The greatest story I’ve ever heard about promoters in the concert business

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From What You Want Is in the Limo by Michael Walker

When rock and roll began to be big business in the early 1970s, a new generation of tour managers like Alice Cooper’s manager Shep Gordon entered the business, and they questioned the wisdom of delegating blind trust to local promoters.

Selling out 17,000­-seat arenas gave the new managers the leverage to demand transparency from notoriously opaque box-office accounting. Earlier in his career, Tom Ross booked Olympic figure skater Peggy Fleming into municipal arenas and got to know the building managers. When rock moved into those same arenas in the early ’70s, he was uniquely qualified to call bullshit on promoters who were padding their expenses. “A lot of the costs that promoters would charge us — ­for catering, for limousines –­ were actually companies they started and owned,” Ross said. “So they were making a profit from little ancillary businesses that they used to farm out.”

Chip Rachlin worked for ICM as a booking agent in the ’70s, where his clients included The Eagles and Billy Joel. “I was leaving the agency business and my last show date was in D.C.,” Rachlin says. The promoter was Jack Boyle, whom Rachlin knew well. “Charming rogue, great guy, used to hang out with the Kennedys. He said, ‘I’m going to let you ask me any question you want tonight. Just one. I said, ‘Show me where you cheated.’ ” Boyle led Rachlin to the dressing room, where the post-show catering was laid out. “At the center of the dessert section was this five­-gallon tub of ice cream. You wouldn’t think anything about it. He said, ‘Take a spoon. Put it into the ice cream.’ So you get it down about half an inch and you scoop that into the bowl. He says, ‘Try and get ice cream below the half inch.’ You couldn’t — it was plaster of Paris. He said, ‘That put three kids through college.’ ” Rachlin observes, “The ice cream would show up as a $74 charge. If you do 200 shows a year … who knew how many other cement ice creams he had around the building? I guarantee you, no tour accountant, nobody would catch that.”