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THE WILDEST YEARS OF RADIO PROMOTION, PART TWO

TOOKIE, RAYMO, POLLY

& THE CRAZIES
 

The two biggest players at CBS in the ’80s were Epic promo domo Frank DiLeo and his Columbia counterpart, Ray Anderson, aka Tookie and Raymo. These two swung for the fences every week, doubling and tripling bonuses to the indies on important records, hell-bent on controlling the marketplace—and they were extremely successful at it. They worked in tandem in some respects, as the list of stations each indie had was the same for Columbia and Epic. Each of them had the same agenda about what the indies could do for them, amid rampant rumors of money and drugs that hung over their heads. Anderson was indicted in 1989 in an FBI-IRS probe into payola and mob influence in the business. The charges against him were dismissed, and DiLeo became super-wealthy when he convinced Yetnikoff and Michael Jackson that he was the right guy to manage Michael. The ticket scalping for MJ’s tours was believed to be ginormous at the time, and the joke was that Tookie had wheelbarrows full of cash from each date on the tour. Both Raymo and DiLeo died young, the former at 65 and the latter at 63. 

Polly Anthony worked her way up through the promo ranks at CBS from her first job as assistant to Larry Douglas, the West Coast promotion head of CBS-owned Monument, to SVP Head of Promotion at Epic to GM and then President of 550 Music before becoming president of Epic in 1997, replacing Richard Griffiths, and subsequently president of the merged Epic and 550, scoring mega-hits with Celine Dion and the Titanic soundtrack. During her time at Epic, she struck up a lifelong friendship with Michele Anthony. Whenever Polly was cold, she’d fire her head of promotion, insisting, “I’m fixing it again,” which everyone thought was hilarious—apart from the person she’d shit-canned. She was beloved by all except for Ienner, with whom she competed fiercely. He fired her when he took over the company and installed Steve Barnett as Epic head, after which Jimmy Iovine made her co-head of Geffen with Jordan Schur. Polly died way too young; pancreatic cancer claimed her in 2013. She was 59. 

John Betancourt at RCA was another big hitter, and one of the craziest guys I had ever seen, as he manically paced around offices across the country while slipping into bathrooms with alarming frequency. John was friends with Dr. J; I believe they’d played hoops together at UMass. He used Doc and the Sixers like the notorious Bruce Wendell, who ran Capitol promo, used Mike Schmidt and the Phillies to boost his cult of celebrity. He was even the batboy for the Phillies a few times. I was embarrassed for him for acting like an overgrown kid, but some geeks must have gotten off on it—why else would he keep doing it? Lots of bat and boy jokes inevitably went with the territory.

Atlantic promo was run by Vince Faraci, a nice guy but a real chore to deal with. He was super-nervous all the time, tapping his left leg nonstop with jackrabbit speed. Vince was capable, but it was painful to deal with his anxiety all the time. I think he knew he was in over his head, but he had such a steady stream of great records to work that he couldn’t fuck it up. The combination of Ahmet Ertegun, Jerry Wexler, Doug Morris, an incredible roster of great rock bands and black-music legends, and the classic indie mentality of making your payroll made for a dynamite record company.


...Read Part One, The Italian Job

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