Adventures of Hollywood Jim Ch. 49byhollywoodjim©
Much of Tinsel Town lived and died by what their status in the trade papers was. Luckily for East Coast Image, that wasn't the case.
Put it this way, we never reserved a wall for clippings that mentioned our name.
But for me, all that was about to change.
Following my call to Chuck Tyler, I called Roger Sullivan and we began the process of a possible merger of East Coast Image with Chuck's firm, Artists Unlimited, or "AU" as it was sometimes referred.
Roger and I met in his office the next day. He understood my nervousness at what I was undertaking.
"This is a big process, I know." He said as he sat at his large desk in a high rise office that overlooked downtown L.A. "Let me ask you this, do you know what you want out of this deal?"
I took a deep breath, probably the first of many.
"Well, I know I don't have the head for business Chris did, you know that. So I don't want to get cheated, and I don't want to just walk away and count my money, I'd get bored real fast!"
"I want to keep taking pictures. I guess if I take the deal I'd be on a much bigger stage with Chuck."
"That's for certain."
"I retain all the rights to what we have now, right?"
"OK, that's one thing I want."
"Chris' estate made that clear so there's no problem there." He said as he made a notation on a legal pad "It's any future work that should be a concern to you."
The words "future work" suddenly intrigued me. I recalled what I'd said about photographing the Nashville honky-tonks when I was with Miley at the Eagle.
"Right, uh, I might have some plans in that area." I said
"What about salary?"
That drew a blank from me. I doubted I could negotiate a salary and never really had one before, we'd always split our earnings down the middle.
"I'm no negotiator there." I said
"No problem, we can handle that part. I know Chuck's firm has always treated its people well, that shouldn't be a problem. I think the fact they came to you originally will work in your favor." He said as he made more notations. "I think you can expect quite a nice package from him."
"Let's keep the offices where they are now." I said
"Did Chris ever do an assessment of the company's worth?"
"No, not that I know of."
"OK, I'll have accounting take a look at things." He said, making more notes
"And the name." I quickly said
"Yes, I want the company's name to stay the same." I said firmly "We might be a division of Artists Unlimited, but we'll always be East Coast Image."
Roger looked at me and smiled.
"You're talking like Chris now. He would've said the same thing."
Now I smiled, my confidence was back on track.
Roger was a man of his word. He produced a summary of all the points we mentioned, accounting did its work and we were ready to go. Roger and I then met at Chuck's beach side home.
I'd met Chuck Tyler long ago when Tigress first got started and his career skyrocketed as the band did. He sold his interest in the group to Marty O'Brien and resurfaced soon after with Artists Unlimited, but in an executive capacity.
"Jim, I'm glad you reconsidered our offer." He said as we sat out on his deck, amidst the sun and surf. We were all sipping wine he said came from a vineyard he was an investor in. "East Coast has a lot to offer and I really think we can take things to the next level, it's what a company like yours deserves."
Seated with him was Jeff Murphy, another rep from AU.
"I have to say again, it's very remarkable what a small firm like yours accomplished. The outfit we'd used never did so much, so fast." He said
Now it was my turn.
"If you don't mind my asking, uh, why are you switching firms?"
"Well, economics, primarily" Jeff began "the owner is retiring and his sons have no interest in taking over."
"That's why we want you, Jim." Chuck said as he took a sip of wine. "I met you and Chris early on, saw your operation first hand. Then when I made the move to AU, I always thought an operation like yours would be the perfect fit," he said before raising a finger to make point "IF we could get it."
"There's something I've never been too clear on, I saw you on a lot of Tigress events, as well as Marty but who exactly managed them?"
"That's a valid question." Chuck said as he took a sip of wine "I always had the software company, and Marty was involved in that too. We both managed the girls, the idea was always that he'd take over full time at some point it just came sooner than I expected. So when we decided to split things off, Marty traded his interest in the software company for full ownership of Tigress and all that entailed and I went to AU. And as you can see..." he slowly waved an arm towards the house and its ocean view "It's done me quite well."
Roger now added his opinion.
"I have to ask something important." He began "does Marty O'Brien have any stake in this? According to my notes, Tigress has been a client of AU."
Chuck and Jeff looked at one another.
"You're a movie guy, right Jim?" Chuck asked
"Well, sure, we are in Hollywood." I said with a nervous chuckle
"Remember the Godfather part 2?"
"Yes, I know the film."
"Think of Michael Corleone and his meeting at the end with Fredo and the speech he gave, what Fredo now meant to him...then think of Marty."
"As far as we're concerned, Marty O'Brien doesn't exist in this deal." Jeff said firmly
The silence between us definitively answered that question.
Roger now presented our negotiating points to Chuck and Jeff.
"You boys did your homework." Chuck said
Jeff studied his copy.
"I think we can accommodate all these." He said
"What exactly would I be doing?" I asked "I mean, the way you presented the deal to us originally it sounded almost like we'd be highly paid freelancers."
"Well, that's not too far off the mark." Chuck said "Artists Unlimited has a very large client list. The company stared back in the fifties; we just didn't promote ourselves like companies do today. You'd be going on film sets, concert tours with our clients. Plus the odd photo shoot in our studios." He said then quickly added "which would include your facility if you so choose. I don't see any reason to change the way you've done things."
"Why don't you come down to our offices, have a look around." Jeff added
I looked at Roger and he nodded
"Okay, might be nice to see how the other half lives." I said
"Excellent!" Chuck raised his glass "here's to new beginnings."
Artists Unlimited was quite the operation. Its location was the top floor of prime real estate in downtown LA. Roger and I met Chuck and he proudly showed off the facility. The black and white art deco look of the office was highlighted by framed movie posters and there were lots of glass walled cubicles. As Chuck pointed out the many people there, walking along the other side of the office floor I noticed a short girl with gently curled brown hair and a smart pantsuit walking with two other people. I did a double take and she turned in my direction, she did the same double take, then waved and smiled broadly as she recognized me.
It was Kelly Clarkson. It'd been awhile since we'd seen one another.
As we passed another office, I thought I saw Hilary Duff and her sister Haylie.
Just then, Chuck called out to a pair of gentlemen coming towards us, one had a stylish leather jacket on, dark sunglasses and a growth of beard.
"Russell! I didn't know you were in town!" he said "Ah, somebody you should meet, he might be taking your picture soon so don't slug him."
The bearded man extended his hand
"How you doin' mate?" he said
"Jim, meet Russell Crowe, star of stage, screen and bar rooms worldwide."
I was star struck yet again.
"Yes, uh-hello." I stammered
"So you might be taking my picture, huh?" then smiling, he slid down his glasses and said "just make you sure you get my good side."
"Absolutely, yes, I sure will." I said excitedly
"Great, see you around Chuck, good to meet you Jim."
I watched him walk away and was still stunned at my encounter.
"I guess it would be easier to ask who you DON'T represent than who you do right?" I finally said.
Chuck laughed heartily
"Very good observation, my friend!" he said "We do have a wide variety of clients, yes. It's quite a change from when I just had Tigress, ah, those were the days." He said wistfully as he smiled and looked upwards.
I looked at all the photos, and I had to admit I knew a few of their clients on more than just a first name basis.
As Chuck led me past another row of cubicles, he continued to tell me of plans for the company.
"We're moving some people around currently," he said "there's something I really want you to see down here."
At the end of the floor, he opened a pair of elegant doors that opened onto a huge office with floor length windows looking out onto a brilliantly sunny Los Angeles.
"Wow! I guess being the boss has its perks." I said as I looked around
The office was like a luxury apartment, a huge leather couch faced a big screen TV, there was a small conference area as well as what looked like a kitchen and bar.
"Try out the desk, I'm thinking of getting the same one for my office." He said
"I can only imagine what your office is like." I said as I sat in the high backed leather chair, the desk was huge, with a soft and intricately curving design.
Chuck leaned against the couch, Jeff was nearby.
"What do you think?" he asked
"I feel like an executive." I said
"And the office itself?" Jeff asked
"I think I could make do with this." I said
"It would be yours, you know." Chuck now said
I looked around, not sure what to think. I was definitely getting the full treatment. And I was also speechless. This really WOULD be mine.
"Chuck, perhaps Jim and I could talk for a few minutes alone?" Roger said
"Yes, yes, go right ahead. Jeff and I will be upstairs, I'll have to show you my office next."
Chuck and Jeff hurriedly walked out leaving me with Roger. The door silently clicked shut behind them as they left.
"He knows how to really get you." Roger said
"It must be the leather. I'm always a sucker for leather." I replied as I felt the office chair.
We sat in silence.
"Well, Hollywood...whatcha gonna do?" he asked.
Again, I thought long and hard about what I'd seen and heard and let out a long sigh as I sat back in the chair.
"Have they said no to anything we had on that list?" I asked, hoping that there might be some way to put off making a final decision, maybe a contract clause in dispute, an "I" that wasn't dotted or a "T" not crossed.
Roger shook his head.
"They'd offer you a two year contract, full benefits, generous salary, even a company car."
"Christ, I just got a company car, or have you forgotten a certain legal document you read to me recently?" I said wearily referring to Chris' Porsche 911 that I now owned, reluctantly.
"Two cars is company, three's a dealership." Roger observed.
I leaned back in the chair and looked at Roger now
"I like it." I said quietly "I really do."
The trade magazines quietly announced the acquisition of East Coast Image by Artists Unlimited.
We, or should I say I, was in the big leagues now.
I had free reign at the company, I'd be running their photo department and I'd do assignments as necessary. Chuck made the deal very easy on both of us, he knew how I'd worked in the past and wanted nothing more than to keep it that way. Jeff Murphy would be my new contact within the agency, I'd get any assignments from him. He seemed to have a lot of Chris' hustler personality but on a more professional scale. The first couple of days I lost myself in the company's archives looking at old photos and reading their history while my office was being prepared, phone and computer lines installed and prepped. I was keeping the bulk of my gear back at the old studio.
Finally on Monday, I got a call from Jeff;
"Ready to go to work, pal?"
"Absolutely, where to?"
"Come up to my office in the morning, we'll go over the details."
That morning I discovered another little perk of the job, my own parking space. I discovered that when I pulled my SLK into the underground parking lot and nearly broadsided a large BMW. The heavily tinted driver's window lowered and a familiar face looked out.
"What's your hurry, kid?" he laughed "Your spot's down there!"
It was Chuck Tyler arriving at the same time and pulling into a spot near the front door where "RESERVED FOR C. TYLER" was painted in a bold shade of yellow on the concrete. My spot was a ways over, with "RESERVED FOR EAST COAST IMAGE" painted in the same shade of high gloss yellow.
Chuck had a good laugh to start his day and a story he'd probably tell for years to come. He stood by the front door as I arrived.
"Mr. Hollywood has arrived." He said with a chuckle as he put his arm around me "I'll see you later on, kid. I got a meeting with the big shots from the big apple."
"Well, don't bite off more than you can chew." I replied
I could hear Chuck still laughing as the elevator made its way up.
"Good morning, Jim!" said a pretty girl with blonde hair at the company's main desk. She reminded me of Hayden Pannetiere in her looks.
"Hello, I have a meeting with Jeff." I said
"You sure do, have a seat and I'll buzz him."
It felt a little strange to already be on a first name basis there, but if it came from someone as gorgeous as her, well, I could get used to it. Especially when I saw she had a little name plate on her desk reading "Natalie Hayden".
I hope so!
Just as I sat down a stunning woman with thick dark hair breezed in.
"Hello, Natalie!" she said in a thick Spanish accent "How's the big boss this morning?"
"Hi, Ms. Vergara, he just arrived and he'll be right with you."
"Okay, that's great."
The Spanish lady turned and I saw who it was
Oh my, my, my! Sofia Vergara.
Her thick dark hair was complimented by a simple dark shirt, white bell-bottom pants and an electric blue jacket.
"Hello there!" She said to me in that accent with a gorgeous smile.
"Yes, hiya!" I replied, feeling a little silly I didn't have a better response handy. Then again, that was usually the case when someone like her suddenly appears.
"Looks like you're meeting someone, too, no?"
"Oh, yes. I just started here, I have a meeting with the boss, too."
"Ah, well, the things we have to do." She replied with her head cocked slightly towards me and flashing her million dollar smile.
Just then, another assistant came out.
"Ms. Vergara, Mr. Tyler will see you now."
"Excellent, good to meet you...I didn't get your name, I'm so sorry!"
"It's OK, I'm Jim."
"Ah, well Mr. Jim, you have a good day." She said as she breezed off down the hall.
'Oh yes, I will' I thought.
Now Jeff came out.
"Hey, Jimmy, come on in." he said as he led me into his office.
Jeff's office looked nothing like a Hollywood moguls. It had framed posters and photos throughout, but they were devoted to Formula One auto racing. Dominating almost an entire wall was the side of what appeared to be an actual Formula One racer. Like it had been sliced in half for wall decoration.
"Where'd you get that?" I asked as I looked it over.
"Oh, that!" he chuckled "it's only a replica, looks pretty real, huh?"
"You said it, who got the other side?"
"The driver, of course" he said casually
"Yes, of course." I replied
On Jeff's desk was a brochure for CinemaCon, something I'd never been to. It would be held in Las Vegas, man it would be nice to go.
It had been awhile since I'd been to Vegas. I had mixed feelings about returning, more than likely it would be on my own. Chris and I had always had fun here, but it was usually separately, not by choice. I don't think we ever had a real "guy's night out" in Vegas, and in a way I always regretted that.
Then Jeff tossed me VIP passes to CinemaCon.
"What's this?" I asked, not sure if I was reading things right.
"They look like VIP passes, and it looks like you're going."
CinemaCon was an exclusive industry function for the theatre industry that would be loaded with movie people. When I'd seen Blake she told me how she was going to Vegas for the event since it would be connected to her Green Lantern movie, a lot of press would be there and the event always promised to be big. I doubted I'd see her, but well, it is Vegas so anything can happen. Formerly known as ShoWest, This was one event that Chris and I had never been to. Somehow all his connections never came through with any kind of passes for us.
But it was a new chapter for me, and now I had the "golden ticket" as it were. I quickly made up a list of what I wanted to do there, knowing in the back of my mind that in Vegas, schedules usually fly out the window and you find yourself on "Vegas time".
I crumpled up the paper and decided to wing it.
I did make the decision to drive myself there, I loved the open spaces of the desert highways the last time we drove there and now I wanted to experience the wide open feel of the road again. I was also tempted to get Chris' Porsche out of the storage garage it was currently in and use it for the drive there, but I didn't have the heart to do that just yet. I knew I'd have to make some kind of decision eventually regarding that.
But for now, the open road was calling my name. And while I didn't make the kind of speed demon time there like before, it was still a cool feeling having the SLK's top down and the sun beating down on me. I could feel my head clearing the closer I got to Sin City.
Everyone connected with Artists Unlimited got the VIP treatment at the Aria Hotel/Casino in Vegas. It was a spectacular place to say the least and reminded me of a giant glass cube that glittered in the Vegas sunlight. I'd been to Vegas before and was always impressed with what I saw in the hotels but this place took it to another level entirely.
Jeff was there to meet me once I checked in at the vast front desk area.
"Pretty cool digs, huh?" he said
"That's putting it mildly." I said as I looked around, stunned at the sheer size of this place that seemed to stretch infinitely upwards.
"Well, we go first class around here, you've got plenty of time before the evening festivities kick off, what're you gonna do?"
I watched 2 beauties stroll by me in casual dresses
"Oh, I think I'll find plenty to keep me occupied until then." I said as they drifted by us.
"Viva Las Vegas, my friend." He said with a smile as he strolled off toward the casino.
And off I went!
I dropped off my stuff in my suite and went exploring. Since CinemaCon was in full swing there was no shortage of people doing the same thing, I think they all figured the stars would be everywhere. I decided long ago that I wouldn't be one of those types. It seemed I had better luck when they found me, so I kept things low-key.
Aria had an extremely ritzy section of high-end shops, why I was drawn to those places I'll never know. It was so unlike me to be there but I suppose it was fun to dream a little. Sure, I could afford some of the items there but at times like this, my Connecticut side still came out and asked what I needed such-and-such item for, and more importantly where the price tag was.
This time though, I did need something, a classy pair of sunglasses and maybe some kind of chic suit.
I was going through the racks of clothes and heard a subtle commotion of voices near the front.
"Is that her?" said one
"Wow, it is...where's my phone?" said another
"Isn't that the girl from that TV show?"
"She's not as tall as I thought she'd be."
I tried to get a look at who they could be talking about.