I got a call from producer Herb Nanas 7/18/02.
Luke: "I saw you worked with Jeff Wald on Two Days in the Valley. He's a wild man."
Herb: "He's a piece of shit. He's the worst human being whoever lived. He wouldn't know how to produce his foot. Only because I was partners with him was his name on the movie. A fraud. I was in business with him twice in one lifetime so I've got angel wings. He's a wretched fucking human being."
I spoke by phone to Jeff Wald 7/19/02.
Jeff: "Herb had nothing to do with that f---ing movie [Two Days in the Valley]. You can call the director and ask him.
"I went back to him years later because I felt badly for the way I fired him [in 1976]. I fired him at 5AM. I sent two bodyguards to his house. I got him out of bed and had him go to the office and clean his sh-- out.
"Years later I went back into business with him [around 1995] for a minute [in Wald Management] and realized that wasn't going to work either. He's just a sleazeball and he didn't work. He sat around all day and waiting for sh-- to happen. I don't work like that. I'm proactive, not reactive. I walked out of the partnership. I took Roseanne with me, who couldn't give a f--- about him."
Luke: "Were the quotes of you accurate in the book Hit and Run by Nancy Griffin and Kim Masters?"
Jeff: "They were accurate. Those are good girls. Talk to them. Kim Masters is as good as they get. She really has her sh-- together."
On July 22, 2002, I interview manager-producer Herbert S. Nanas at his Moress-Nanas-Hart management office in Sherman Oaks.
He wears a Hawaiin shirt, as is his custom. Herb doesn't own a tie, except for a black tie, which he wears with his Armani suits and closed shirts.
Herb: "I grew up in the Bronx. I grew up with an interesting group of people, 95% Jewish. Ralph Lipshitz aka Ralph Lauren (fashion designer), Calvin Klein (fashion designer), Penny Marshal (actress-director), Robert Klein (comic), Gloria Leonard (porn star and publisher)... For 35 years, my license plate has read "PS80BX" [Public School 80 in New York City's Bronx borough].
"Everybody was funny. None of us were affected by the wars [most were born around 1940]. We were too young for Korea. I still see Penny from time to time. Gloria Leonard and I remained friends.
"In 1981, we had a reunion. About 3000 people came back. The Bronx borough president put up the fence across the street from the school by a park, known as "The Parkway", where we used to sit after school every day.
"My kids (Madeline, Rick and Alan) grew up in California. They had a group of friends of, say, six kids. When you're in New York City, you have classrooms of 45 kids. In my apartment house, there were 60 apartments. If you lived in a community that had 60 houses, you wouldn't know anybody five houses away. But living in an apartment complex, you knew 60 families because you all went in through those same doors. There'd be four apartment complexes on a block. There's much more humanity in a city like New York. It bred tremendous competition.
"I used to explain to my kids: For the first six years of your life, your home with your mother and grandmother. Then the first day of school, you step into the street and immediately you see 400 kids your age that you never saw before. And from that moment on, it's all about who's the fastest, who's the toughest, who gets the most dames, who's got the biggest dick... You don't get that [intense competitiveness] in California.
"My father would visit me. I lived in a house. And he'd say, 'I could take a cannon and put it in the street and fire it every ten seconds and I'd never hit anybody.' He was fascinated.
"He came from a small schtetl in Russia [near Lithuania] that Marc Chagal (seven years older) came from, Vitepsk. I've always been a Chagal fan because that's the ghetto my father came from. My mother was born in New York City in 1900 but her parents came from that Lithuanian group of people.
"I made The Scout in 1994 starring Albert Brooks and Brendan Fraser. We were in Yankee Stadium. I used to take a train there as a kid, ten minutes from my house. Here I was in Yankee Stadium, taking a leak in the bathroom of the dugout and I'm calling everybody I grew up with. I'm pissing where Ruth pissed. I'm pissing where Mantle pissed. That felt more important than anything else I've ever accomplished.
"When I was raised in the Bronx, it was mostly Jews and Italians. On Jewish and Christian holidays, school closed.
"The Grand Concourse in the West Bronx was like the Champs Elisee [in Paris]. It ran to Yankee Stadium. There was all that beautiful architecture built at the turn of the century. In our lobbies, there were marble floors and velvet drapes and fountains in the courtyards.
"When I went back in 1994, there were cops all around. There was a police precinct at Yankee Stadium. There was graffiti all over the buildings.
"When I grew up, you never locked your apartment door. You walked everywhere at night. There was no terror, violence, guns..."
Luke: "Were you raised religious?"
Herb: "The family was orthodox but about the time my last grandparent died, orthodoxy disappeared quickly. My last surviving grandparent was my grandmother. My father would leave the house on a Jewish holiday and go to the racetrack. But he was raised orthodox.
"I graduated high school in 1958. I wanted to be an actor. I went to the University of Bridgeport to study theater arts. After four months in school, I dropped out and joined the Air Force for four years. I had four friends on one drunken night who were leaving the next week for the Air Force and I decided to go along.
"I was in the Air Force about a day when I said, this is a serious mistake. On the second day of guys screaming and yelling, I decided that I would rather be the yeller rather than the yellee. I passed the OCS (Officer Candidate School) test. I had to wait several months for an opening for Officer Candidate School, and the week I was supposed to go, a directive came down that said no college education, no OCS.
"So I spent three years in the Philippines in airforce intelligence. I married Felisa, a Filipina, in 1960. She already had a two-year old daughter. We had two boys by 1962. We all came to Hollywood. I took acting classes. I started a theater company in Hollywood. I did that for almost two years when I realized that I wasn't making enough money.
"There were a couple of agents at William Morris who knew me, George Shapiro and Howard West. They subsequently became Jerry Seinfeld's managers. George had seen me in Summerstock and off-Broadway theater. Here I was just a short New York guy and everyone was blond and blue-eyed out here.
"George got me a job at the William Morris Agency. I had a meeting with agent Phil Weltman. Phil said to George, 'I really like this kid but how is he going to live off $50 a week?' George said, 'His father will give him $25 a week.'
"It usually takes years to become an agent. I moved up quickly. I became Phil's secretary after a few months. I worked the building because I wasn't out looking for dates. I put out everybody's mail at 6AM. William Morris paid overtime. I hung out at the building until closing time, introducing myself to everybody.
"After a year, I became an agent. George Shapiro wanted me to meet 'Albert Einstein.' George's cousin is Rob Reiner. Rob and Albert Brookes grew up together in Beverly Hills. One day in 1968, Albert Brooks walked into my office and made me laugh for ten hours.
"Within nine months, I had Albert on every television show - Steve Allen, Tonight Show, Dean Martin... A few months later, I decided I just wanted to spend my life with special people like Albert. So I became a manager in 1969. I've never had an employer since.
"Albert didn't want to be a comedian. He wanted to be a film actor and filmmaker. Around 1973, he stopped doing standup.
"I met Sylvester Stallone on the street in Los Angeles in 1974. I'd seen him in The Lords of Flatbush. Everyone was talking about Henry Winkler and Perry King. And I said the big kid is the movie star.
"I said to him, 'I'm your biggest fan in the world. You are going to be a major movie star.' I didn't know his name.
"He said, 'I'm represented by William Morris. I live in New York. I'm auditioning for the movie Stay Hungry.'
"I saw him in the Roger Corman movie, Death Race 2000.
"I ran into him several times. I didn't hear from him for months. Then he called me up one day. I said I wanted to get into his life. This is a few years before Rocky.
"He had a woman manager who died of cancer. So I became his manager. He said to me one day, 'I'm a writer.' And he gave me some scripts to read. And they were three amazing scripts. One was on Edgar Alan Poe. One was on Charlie Becker, who was the only tenderloin detective in New York City at the turn of the 20th Century. He was executed for a murder he didn't commit. And a thing called Hell's Kitchen. He'd optioned it to somebody for 22c.
"We got it to Irwin Winkler and Bob Chartoff. They wanted to make it. It's about two brothers in boxing smokers and the exploitation of the third brother. We ultimately got to make it as a wrestling movie called Paradise Alley . It was the first movie I produced, though I wasn't credited as the producer.
"The two guys who had the option on the script sued Stallone for plagiarism and won $250,000. As part of the settlement, they would get credited as producers on Paradise Alley.
"I said to these guys, 'Why don't you let Irwin Winkler produce this movie? He's got a deal at United Artists.' And these guys were cocky. 'We don't need you.'
"I jumped over the desk and grabbed one of them, the lawyer, by the tie. I looked him in the face and said, 'You'll never produce this movie. You don't know how to produce a movie.' It was like a war.
"The day that Stallone and I moved on to the Universal lot to make the film, I said to Ned Tanen, 'I will only make this deal if we kick those two guys off the lot.'
"I went to the guys office. I told them, 'Pack your bags. Security will be here in an hour. Get off the lot.' That was it. Those guys never had a career.
"I started liking the process of putting people together and watching a movie take form.
"I managed Stallone until the middle of First Blood . We did Nighthawks, Escape to Victory, Rocky II and III. I loved Stallone but he was tough on people. Recently his brother asked me, 'You guys were best friends. What happened?'
"I've represented people since 1969 and I've never had a signed contract with anybody. This is about passion. If you don't like me anymore, or if I don't like you, I'm ineffective.
"What I like best about my long career is that there is no bad story about me. I don't mind breaking a guy's balls to make a huge deal for talent but then, go do your job. Don't make everybody's life miserable.
"I had to do a lot of apologizing and damage control for Stallone and Roseanne Barr. You can get my whole background with Roseanne in an E! True Hollywood Story. I'm a big chapter in her book.
"He [Sly Stallone] really didn't want to do First Blood. Everybody, including his CAA agent Ron Meyer, said the picture was too violent. When I read that script, I saw that guy in the milieu of Rocky. He was an underdog. There were no machine guns and no fighting with the enemy that the rest of the movies became. It was simply a guy going to visit his friend after Vietnam.
"The script reminded me of a Kirk Douglas picture that Stanley Kramer directed years ago. Home of the Brave . The last guy in America still riding a horse stops in a bar in contemporary Texas and winds up in a fight. He's brutalized in jail.
"I told [Stallone], the public knows you. They touch you when you walk down the street. They don't touch Robert DeNiro or Paul Newman or Gregory Peck. But you're accessible to them. You're an underdog. I was proud of Nighthawks and Fist. I think Director Norman Jewison should've ended Fist at Sly's victory. Sly never wanted to do First Blood. He was out of control on set. He was late every day. He was tough on everybody. I left three-quarters through the movie and we didn't reconnect for seven years. I need to go home and breathe. It wasn't worth the money."
Luke: "How far do you go back with Jeff Wald?"
Herb: "When I was an agent at William Morris, pre Albert, Jeff came into my office one day and said, 'I married this chick who's a singer. I hear you're terrific. Your from the Bronx. I'm from the Bronx.
"I'm a few years older than Jeff. I was the only guy in town who helped Helen Reddy [Jeff's wife] when they didn't have ten cents. They lived with me for a while when they moved out here. I put her on some television shows. When I first left William Morris, we shared offices together. Then Jeff and I started a management company together that Sly was part of [after Rocky, about 1977]. Our clients included Sly, Albert, Ray Sharkey, Donna Summer... Jeff had Helen Reddy making a zillion dollars. That wasn't in the mix.
"Jeff may be the worst human being I ever experienced in the 61 years of my life. On every level. And I went into business with him twice [1977 and 1993-97]. He's the worst human being God ever put on the earth.
"Jeff likes to take credit for producing Two Days in the Valley. All he did was to get an entire crew to duck when he showed up. He told the Teamsters, 'Park my car.'"
Luke: "You must've been pleased with the success of First Blood?"
Herb: "When Sly first saw that picture, he offered to pay the producers the cost of the negative and burn it. I was the only person who believed in that movie. I even screamed at him one day driving in a tunnel in Canada, 'John Rambo will make you a bigger star than Rocky Balboa.'
"Years later at a screening, David Geffen said to me, 'Herb, what a brilliant concept to marry him to that project.' I said, 'I don't manage him any more.' David said, 'I f---ing hate all the talent.' And he turned around and walked away.
"At one point, I hear that Sly said to Jake Bloom, his attorney: 'I guarantee you that Herbie's standing on top of a mountain saying, 'I'm right.' And Jake said, 'He stood alone.' I did stand alone.
"Sly and I had a tough 1982. He really thought I had railroaded him into the movie. His wife Sasha read the script and told him he should do the movie. It didn't make a difference."
Luke: "Did he eventually call you and tell you that you were right?"
Herb: "No, never. We didn't talk for seven years. Then one of his guys called me one day and said that Sly would love to have dinner with me. So we had dinner. I'll always be fond of him. We had about six years that were fantastic. I now have a good relationship with him as a friend.
"We were in a golf cart the other day. He asked about my son Ricky. 'How old is he going to be?' I said he will be 40. Sly was at Ricky's bar mitzvah, before Rocky.
"Sly always acknowledged being part of Rocky. My wife remembers me standing in his living room and saying to him, 'You must play this role [Rocky]. You cannot sell this script.'
"He would've sold the script. The offer was up to $135,000. He didn't have ten cents. I'd put him in Kojak and Police Story. I needed the money too. But I said, 'You can't sell this script. You created this for you.'
"He had a pay or play contract [Sly gets paid his full fee even if he's fired from the picture]. We always believed that he'd shoot two days and United Artists would fire him. So we made them change the contract before he started shooting to pay and play so they couldn't fire him."
Luke: "Tell me about working with Albert Brooks."
Herb: "Someone will always make an Albert Brooks film and nobody bothers you when you do it.
"We had the same kind of freedom with [financier, TV syndicator, founder of Rysher Entertainment] Keith Samples on Two Days in the Valley. He didn't know how to distribute movies. He just had this $400 million trust fund from two little women at Cox Broadcasting. He made 40 movies. None of them made money. He had nobody working for him who knew how to market and distribute movies.
"He went and wrote and directed his own picture [A Smile Like Yours, 1997] and that was the end of that trust.
"One of my favorite Albert Brooks movies is the one I didn't make with him, Modern Romance . I thought it was the ultimate courage of a single guy defining the difference between the strength of men and the strength of women after a breakup.
"I get a different thing out of Albert Brooks's films than other people do because I have been with him his whole adult life. I get some catharsis out of his movies out of private moments between him and I. They are in all of them - some of his fears and joys. In Defending Your Life, there's a scene where he has to speak in front of people [and he can't]. And there's a guy downstairs saying, 'They're waiting for you, man. They're out there.'
"That was a big moment between him and I at the end of his personal appearance business. We had sold out theaters in Boston and he said, 'I don't want to do this anymore.' I walked him to the stage. 'You can do it. They're waiting. If you don't, they'll burn this house down. Just do one show.' That was the last standup he ever did [in 1974]. I was the guy downstairs in that scene."
Luke: "What was it like working with Bob Rafelson (about 70 years old) in your latest film, The House on Turk Street. How did he choose this project?"
Herb: "I don't think people are offering Bob Rafelson movies. His choices are narrowed. He works hard. But everything you've ever read about him he still is at age 70. I got along great with him. I was with him from the beginning when he was doing rewrites to the end of the movie. Bob doesn't seem to care if nobody likes him on the face of the earth. There's no part of his brain that thinks, 'Is there a nice way to say this?' It's jarring. It was the most damage control I've ever done in my life.
"After saying something to somebody, Bob would say to me, 'You don't really like it when I do that, do you?' No, I don't. Because that is going to be a big job to pull us back together again.
"Bob just speaks without giving one sh-- about whether it will hurt your feelings or not. I never met anybody like that. He's not even mean spirited. He's bright. He's interesting to be around. I enjoy his company. But whoa, is there no censor mechanism? He still likes to be a bad boy."
Luke: "What's your strong point as a producer?"
Herb: "Dealing with personalities. Bringing the elements together. I'm not in the schlock movie business. My films are all interesting intelligent films. I have the ability to embrace everybody on a movie set every morning to make sure everyone's happy. When a movie's going, I know every human being on a set.
"I love talent. Whether it is Charlize Theron remembering me as the producer who gave her first big role or Sam Jackson saying to me afterwards, 'Any movie you want to do. I love you. You're the greatest.' Sam is not the kind of guy to say things like that easily."
Luke: "Are there things that you do just for appearances?"
Herb: "I think that's a truism for life. I stopped doing that illusionary thing years ago. I no longer felt I had to drive a fancy car. David Geffen drives a Mustang. You get to like yourself.
"I've ridden motorcycles for 40 years. I became a pilot in my fifties. I dove every ocean in the world. I sailed boats. I saw my kids grow up. That's why I didn't build AMG [Michael Ovitz's company sold in 2002 to Jeff Kwatinez]. That's why I'm not Brad Grey or Bernie Brillstein.
"There are a lot of guys driving Mercedes who don't have a dime. A lot of guys in Hollywood are living in houses that they can't afford. People who are secure with themselves need less flash than people who are not secure with themselves.
"In the drug days, I had the ability to go home at 1AM rather than get the next bundle of drugs. I had to feed my kids. Everybody else I know has been in an AA program.
"I don't seek fame. I seek accomplishment.
"I get up every day and say, 'Today is going to be a great day.' I've always had these kids I was nuts about. I have four granddaughters. My wife is a great chick. I start out every day surrounded by affection and people I like. My greatest victory in the world is when people tell me I have the greatest kids. That's far more important to me than all the one-sheets [movie posters] on the wall."
Luke: "How much time do you spend producing as opposed to managing?"
Herb: "I'm looking to spend 99% of my [working] life producing. I'm 61 years old. I'd like to do this for another 18 years. I'm young and healthy for a guy 61 years old."
Luke: "How do you lead a typical day, like today?"
Herb: "I got up around 7AM. I played golf. I sat around the pool in the sun for a couple of hours and took a bunch of phone calls. I went to lunch with a friend who sells foreign films. Then I came in here and met with you. My day can be anything. I don't ever have to come to the office.
"I'm leaving this office next week and I am going back to working out of my house."
Luke: "How much time do you spend on the road?"
Herb: "I was three months in Montreal on the Samuel Jackson movie. I'll be doing a WWII movie in Europe for a few months. My wife comes a bit but she has grandkids. She doesn't like to leave. My kids grew up with movie stars in the house and none of them are in show business. They saw behavior that was just different from the way the rest of the world operates and it never appealed to them."
Luke: "What do you think of the Michael Ovitz meltdown?"
Herb: "Mike Ovitz, Ron Meyer, the whole CAA team and I were at William Morris together. We've been acquaintances. I was closer friends with Ron Meyer. I gave him Sly Stallone at his peak.
"Lew Wasserman told me in the early seventies when I sat down at his office. It was great to see a desk with nothing on it. He said to me, 'The only power in Hollywood is talent and money.'
"Ovitz had all the talent. He gave up the king spot. He was the most powerful guy in Hollywood. He won't be on any list ever again. He ain't even number 500. He's done. People won't return his calls.
"It used to be in Hollywood that the big guys understood that there was enough in the community for everybody. Don't pick on little guys. Let them have their coin. Ovitz changed that game. Let's go out and get everybody and swallow them all up. That he was brutal and callous and dogmatic in his approach, and Ron Meyer isn't... It's easy when you start to slip, in any business, for people to piss on you.
"I started to read the Vanity Fair thing but I don't care. Who cares if he was a victim?
"Because of the way I lead my life, I have a hard time wondering why a guy who has $250 million goes to work when there's an entire universe to scour.
"Somebody asked me when I was in the William Morris mailroom, what I wanted to do with my life. I said that I wanted to represent the biggest actor in the world. And one day I did [Sylvester Stallone]. And I was satisfied.
"It was something to be in a position where everyone picks up your call. They don't return your call. They pick up your call. People would say, 'Thank you so much for calling me back.'
"I was with Roseanne Barr from 1987-92. She'd been in town three days when I met her on The Tonight Show.
"A friend of mine, Jim McCauley who died of cancer, for 25 years booked the comedians for The Tonight Show. He always wanted me because I had Albert, and at one point, I represented a lot of comics. I had Bill Hicks, who was brilliant. He wound up with cancer and killed himself.
"Jim called me. He wanted to put Gary Busey on The Tonight Show. I'm sitting talking to Judy Busey. Gary is on with Johnny Carson. Johnny says, 'Tonight, first time on The Tonight Show, is a housewife from Salt Lake City, Roseanne Barr.'
"I just glance up at the screen. And Roseanne says, 'I'm not a housewife. I'm a domestic goddess.' In 30 seconds, I said to Judy Busey, 'Hold that thought. I can make her the biggest star in America.'
"I walk backstage to talk to Jim. I ask him if she's really from Salt Lake City. He asked if I liked her. I said, 'She's a star. She's Erma Bombeck. The camera loves her. She could be American's favorite mom.'
"Jimmy says, 'That's the only reason I put Gary Busey on. I knew I could never get you down here to see her. I knew I couldn't get you to the Comedy Store to see her.' I met her in the hall that night. I was her manager the next day.
"In my final days with her, she wanted to be Lenny Bruce. I told her she was Erma Bombeck. That's what America wants. The second you say 'Fuck,' the audience leaves. That's the only reason our relationship came apart. I wouldn't let her curse.
"Rodney Dangerfield was in the audience one night. He asked her to tell a story. She said, 'I can't. My manager's here. He won't let me curse.'
"In my first 30 seconds of seeing her, I saw The Roseanne Barr Show. I said that she will never have to learn how to act. She will have a fat husband. She will have three fat kids. I broke her when I put her on the Julio Iglesias tour.
"Judy Busey used to say to me, 'What made you see it?'
"Roseanne said to me, 'You said to me everything I dreamed anyone would ever say to me.'
"I did a second shot with Jeff Wald from 1995-97. Then Roseanne went off with Jeff.
"Roseanne made everyone so crazy on her pilot that I never thought the network would pick it up.
"One night at a Mike Tyson fight in Las Vegas a few years ago [1995?], Roseanne said to me, 'I want you to come back into my life. I've been through so much sh-- in my life. Everybody has f---ed over me. Everybody's pissed on me. You're the only person who's been straight with me in my whole life. You are the only honest person I've ever met since the day I got into show business.
"She came back to me for management at that point. It was the last year for the Roseanne show. It wasn't too much fun.
"I kept pushing her off to Jeff. I produced the movie Mother, and I had a series with Lorenzo Lamas. Jeff, in the interim, was talking to Michael King about doing a talkshow with Roseanne. Jeff did not tell me. He was just wretched to people. So we split. Then I had about 20 people tell me, 'Herbie, I'd do business with you, but not a f---ing chance with Jeff around.' He did some serious damage. He may be the most disliked human being in this community. He's a tarantula in that old story about the tarantula and the alligator. He can't help it.
"I didn't care that he fucked me out of the Roseanne series. He said to me, 'Herbie, we may get a talkshow. If we do, I'll pay you X amount of dollars.' I said ok. He never paid me.
"Doing her talkshow put him in the hospital. She did him in. She says he ripped her off. They deserve each other."