If You’re Not There, You Just Won’t Get It, Part 3, by Michael Davis
This is part three of my Milestone Media story I began two weeks ago. If you are reading this segment first, please read the other two installments, not so much for background but so I don’t look like a complete moron.
On a faithful day I walked into a Milestone meeting and was met with a pointed finger and this statement directed at me. “I cannot work with this man.”
Now there are those in the industry who see me as overrated, lucky or a con artist. That’s partly because my public persona is over the top. I tend not to explain a lot about how I do stuff, I just do it. I have never been one to share information about details on certain aspects of my business. Let me try and clarify what that means: if you invite me to a party and I say no, that’s all you are getting. You are not getting a detailed description why I’m not going or what else I may be doing or instead of going to your party. To me no just means no. It does not mean that you are a bad person, it does not mean I am. It just means no. Look; I just don’t pay attention or care about what or why anyone does anything.
I never ask personal questions when I get a no. I don’t care why you make a decision; it’s your decision. I have no right to expect an explanation from you unless it affects me in some way that matters to me. I was that way in 1991. I’m still that way in 2008 but I’m less hardcore about it.
So when a Milestone member pointed his finger at me and said “I cannot work with this man.” My first reaction was anger. I knew what I was doing to build Milestone and resented the fact that I was being put on the spot with this bullshit. I thought at the time it was all motivated by my personality, and some of it was. In retrospect I realize another part of the issue with me at the time was my methods and how I did things. The meeting went on for a while and became heated.
Wait a sec.
Right now you are saying to yourself, Who said what? Look if you are a regular reader of my column you know that I’m not afraid to say anything. You also know that I’m a realist. I tell people what is really going on and let the bodies fall where they may. Hence the title of my column, Straight No Chaser.
But I’m also a smart enough not to create a problem where there is none. Or when the problem has been solved. Letting you know exactly who said what during a heated angry exchange seventeen years ago will only serve to get a slew of stupid comments from people all over the net.
There is also this. Black men have a bad rap with regards to how we get along with each other. I’m not putting anything out there that will help suggest we were rowdy, no manners thugs with no home training.
But it got really bad.
At one point I pulled out my gun and shot each member in the ass while yelling “Why you all on my case? Don’t you know I’m a rowdy no manners thug with no home training?”
O.K. That did not happen. As a rule we all left our guns at home before our meetings. In fact, the only place we were strapped is when we were at DC for meetings. We had to be; DC editors were notorious when it came meetings. We never knew when we would be met with a hail of bullets because we displeased them.
For the dense among you I’m just kidding about the guns … mostly.
During the “Michael Davis” Milestone meeting, Priest leveled some of the most serve critiques at me. At the time I was offended and pissed. I later saw his point of view. I don’t agree with some of it but I see clearly why he felt the way he did. I should have listened more amiability to what people were saying about how I operated. I most likely had an inflated view of my own worth because I had been successful on my own without partners and resented being placed on the carpet because of my big mouth and sense of humor. To me then (and now) it’s all about results. That said, I now realize that if you are in a partnership you should listen to what the other partners say with respect.
BUT if you are absolutely comfortable in your own skin with regards to how you do things then DON’T BACK DOWN. Try and find a common space, but don’t let someone steal your identity.
I’m Michael Davis, some people love me some people hate me, but it’s ME that they are dealing with. ME that they love or ME that they hate. It’s not some face they see that will turn into some other person when they leave the room.
What you see is what you get. I’m O.K. with that. End of soapbox.
The meeting ended with a new direction for the company. Priest decided to take an offer from DC and I decided I would try and do better with regards to the perception, which surrounded me. That meeting ever really left any of us. It was the elephant in the room for my entire time at Milestone.
One of Priest’s duties at DC was to be Milestone’s liaison. I was glad that he was still involved with us at some level because he was truly an asset. I told him once that he was going to be the Pete Best of Milestone. If you are not aware who Pete Best was, well, he was the original drummer for the Beatles. If you are not aware who the Beatles were, SHOOT YOURSELF.
I was wrong.
Priest was not the Pete Best of Milestone. Pete Best faded into obscurity. Christopher Priest is one of best writers working today. He’s like Sting of the group The Police. He left and did just fine without us.
Priest, if by some chance you are reading this – I’m happy to have met you and the better person for it. I miss you (in a non-Brokeback way) and would love to work with you again.
Not to long after that faithful meeting the DC Comics and Milestone Media deal was signed.
We needed a place to work. So we went about looking for an office. I think that Derrick found the office. It was a small space on 23rd street in Manhattan. Very small, but WE LOVED IT. We were grown men but we were all giddy about moving into the space. Yeah, even Derrick was jazzed. The space was small and not all of us had offices but moving into that office meant this; MILESTONE WAS REAL!
Denys and I were walking the streets of Manhattan one night when he turned to me and said “Can you believe that two poor kids from Jamaica Queens are now running a major media company bankrolled by Time Warner?” I could not believe it. In some ways I still can’t. In fact every time I sign a deal I flashback to growing up the way I did and take a moment to breath in what is happening. I guess that’s why I don’t worry about money. I have had a LOT and NONE depending on where I was in my career. Hell, I have had a lot THEN none. When you come from none the thought (at least to me) that you may return there is not so daunting.
So when Denys asked me if I could believe it, I could not say anything. We walked for a bit more then I proposed a toast. We went by a hot dog vendor and got two Cherry Cokes. Neither Denys nor I drank then (he still doesn’t) so whenever we wanted to celebrate something we did it with Cherry Coke.
“To Milestone.” I said. “To Milestone.” Denys said and we clicked cans. Denys took a sip then said, “Let’s promise not to turn into assholes because of this.” I looked at him for a sec and said “Too late!” He spit most of his mouthful of Cherry Coke in my face because he laughed so hard. I tried to get out of the way and by doing so spilled my Coke on him. We looked like to black crack heads laughing in the middle of a midtown street covered in Cherry Coke.
Those, as they say, were the days…
When the deal was signed we began the process of meeting with DC on the universe, marketing, public relations, scheduling and hundreds of other details that come to bare when someone just wrote you a seven figure check.
Soon after the deal was cut DC invited us to a corporate retreat for a weekend to talk about the Milestone Universe. It was a swank estate on the Hudson River. We met during the day had lunch while we met and eat dinner together in a fabulous dining room. The ideas from both sides were coming fast and furious.
I looked right into the eye of a DC executive and said, “How about kissing my ass?”
It’s not what you think. Or maybe it is.
To be concluded next week.