He Ain’t Heavy…He’s Bob Russel

October 24, 2008

10-24-08    Bob Russell

 

I guess I was twenty five when I met the songwriter, Bob Russell.  He wrote many hit songs but the one that has stuck with me all my life was HE AIN’T HEAVY, HE’S MY BROTHER. 

 

Bob was tall, handsome and gracious.  His talent as a songwriter was second to none and his friendship as a man was warm, sincere and true.

 

I was a kid trying to make a name for myself in the P R business in Hollywood and Bob was a legendary song writer but for some reason, when we met, it was like we grew up together and had been friends all our lives.  I guess Bob was about thirty years older then I was at the time.

 

Bob was stricken with Cancer.  He had a beautiful family, gorgeous and comfortable home and all the money in the world but he didn’t have the one thing in the world he needed most, his health.

 

He fought Cancer like a Champion but lost the battle in a couple of tough years.

 

A few years later, I was managing Neil Diamond.  Neil was known for recording only his own songs but the thought of Neil’s voice and Bob’s song, haunted me.  I spoke to Neil about it and within a year or two he did in fact, record Bob’s classic song, HE AIN’T HEAVY, HE’S MY BROTHER. 

 

I don’t know if Neil recorded that song for me or his own brother but in my mind, he recorded it in the memory of my friend, Bob Russell.

 

I guess in a way, that gave back a little of the friendship I was so lucky to receive from Bob but in a way, I was the recipient of the song being recorded by Neil. 

 

I lost my brother Chuck around six years ago and every time I think of him, which is every day, I can hear in my mind, Neil’s rendition of that great song written by my friend Bob.  To Neil, Bob and my brother Chuck, none of you are Heavy and all are my brothers in one way or another.

 

Thank you Chuck for being the best older brother anyone in the world ever had, Bob, for your friendship and a song that warms my heart every time I hear or even think about it, and Neil, for our relationship, your talent and understanding as an artist.

 

Big & Little

April 23, 2010

4-23-10

I’m not talking about prize fighting, I’m talking about street fighting: Big guys are very hesitant to fight little guys in a street fight; they know the little guy has to be really crazy to fight someone as big as they are.  I know, I’m a little guy.

Father’s Hearts

April 23, 2010

4-23-10  You’re Breaking Your Dad’s Heart Of Hollywood

I was about nineteen and started to take acting classes in Hollywood after my days at work in my father’s linen shop in Beverly Hills.  I was also taking some singing lessons and going to the Villa Capri on Friday nights and singing with the piano player in the bar.

One day my cousin Leon from Brooklyn, who was visiting us at the time, came up to me and told me “I was breaking my father’s heart.”

I stopped the acting and singing stuff and switched to girls instead after putting myself in prison all day long in that little shop on Beverly Drive.

It wasn’t my father’s heart I was breaking, it was mine.  I was doing what he wanted me to do with my life not what I wanted to do with it.

When I got a job in the Public Relations business at Rogers & Cowan, I was twenty two.  My father still loved me but our conversations were short, sweet and to the point.  It wasn’t until Art Seidenbaum, a great writer at the L A Times, did a piece on me and my partner, Mickey Freeman, that ran in the Sunday Calendar Section, it was in August of 1965, that my father read about what I did to make a living.  All of a sudden, I wasn’t the “boy who broke his heart,” I was the son of a very proud father whose son was making it big in Hollywood handling so many “big stars.”

Live your dream boys and girls, it’s your life and at the end of it, the only one that matters if you made yourself happy or not will be you.

Christian Slater

April 23, 2010

4/23/10   Christian Slater and the MPTF

The look of awe on Christian Slater’s face when he came back to the Country House after taking a tour of the MPTF Campus with Ken Scherer was one of wonder.

I met Christian about a half hour before, when he came into the Resident’s Room (?) at the Country House for our interview to be conducted for the residents who attended and recorded for our on Campus, Channel 22 Television station.

Before the interview, Christian and Ken exited to take a tour of the campus and meet a few residents; by the time he came back, he asked me how he could get involved with MPTFand how quickly.  My answer was “right now and you already are by doing this interview for us.”

The interview was wonderful; vibrant, educational and exhilarating: Christian’s eyes were sparkling as he discussed his life, childhood, profession, children and passions.  As we progressed into the conversation, I kept feeling like I was talking with one of Hollywood’s legends; Cagney, Bogart, Edward G, or Raft.  He had the quality, character and aura of what made Hollywood what it was, what it is and what it will be: talented people driven by their art with the base of our past and the brightness of the future to drive them on.

My personal feeling of pride was equal to his excitement.  We were both there for a reason: we love our industry, its people and were serving one of the great charity organizations of the world, the Motion Picture & Television Fund.

What a joy.

Kobe Bryant

March 10, 2010

3-10-10    THE NAIL MAN

I think it started with Mr. Clutch and the Big O.  Then came Dr. J followed by Magic and The Bird Man.  Big Game James and The Mailman followed.  MJ only needed initials but we here in L A have the best of all at the moment, THE NAIL MAN.  No one puts the final nail in the coffin better then him, now or then.

Kobe, Mr. MVP.

Promise

March 3, 2010

3-3-10    Promise

“There’s something I want to tell you (number two) but you have to promise you’ll keep it confidential and to yourself.”

“Sure, you know you can trust me.  I love you.” (number three)

Okay, where there were two people in on a confidential secret, there are now three.

A telephone call is made from number three in on the secret to number two in on the secret and by chance, secret teller number one answers the phone.  Time to think and not be friendly but friendly comes out first and says, “I hope you’re happy with your decision.”  OH NO!

“Please, I wasn’t supposed to know, please don’t tell number two that I let you know I know or she’ll never talk to me again.”

“I promise, don’t worry.” (I quote number one here.)

“What am I supposed to do if I can’t confide in the person I love to keep a secret,” a disgruntled number two told an embarassed and blushing number three upon arriving home the next evening.

I could have made an excuse, I could have been angry at number one for letting number two know I, number three, was in on the confidence but all I really did was put my loved one, number two, in a bad place with number one which put me, number three, in a very bad place with number two, whom I love and adore with all my heart.

Bad boy, never do that again please.  OK, I promise.   (Me talking to me.)

“What’s going on honey, you know you can trust me, I learned my lesson, it will never happen again!”

(Please God.)

THE BOOK MAN

February 23, 2010

2-23-10    THE BOOK MAN

It’s not easy for me to head over to Children’s Hospital Los Angeles every Monday morning to read and hand out books to the children as they walk in and out of the hospital with their parents or grandparents for the various treatments and appointments they have with their doctors at the hospital.

Most of the kids would never have you imagine they had anything they’d need treated but some of the young children that come to me to hear a story or receive a free book are obviously suffering from serious physical and medical ailments.  I look only into their eyes and see the beauty of their souls but feel within me a great sorrow that so young a person needs to suffer so for no reason as to anything they ever did.  I don’t question God but I can hurt emotionally.

The smile never leaves my face or heart as we chat, get to know each other and share the joy we all enjoy as they hear stories or receive their books.

Yesterday, in the middle of my hour at the hospital, a young boy ran up to me and yelled back to his mother, “Look mommy, The Book Man Is Here,” as he jumped up on my lap.

Okay, even as I sit here and write, the wonder of the positive feeling I had yesterday is again tingling my body.  I’m no sissy but I do get tears in my eyes when something touches my soul.

Humbled

February 2, 2010

2-2-10    Humbled

Every once in awhile I am humbled by what I do and whom I am honored to do it with.

I interview people and give advice for a living.  The advice comes with my Public Relations knowledge and experience and my interviewing comes from the love of the business I’m in, entertainment.

I interview stars, studio heads, directors, producers, distribution people, writers, set decorators, and want to be everything and anything’s connected to our business.  To put it in prospective, from the top to the bottom, the old the new and the about to be is whom I talk to.

Today I will be interviewing and having a conversation with an American Treasure, Eva Marie Saint for my Heart of Hollywood Radio/Podcast.  I am humbled and honored.

In one hour, I will be connected by her to Marlon Brando, Cary Grant, Paul Newman, Montgomery Clift, Warren Beatty, James Garner, Burt Lancaster, Henry Fonda, Elizabeth Taylor, Alfred Hitchcock and Elia Kazan, just some of the people she has worked with over her fifty year career.

I never say wow when I interview but I can say it here:  WOW.

February 1, 2010

2-1-10    Mixed Feelings

There is nothing more painful to me then seeing a young child who has been born with or been stricken by a severe illness or handicap.

I see many such kids every Monday as I read to and give books out to the children in the lobby at Children’s Hospital, Los Angeles.  What takes away any sadness or pain I might have from encountering some very stricken child is the smile or gentle touch of thanks that comes my way from them as I read to them or give them a book to keep and take home.

The courage and positive attitude these children have has rubbed off on me in the most wonderful of ways.  Their illness and handicaps disappear as I look at their beautiful eyes and see the smiles that they have on their faces as the battle the most difficult aspects of life with so much faith and bravery.

I always thought my two sons taught me more as a parent then I taught them as a father and that belief has been fortified by what I get from the children at Children’s Hospital, Los Angeles: With Faith, bravery and hope, almost anything can be overcome; maybe not forever but while we’re here.

For The Beauty

January 29, 2010

1-29-10    Thank you for the beauty

My gorgeous Susan and I were having dinner at Bouchon in Beverly Hills with some friends when a young woman walked up to our table and held my hand, looked into my eyes and said, “thank you for the beauty you bring into the world.”  I thought I misunderstood her and asked her twice, what she had said.  She repeated the same phrase twice, looked at the other people at the table, smiled and left with her own group of four or five people.

She was so pleasant and certainly not coming on to me at all that I began to wonder what and why she said such a wonderful thing.

Was she referring to my sons, Michael and Robby, who certainly would match her comment; the work I do reading to the children at Children’s Hospital, Los Angeles; my interviews which archive the residents at the Motion Picture & Television Fund’s, Behind The Silver Screen Series for the Campus’ Channel 22; the Radio/Podcast Program I host, The Heart of Hollywood; or my book, The Heart of Hollywood, To Hell and Back?

How she would recognize me at all from any of the above things that take up and make up the beauty of my life, as well as my Susan, I will never know.  If I saw the woman on the street, the encounter was so brief and startling, I would never recognize her.

If by any chance she reads this blog and again recognizes me, I’d love to say thank you for making me realize that what I do does have meaning, is good and has positive purpose.  You helped me open my eyes to myself, which usually look at me from the other side, “Joey, are you being a bad boy?”  (Even when I do things so slight as missing a workout, forgetting to put the you know what down or having a meal and the wine that goes with it that I will certainly will have to work and sleep off, like the one we all enjoyed at Bouchon.)

Why Was I Born

January 19, 2010

1-19-10

Why Was I Born

I think the first few years of my life I was here to be a pain in the neck to my mother.  I was born in l937, the year my father got pneumonia and nearly died.  Besides two older siblings, a sick husband and a mother-in-law living in her home, my mom had to put up with me and all the responsibilities that come with any new born baby.

My dad had to spend winters in a warm climate so he and mom spent a lot of time away from our Brooklyn home in Bermuda.  To this day I don’t know if I was the only child left home with the housekeeper but I know I was independent of mom from the first year of my life, which made her totally crazy.   Mom and dad spoiled the heck out of my brother Chuck and sister Leona and could never really quite understand my lack of need for their attention or approval.  I’ve heard you are who you are by the time your five.  I was who I was at the age of one; confident, independent and a little too big for my britches.  My mom never could change me but life humbled me in its own magnificent manner; thank you God.

My days in grammar school had one purpose as well.  Be the biggest pain in the neck to my teachers as possible.  I got by but just by the skin of my teeth.

Junior High or Mid School was very much the same.  My purpose in life seemed to be to confuse all my teachers as to why such an apparently intelligent kid could cause so much trouble and seem so unable or not wanting to learn.

High School turned the tables of my life around.  From being a negative force, I finally made the purpose of my life seem to be to prove that even a little guy can excel and succeed as a Varsity athlete.  I became Captain of our Football team and Left Fielder of our Baseball team.  To this day, fifty years later, people still come up to me and say I was the gutsiest guy they ever saw play football.  Only I know the secret; I wasn’t gutsy, just swell headed and crazy.  Again, for those two qualities, at that time, I thank you God.  Later in life I learned to hate those qualities and still strive to exchange them for humble, respectful and helpful.

My professional life lead me into a few fields; retail salesman, wholesale toy salesman and Public Relations.  The only field I had any success in or fondness for was P R.  It wasn’t the reason I was born but I did contribute to the success of many people.

I went from P R to Personal Management and handled Neil Diamond, Ricky Nelson, Lou Rawls, O. C. Smith and David Axelrod.  I may have helped them discover why they were here on earth but none of them was the sole reason I was put here for, no matter how iconic they became.  It was about them, not me.

When I married, I thought my life meaning came to be.  What seemed to me to be a wonderful relationship with my wife and two sons, whom to this day, make my heart and soul sing with joy when I see, think about or talk to them, give me a feeling of meaning, seemed to fall apart when divorce reared its ugly head.

Meaning in life from that point on was to provide for, love and support my sons every second of every day.  I still feel the same way but have given them all the freedom they need to know there dad doesn’t run their lives, they do.

Was I born to host the radio and now television shows I created, THE HEART OF HOLLYWOOD and BEHIND THE SILVER SCREEN?  I don’t know but people seem to love and enjoy them both.  The H of H presents Hollywood and the talented people who work in the entertainment industry in a positive way and B the S S, archives the elders of our business to make sure what they did and who they are will never be forgotten.

I have a love in my life today that I cherish as much as I’ve cherished anything.  Her name is Susan and I wonder if I was born to give her happiness, love and total and true devotion and loyalty.  I know this sounds stupid but she and my two children are the most honest, innocent and loving people I have in my life and I have two brothers and two sisters that love me as much as I love them and that is a wonderful lot.

As I sit here and wonder as to why I was born, I truly wonder if one of the reasons was to write.  I wrote a short book about some of my life experiences and various people have read it and told me that little book changed their lives.  As a kid I would have had my ego and head swell a little upon hearing news like that; now I just thank God for giving me the courage to write what I lived through and that it helped the lives of others.

I don’t know why I woke up this morning thinking about why I was born and I’m sure I haven’t captured the true value of my life so far but just thinking about it and putting some of the positives and negatives down on paper brought some things into focus for me.

I am glad I was born and life is very precious.  If just being a father was all God blessed me with, I would have had a wonderful reason for my life.

If just loving Susan like no other man could was why I was born would have left me satisfied when I leave here.  If just learning that life isn’t about ego and vanity but about love, respect, compassion, faith and being a good and true person is, I say Amen.  I’m glad I was here and would do it again if I had the chance.

I might change some things I did the next time around but if I don’t get a chance to do that, I hope my spirit can roll around heaven for the remainder of eternity with all those I have met and loved in this life.  They all gave me something of value and that may be why their lives were so important.