAB official by the name of Roy Danish. Little did I realize that he, like Salant and Frank, was among those who had been burned by Bill. The first glimmer came when Mr. Danish refused to give me the report. His reason: “Your newspaper is always making fun of our organization.”

When I returned to the Variety suite at the Conrad Hilton and told Bill what Mr. Danish had said, Bill’s response was, “You should have told him, ‘I don’t know why you think we’re making fun of you, Mr. Doughnut.’”

Bill’s anti-establishment fervor and mischievous sense of humor meant that editors had to carefully scrutinize his copy. England, for example, has stricter libel laws than the U.S., and Variety once was sued for libel because of a word a legit reviewer in London had employed. I don’t remember what the word was, but I do remember that, shortly after this happened, Bill deliberately used the same word in one of his reviews. Even he later admitted he had gone too far.

Bill smoked from early in the morning till late at night. He paid the price: In 1977, while covering the NBC affiliates convention in Los Angeles, he suffered a fatal heart attack at the age of 56.

The following Wednesday, these words appeared on Variety’s obituary page encased in a black border:

“So long Bill, we miss you, A great reporter, a delightful man to know and work with, an absolute one-of-a-kind human being. Your friends on Variety.”


Simesite Year’s End Wrap For 2015

As the year 2015 ends, we are gratified to see that we have again, after a bit of nudging, garnered no fewer than 23 responses from muggs all over the world for this year’s Simesite Wrap, (plus two latercomers). That still leaves a lot of people who haven’t answered, so we have supplied a list of the “missing” at the very end of the section. Should anyone have information or the latest contact or e-mail address for any of them, please forward it to us. Some may have shuffled off through the Pearly Gates, but others may simply have changed their e-mail addresses, especially when these were company addresses, rather than personal ones.

Here, then, are the replies we received, in the order in which they came in: