June 22, 2008

Mintz, anyone?

The last time I really disliked someone, he grew up to be Eliot Mintz. You see his name in the papers sometimes, but when I knew him in the mid-sixties he was the phoniest wannabe executive hippie in Los Angeles.

He wore tailored disco clothes long before there was disco, with a small brass bell on a beaded rope around his neck. Out of nowhere he became a programmer (advice for teenieboppers and lost/befuddled hippies) and a producer at the Pacifica station KPFK, where I was working. I borrowed his girlfriend for a few weeks (she turned out to be Harlan Elison's girlfriend, too, but that's another story) before she went back to Eliot, who was crazier and more manipulative than it ever occured to me to be. But that's what the beautiful Dona wanted.

She decided I was bedable when I corrected her, on the air, after she announced that the fund drive had reached its goal. It was $7,000 short. She liked correction, a lot. I evidently clinched it when I saw her toying with her food at the Copper Penny restaurant and said the magic words "anorexia nervosa." She turned pale and insisted that we go back to my place, immediately.

I'm sure I was merely a nice change of scenery, and probably a vacation for her. Now that I think of it, I was probably an assignment, too. Marvin Siegleman, the ex-CIA station manager of KPFK, had tried to co-opt me by having his wife (his beard, actually) seduce me, possibly for whatever influence I had with Judy, who he fired because her show, The Drop-Out University of the Air, had the most subscribing listeners. (The Firesign Theater had the most non-subscribing listeners.) Whatever the reason, it didn't work.

Dona tweaked my pheromone receptors with much more success than Mrs. Siegleman, but when she started talking about how some very powerful people wanted Eliot to be their agent with important celebrities, and how she and I had talents that Eliot would find useful, I started laughing.

Even then, in 1966, at age 22, he was a Personal Manager. Now they call them Publicists. His first client, who I'll bet anything doesn't appear on his resume, was Sal Mineo, who was mysteriously attacked and beaten to death, thus losing Eliot his first client. The speculation was that it was payback for not heeding the "safe" words in some S/M games. Equally speculative was the theory that in real life he was just as whiney as the characters he played, and got on the wrong person's nerves.

Mintz later managed John Lennon and Bob Dylan, and I think still does Yoko and son. Makes you think that the conspiracy crowd may have a point, or that there are some who play at making weirdness happen at high levels because it suits their weird-fuck little minds to do so, and because they can.

Nobody that I knew and liked at KPFK took Eliot seriously. And many refused to work with him or take his guidance even when he was appointed as their show's producer. He had the sense never to impose on anyone who wasn't a fan already. When Dona told Judy (my wife now of 38 years) that Eliot wanted her to submit an outline before every show, Judy told Dona to tell Eliot to go fuck himself. Dona turned pale and said she couldn't possibly say that to him, but she'd take him a note if Judy signed it. He never asked again.

Leonard Brown, by far the finest audio-collage creator at Pacifica, made a point of obscurely dissing Mintz to his face. "Eliot, did you know that sideburns were so-named for General Burnsides? Like you, he had magnificent sideburns, but he was a piss-poor general." And Ted Sturgeon, Judy's friend and frequent on-air guest, once announced to her after-show crowd, while Eliot was standing a few feet away, that Eliot was the only person he'd ever met who wore a bell around his neck and had no sense of humor. There was dead silence for five seconds, and then six people laughed so hard they had to sit down.

The Firesign Theater crew was decidedly anti-Eliot, and riduculed him whenever possible. The night they took over the station, played the Star Spangled Banner continuously, and announced every ten minutes that the people's revolution had arrived, their original plan had been to gag and tie Eliot to a chair and set him naked in a window as a show of their earnest intentions, but Eliot kept away from the station that night.

I don't know if Eliot was really evil, but he was certainly creepy. That impression came directly from his expectation that everyone should think he was very wise. Exactly why anyone would think that was never clear, but Eliot assumed entitlement to near-worship, respect, and deference to his obvious wonderfulness, and let you know it in his every word and movement -- and so he often got it. Perhaps it was his voice, which was radio-resonant. Perhaps it was his habit of granting people permission to do whatever it was they felt mildly guilty about doing -- that they deserved the pleasure they sought. Given the power over people that he was constantly seeking and often getting, I suppose it's only natural that he got where he is today. Had we all had the sense and the courage of our impressions to have shot him rather than laugh at him back then, the world might be a better place today. Perhaps Mineo would have become the first John Lovett, perhaps Dylan might have stayed acoustic, and just maybe John Lennon could have lived a little longer. Ah, well.

I see the Eliot made the society gossip column in the Oregonian today (May 9, 2007), for confessing to a judge that he, her personal counselor and publicist, had told his friend and client, Paris Hilton, that she could drive to work (work?) despite a suspended license, so she really shouldn't have to do the 45 days of jail time the judge had sentenced her to do, because it was really his, Eliot's fault that she busted her paroll.

The judge, a wise man, recognized horseshit when he saw it, said as much to Mintz, and sent Ms Hilton a-slammer-o. That Sunday at his church, the congregation gave the judge a standing O for his perspicacity.

I may join that church.

First published on Tribe, May 9, 2007

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