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"I did not recognize the full extent of my prick-dom."
——Walter Yetnikoff
MY DINNER WITH VELVEL
HITS’ Patricia Bock-Berman Experiences a Music Legend as Walter Yetnikoff Spritzes
Along with probably about 80 other people in the room, we gathered for a rare appearance by the one and only Walter Yetnikoff, the music biz legend who was to be interviewed by renowned author David Ritz, his collaborator on an upcoming tell-all autobiographical memoir.

The California Copyright Conference sponsored the get-together at the venerable Sportsmen’s Lodge in Studio City, CA. Walter had just escaped the snow storms in New York to come west in order to spend the evening with us. As Mr. Ritz chatted with Walter, I found him to be as full of surprises as he was when I last dined with him in 1990 in his last months as "Feuhrer" (as he referred to himself tonight) of CBS' Columbia Records, then Sony Music.

Some samples of the Velvel way of knowledge follow.

On the possibility of war: "I was much better at war than Bush. If I were in charge, we’d be in there already… I commanded my own army in our war against Warner Bros., and it all started with me saying something classy at a convention like, ‘F*** Warner Bros.!’"

On his legendary colleague Clive Davis: "He now goes by only one name…Clive. Back then, it was all about finding a way to self-promote myself to gain the same kind of name recognition he had."

His career hightlight: "When Michael Jackson called me up onto the stage on live TV at the Grammy Awards when he won all of his Grammies for Thriller saying, ‘I want to thank the best record company president in the world.’"

On breaking down MTV’s color barrier, convincing them to play Jackson’s "Billie Jean" video: "I know I don’t look like the King of Hip-Hop, but I am."

After acknowledging that Columbia missed the starter’s gun on disco, Walter was asked about the label’s being on the cutting edge of the punk scene by signing such acts as the Clash, Psychedelic Furs and Elvis Costello. "A tall, skinny British kid had a guitar and a pignose amp and was playing to a crowd on the corner, but I had to get into my convention and this A&R exec wouldn’t leave me alone. She kept saying, 'You’ve got to see this.' But I had to get into the convention, so I said, ‘Just sign him, then!’ That was Elvis Costello."

On the rising costs of the music business: "Recording  really only got expensive when they started calling cocaine 'tape.'"

On signing Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes: "What the hell kind of name is that? It’s as bad as Simon & Garfunkel!"

Finally, Artie Mogul stood, walked to the dais and took a microphone. He said to Walter, "The biggest problem with record companies today is they don’t have people like you running them. Having paid you that complement, do you realize what a prick you were?" To which Walter replied, "I did not recognize the full extent of my prick-dom."

The book will be released winter of 2004.

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