Howling at the Moon : The Odyssey of a Monstrous Music Mogul in an Age of Excess
he music industry's most outspoken, outrageous, and phenomenally successful executive delivers a rollicking memoir of pop music's heyday. During the 1970s and '80s the music business was dominated by a few major labels and artists such as Michael Jackson, Bruce Springsteen, the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Billy Joel, Paul Simon, Barbra Streisand and James Taylor. They were all under contract to CBS Records, making it the most successful label of the era. And, as the company's president, Walter Yetnikoff was the ruling monarch. He was also the most flamboyant, volatile and controversial personality to emerge from an industry and era defined by sex, drugs and debauchery. Having risen from working-class Brooklyn and the legal department of CBS, Yetnikoff, who freely admitted to being tone deaf, was an unlikely label head. But he had an uncanny knack for fostering talent and intimidating rivals with his appalling behavior-usually fueled by an explosive combination of cocaine and alcohol. His tantrums, appetite for mind-altering substances and sexual exploits were legendary. In Japan to meet the Sony executives who acquired CBS during his tenure, Walter was assigned a minder who confined him to a hotel room. True to form, Walter raided the minibar, got blasted and, seeing no other means of escape, opened a hotel window and vented his rage by literally howling at the moon.
This memoir practically defines star-studded: as president of CBS records from 1975 to 1990, Yetnikoff brought us everyone from Streisand to the Stones. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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December 31, 2003
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Excerpt from Howling at the Moon by Walter Yetnikoff
The First Lady and the Last Man
After her third orgasm, Jackie O looked at me with a mixture of gratitude and awe.
"Jack was a powerful lover," she said. "Ari was a passionate man. But you, Walter Yetnikoff, you're nothing short of astounding."
I smiled a knowing smile. I knew I was good, but I'd never before satisfied a woman of such standing. After all, for those who came of age during Camelot, Jackie was our queen.
"Be my king," she said. "Love me like this for the rest of my life. Take me, Walter. Take me again . . ."
I was on the verge of doing just that when a blast of jackhammers shattered the reverie. Jackie wasn't there. Jackie was a dream. The jackhammers were real. Outside my apartment window jackhammers were messing with my head. A skyscraper was going up. My dick was going down. Jackie was disappearing into the fog of my early morning mind when I realized something almost, but not quite, as good as the dream: In real life, I was having lunch with the real-life Jackie O. In three or four hours, we'd be exchanging pleasantries at '21'. In her role as book editor, Jackie was soliciting my autobiography. I was flattered, but my boozy brain was also convinced that it was me she wanted, not simply my tell-all memoirs in which I exposed the antics of everyone from Barbra Streisand to Mick Jagger. And if Jackie wasn't quite ready to embrace me romantically, I would woo and win her. I would charm her, coax her, show her that if she'd be my first lady, I'd be her last man. To do this, though, I needed a drink. Now. Now I really needed the goddamn jackhammers to stop hammering.
I crawled out of bed, stumbled onto my balcony and did what any reasonable man would do--screamed my head off.
"Turn off those machines! Stop the noise!"
No one heard me; no one cared. I lit a Nat Sherman cigarette and poured a stiff drink. I screamed some more. From his terrace, a neighbor in a pinstriped suit looked at me like I was a crazy drunk. I raised my glass and toasted his concern. Vodka in the morning is good. Vodka in the afternoon is even better. Not to mention healthy snacks of coke and grass. Maybe my neighbor didn't approve of a middle-aged businessman like me getting blasted at 8 a.m. Maybe he was on his way to Wall Street, where his world was neatly ordered. Well, my world was wildly disordered. And I liked it, liked it because I thrived in it, ruled it, worked it where it made me rich and so infamous that the queen was coming to call. Because Jackie had changed her name to Onassis, only one question remained--would she change it to Yetnikoff
"Jackie Weds Walter," the newspaper would read. "Peace at Last Between Gentiles and Jews."
The wedding would take place at the Plaza, the same hotel where I wed Cynthia, my current wife, who was twenty years younger and for years my secret lover. Now that the secret was out, the love was losing steam. Maybe I was afraid I was losing steam. Maybe that's why I cultivated other secret lovers, why Jackie would find me so fascinating and ultimately set me free from my obsession with women. Jackie would settle me down, and I would sex her up, and we would live happily ever after. If only Cynthia would answer the phone. The phone was ringing off the wall.