The Silver Lining Playbook: Curriculum Concluded Part 3
In 1969, at the ripe old age of sixteen, I went to work promoting rock concerts in partnership with my father, an attorney. It was the year of Woodstock and I reckoned that if hundreds of thousands of hippies would trek for miles and camp out in the heat and rain for three days just to listen to rock music, then I figured we could get a couple thousand to pay five bucks to see the same bands perform onstage in Atlanta. To that end, my father encouraged me to get on the phone and call New York, in search of a talent agency that handled rock bands.
On 7 December 1969, Murric Enterprises (a hyphenated name combining the first three letters of my name MUR with the last three letters of my 11-year-old brother, eRIC) promoted its inaugural concert at the Oglethorpe College Field House: a brand new band out of California that had just recorded its first album, On Time, called Grand Funk Railroad and a brand new band out of England that had just recorded its first album, Then Play On, called Fleetwood Mac. For the next three years we booked shows on Sunday afternoons at the Sports Arena on Chester Avenue and brought the following acts to Atlanta for the first time:
The Allman Brothers Band
The Grateful Dead
Johnny & Edgar Winter
Ted Nugent & The Amboy Dukes
The Main Ingredient
Sonny & Cher
Cheech & Chong
The Hampton Grease Band
Kenny Rogers & The First Edition
While in college at Georgia State University from 1972-75, I was employed as a clerk in my father's law firm and continued in that capacity throughout my law school days, from 1975-78. During my senior year of law school I was also employed as the Music Editor of Creative Loafing Atlanta, a free weekly arts and entertainment tabloid, for which I contributed interviews, reviews and photographs of the biggest recording and touring acts of the day, including Billy Joel, The Sex Pistols, Randy Newman, Mick Fleetwood, Scarlet Rivera, Peter Gabriel, The Police, Tim Curry, Supertramp, Pink Floyd, The Rolling Stones, Paul McCartney and just about everybody else you can think of, including Leon Redbone.
In 1975, Coretta Scott King asked my father to help her raise the money to build The Martin Luther King Jr Center For Non-Violent Social Change (The King Center). Mrs. King invited him to be a founding member of the center's board of directors, along with Harry Belafonte and Sidney Poitier. Together my father and I promoted a series of concerts to raise funds for the building, the first of which was a show featuring Ben Vereen. In the following year we put together a concert that featured Marvin Gaye, with Muhammad Ali as a special guest. (In 1989, when Mrs. King handed over the control of The King Center to her son Dexter, I was speech writer to both and adviser to Dexter. Unfortunately for us all, after four months Dexter handed back the control of the center to his mother following a war with the US Parks Department and I went home to Savannah for an extended vacation.)
In 1979, I started an interview with Myra Lewis, the infamous 13-year-old child bride of Jerry Lee Lewis back in 1957, and the interview stretched on for three years, at the end of which we published the international best seller, Great Balls of Fire: The Uncensored Story of Jerry Lee Lewis (1982). The book was turned into the major motion picture of the same title, starring Dennis Quaid, Winona Ryder and Alec Baldwin, in 1989.
While waiting on my book to be made into the movie, I created a college course entitled The History of Popular Music In America: From Ragtime to Rock'n'Roll, and taught at Georgia State University and The Music Business Institute. At the same time I owned and operated New Gibraltar Fine Art & Frame in Stone Mountain, GA. I closed the art gallery in late 1988 so that I could go to Memphis and London to watch the movie being made.
With the release of GBOF, I was invited back to Memphis to write the autobiography of Dr. George Nichopoulos, physician to Elvis Presley and the man who was universally blamed for killing the king by over-prescribing medications. Nichopoulos had been offered a one million dollar advance by Jackie Onassis, who was at that time a senior editor at Doubleday and looking to launch a big book. Dr. Nick offered me half of his advance if I would come to Memphis and help him sort through stacks of medical files and law suits in coming up with a defense for his practice and protocol for Presley. That book turned into a scandal before it could be published. Instead of ending up on the book shelves, we ended up on the front pages of the tabloids.
After aborted attempts to publish books about professional wrestler Harley Race, porn queen Gail Palmer, and a true story about the murder of a friend of mine, I took a break from books and opened up a baseball card shop in Atlanta in 1990, at the same time that the Braves were going from worst to first. Doc's Sports Cards was an institution of sorts, that is, until MLB went on strike in 1994, putting The Doctor out of business.
In 1995, I reinvented myself, retail speaking, as the owner of a metaphysical bookstore called The Wish Fulfilling Tree. The Tree was a lightship that celebrated all of the sacred traditions and also had a juice bar, a meditation cave, and space for lectures on every subject from aliens and astrology to reiki and Tibetan Buddhism. I would probably still be there today if the Olympics hadn't blown Atlanta's doors off-- and our tribe of the spooky kooky-- in 1996.
It was around this same time that His Holiness the XIVth Dalai Lama sent a monk to Atlanta in order to start up a study group on Tibetan Buddhism. The monk lived across the street from The Tree and was a frequent visitor, once he found out that I had been introduced to His Holiness by mutual friend Richard Gere in 1988. The monk, Geshe Lobsang Tenzin Negi, was also earning a degree in Psychology from Emory University, where he hoped to establish a working relationship for the Dalai Lama. By 1996, I had sold out my interest in The Tree and went to work for Geshe Lobsang as the road manager for a group of monks who performed a program of their ritual chants and dances for museum and college audiences in order to earn money to support their orphanage/monastery back in Nepal. For two years I was on the road with the monks, acting as their chauffeur, interpreter and master of ceremonies. It was also my personal responsibility to pack, transport, unpack and display a priceless collection of personal artifacts belonging to the Dalai Lama at museums throughout the United States. I suppose I might still be working for the monks today had my wife not been diagnosed with a chronic illness that forced her to retire and us to move home to Savannah in 1998 in search of a quieter lifestyle.
For three years we concentrated on my wife's health and well-being. Once established, we turned our attention toward getting back to business, deciding to start a book publishing company when I couldn't find someone to publish my collection of true short stories about the colorful characters that had made Savannah an interesting place to live during the past 100 years. That book, Behind the Moss Curtain and Other Great Savannah Stories, is presently in its 8th edition and will be the subject of my next motion picture. In addition to my book, I have published a dozen others and helped novice authors find their way into print for the first time.
I have done a lot of different things in life. I figure that if you're going to have a life, it should be lived to the fullest and I am the kind of person who never turns down an opportunity to do something new and different, no matter how risky or wacky it may appear. I have met a very long list of remarkable personages in various fields-- the arts, entertainment, sports, politics, human rights, civil rights-- and have held hundreds of meaningful conversations with some of the greatest minds and talents of my generation. I consider all of my past experiences to be just that: Experience. The kind of experience that will enable me to be a thoughtful, compassionate and conscientious mayor of Savannah.