How about that? The sanctimonious one was caught with his pants down.
New York governor Elliot Spitzer, who extracted a few million from the radio and record industry, had his career come to a sudden halt for the price of what a parallel one top 40 add was going for in 1985.
Five grand – actually $4,300, Courvoisier from the mini-bar, room and a tip got the guv two and a half hours of something he couldn’t get at home with a 5’ 5” 105-pound brunette call girl who went by the pro name Kristen.
Or as he put it, ".…acted in a way that violates my obligations to my family.”
What do we call him now? Former governor or client number nine?
Did the Emperor’s Club take plastic? Is that $4,300 and change discreetly listed on your credit card statement as MultiSafePay?
Oh, I'm sorry. I forgot. Spitzer said "no questions - please."
The incident proved that Spitzer was as dumb as the radio and label people that gave him an easy in to extract multi-millions from both industries.
Spitzer’s investigation of payola in the radio and records industry was going nowhere fast when both industries observed Omertà. He was about to can the inquiry when one of his team, on a tropical vacation, overheard a drunken label executive, sitting at the bar, letting his liquor do the talking. While he boasted of how his the labels got music played on radio, she took notes, connected the dots, and Spitzer closed the deal.
The “legal payola” deals were the hardest to crack. Technically, they weren’t illegal. Legal payola was written off by participating stations as non-traditional revenue, where airplay was quasi-legally being bought and sold – either as a paid spot (like Arista buying overnight spins for Avril Lavigne to boost her airplay chart rotation) to radio stations contracting above-board deals with independent record promoters to have exclusive airplay influence-peddling rights (like Randy Michaels who set up the template with Clear Channel for other chains to follow).
Spitzer made his real mark at identifying the value added – where staff members were cutting side deals for trips and merchandise in exchange for airplay – most, if not all of it, unknown to the radio station’s corporate offices. The investigation uncovered e-mails and office correspondence, which exposed numerous pay-for-play schemes – directly negotiated between radio employees and the labels.
Many of the execs running the labels today try to play tough-guy cool by wearing their sunglasses at night. In reality, most of these guys are lucky sperm club trust funders that’ll fall into a fetal position and cry if you say “boo.” They don’t get the code of the street: Never write when you can speak. Never speak when you can nod. Never nod when you can wink, and never use your corporate office’s e-mail to spell-out specifics to an airplay side deal with David Universal or anyone else for that matter.
When faced with probable jail time, the caught canaries sang and Spitzer got the labels to cough up $50 million to New York State.
$50 million is chump change to the labels. They routinely cheat artists out of that much in royalties a day. Radio's a different story.
Spitzer fell because he believed his own hype. He flaunted his Princeton and Harvard Law education. He bragged of his rise in the ranks from cynosural prosecutor to crusading attorney general to New York State governor. But somewhere along the way he forgot that he puts his pants on one leg at a time like everyone else – or in his case…
When he did his witch hunt on radio and records he tried to classify anyone associated with radio or records a guilty participant – and put a lot of innocent people through the ringer. Yesterday, he did the same to his wife and his three teenage daughters.
That must be the new mea culpa. Call the press, make a statement, trot out the family, admit guilt, and take no questions.
Spitzer’s using the same playbook as former Jersey governor Jim McGreevey, who admitted having an affair with a man under his employ or Senator Larry Craig, who admitted before he denied that he was playing footsie in the stall of an airport men’s room.
Hookers are hot in politics these days. There’s Bush administration State Department official Randall Tobias. He refused to provide AIDS relief dollars to countries that allowed prostitution. Then he got caught having call girls stopping by his condo. Let's not forget Louisiana Senator David Vitter whose name turned up in the D.C. Madam Deborah Jeane Palfrey ‘s phone records.
Neil Young, one artist who was not willing to share his royalties with participating contemporary hit PDs back in the eighties, released a song called “Payola Blues,” which included the line, “Here’s five thousand/that oughta get it on.”
I think Elliot Spitzer could provide Neil the inspiration for a hit song.
He should rush back into the studio and re-record the track with new lyrics – “Here’s five thousand/let’s get it on.”
See a David Helton Len 'Boom' Goldberg comic strip here