Bossman

Madrid, May 19, 2020

By Peter Besas

Today I received an email from Bob Marich, Marie Silverman’s hubby and Syd’s son-in-law who occasionally lets me know the latest news and developments at Variety, now owned by the Jay Penske.

He forwarded a press release from the Penske Media Corporation headlined:

PMC Hires First-Ever Chief Advertising and Partnership Officer.

The release explains that the new appointee, monickered Mark Howard, in his “newly created role” will “oversee PMC’s corporate sales programs and revenue operations along with programmatic and indirect sales efforts across PMC’s portfolio of award-wining brands, including Rolling Stone, Variety, Robb Report, SHE Media, Deadline, ARTnews and WWD.”

There follows the usual gobbledy-gook jargon of how thrilled the company is to have him and the new appointee is quoted as saying how it is a “privilege to join the company at such an exciting time” It seems Howard was formerly SRO at Forbes and SVP at a digital advertising company. In my day, “SRO” meant Standing Room Only when a theatrical performance was sold out, and SVP with an R in front of it, RSVP, which in French is an abbreviation of “repondez s’il vous plait”, or “please answer” when sendinga formal invitation.

The item Bob sent caused me to dwell a few moments upon the use of titles in American business. I guess Howard’s  new monicker will be CAPO, which, appropriately enough, in Italian means the leader.

In the old pre-Cahners Variety years essentially no titles were used. This was a tradition that dated back to the days of Sime Silverman, who even as long ago as 1905 hated them. The top dog in any regional office was merely designated as the “man in charge”. Later when Sime’s grandson took over, Syd was listed as the “proprietor”. There was no masthead, though everyone knew that Abel Green was the Managing Editor. All others were “muggs” or, whimsically, “ink-stained wretches”.

When Syd agreed to let me do a special section on Latin America, and I told him that I could not just go down there as the “stringer from Madrid” he replied; “Well then pick yourself a title”.  By that time (1975) the American title mania had already swept over the corporate world. So I printed up some business cards with the highfalutin title Director of Latin American Operations.  I never ascertained whether anyone was ever impressed by it.

When  Cahners bought out Variety in 1987 and I  for the first time in my life came to rub shoulders with the corporate world,  I then learned that there are such people as a CEO (chief executive officer), a CFO (chief financial officer), a COO (chief operating officer), a CBO, (chief business officer), a CMO (chief marketing officer) and goodness knows how many other C’s, all of whom I guess the underlings address as “boss”.  Or has that term now become defunct? I wonder what title an office boy has these days in corporate America.

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PARETTI AND THE GO-GO BOYS

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.”

MENAHEM AND YORAM RIDE AGAIN

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.

Besa

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

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RIVERS REMEMBERED

Upon the recent death of comedienne Joan Rivers, Variety posted the following item on its webpage, reproducing a night club review the paper ran in 1965. Unfortunately the “sig” of the reviewer is not mentioned, but in all probability it was Joe Cohen, Jose, who penned most of the night club reviews at that time. He was one of the first muggs axed when Bart became editor.

Aside from the interest in its early appreciation of Rivers’ talents, the review is a jewel showing the kind of Varietese lingo used in 1965.
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Sime returns to Variety masthead

Los Angeles, Dec. 27, 2013.

Sime Silverman is back where he belongs! Variety, under new owner Jay Penske, astutely returned the publication’s founder to the masthead, after his name was dropped shortly after Peter Bart took over the editorship back in the dark days of the late 1980s. The entry is: “Sime Silverman, Founder 1873-1933” and contains a nicely-done portrait art of his face.
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