Wanna? Do I "wanna" work for the greatest living legend in all of showbiz? Now, that was a dumb question.
"Ummm…yeah!" I said.
"Good. Be on a call in ten minutes. It's with Marty," he warned, "and let me do the talking." A fair warning — I am of the loquacious variety (to say the least).
I hadn't yet met Marty but, like Cher and Madonna, no last name was required. I knew who "Marty" was — he was, and still is, Barbra's manager. And if Marty Erlichman don't like you — you ain't working with Barbra. So I knew I had to be on my best behavior.
I remember Ken's introduction on that faithful call: "Marty, this is Blake. She'll be helping with tour stuff." (Mind you, this was in 2006 when we were launching Barbra's first multi-city national tour in over a decade). I followed orders to be say little and muttered a swift "Hello."
"How are you? It's nice to meet you, Blake. How long have you been working for Kenny?" Marty responded warmly. "Fine. A few years." (Again, keeping it short and sweet.) But Marty would hear nothing of it. He engaged me in a short banter about growing up in New York and other assorted chit chat. He ended our conversation with, "So Blake, are you ready?" I answered "yes" even though I knew the answer was more like "maybe."
From that phone call, I embarked on what would be a few of the most exciting years of my life working and learning from Marty, Barbra and the rest of the team. Don't get me wrong, it was hard work, but well worth it. After a tough day at the "office" (whatever venue we played that night) Marty would hold court at the hotel bar, buying everyone drinks, regaling us with backstage stories from his years in show biz.
This past weekend, Barbra threw Marty a party at her Malibu home to celebrate his 80th (well, really 81st) birthday and their upcoming 50-year relationship as manager and star, friends and confidants. Barbra's gift to Marty? A Mercedes hybrid.
Friends including Don Rickles, Michael Eisner, George Foreman, Clive Davis and others were there, all sharing stories about the man of the hour. Marty's family, wife Miko and son JJ, were also present.
Barbra gave a performance of Ray Noble's "The Very Thought of You" commenting that he "always wanted me to record [it], but I just never did." She then sang a special impromptu version of "The Way We Were" with none other than Marvin Hamlisch accompanying her. She and the song's original co-writers Alan and Marilyn Bergman had some fun with the lyrics:
With your dwindling role o'dimes,
Making deals and making phone calls, (a reference to Marty's first office--a phone booth on 53rd and 7th Ave and calls only cost a dime)
You knew that there'd be better times!
You booked and then you, would check the venue
I only checked the menu
That's the way we were!"
In his signature style, Marty made a quick comment about the affair: "What an evening. There are five lawyers, three agents, three promoters and no doctors." He addressed the 100 people in attendance to say: "You know I still love it… I wake up every morning and attack each day."
Happy Birthday, Marty. Here's to many more!
[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="169" caption="The way they were..."]
[caption id="attachment_2951" align="aligncenter" width="174" caption="Photo by Kevin Mazur"][/caption]