I wrote most of this some time ago but, as with about 20 other articles, told my editors not to run it until a suitable time of my choosing.
The first date I had for this was Christmas. I was going to London at Don’s invitation, but circumstances changed that. I was a bit bummed because Neil Gaiman and I would have hooked up and seen his play together. Rich Johnson had promised to take me to this private club he said I would enjoy. I wasn’t too keen on that until I googled the club. It wasn’t a brothel or a Satan worshiping club. If I told you the name, you’d have second thoughts too.
I then decided the day to run this would be on Father’s Day. Last week I changed my mind, so it’s running today.
I met my friend Don because of a favor. Don wanted to get Comic-Con tickets for some young family members. So, a mutual friend called me. Once I secured the tickets, I told the mutual friend where they could be picked up.
Don called me personally to thank me and asked if there was anything he could do for me. I thought that was nice but told him it wasn’t necessary. I meant that. I’m not a fan of the ‘you wash my back; I’ll wash yours’ way of doing things.
Fast forward, Don and I become friends. I’m at his LA home, and I’m drawn to a painting on the wall. I’m blown away by this work of art. I ask Don if the offer is still open to do something for me. Don says, “Anything.”
“Can I have this painting?” I ask. “Sure. It’s yours!” he answers. Then he realizes the painting I’m talking about.
, I found out he was not. My aunt got mad at him and told me he wasn’t my father. I was 15, just old enough to know that’s gonna hurt more as you get older. It did because I idolized my stepdad.
Listening to Don talk about his dad got me thinking again.
“So, no painting? How about you put in a good word and have your dad adopt me?” Don laughed and said, you can ask him yourself when you meet him.”
Don called me last Friday; his dad passed away.
It seemed surreal.
A moment before Don called, a water pipe had broken in my building; water gushing everywhere; the maintenance crew had just arrived, asking me questions while I was on the phone, I could hardly think.
Turning my back on everything and everyone, I asked Don for his dad’s service details and told him I’d be there regardless of a minor crisis I had to deal with. The line was dead. That often happened when Don and I spoke, but I had no idea how long it had been that way this time.
It occurred to me the massive amount of things Don had to deal with. I left a message but would understand if he couldn’t return my call.
I never met Don’s dad but felt his presence through his son, so I know I will miss him.
Don, my condolences to you and your family, may your dad rest in peace and power.
Simonson like Neal adams was great in his day, but clearly cuz of old age, the hands are probably much more worn and weary. Not like frank Miller who was ALWays a terrible artist, who just became unbearable
Walt Simonson posted the above tweet on both his Twitter and Facebook pages.
I asked my old friend for the Twitter account of the writer. Walt, the cool mofo that he is, got a laugh out of the post but didn’t give me the info cause he’s a classy guy.
I could not let that comment stand. I had to respond. Why? The kids are why. Back when lions, tigers, and bears were the spirit animals of America, that post wouldn’t have mattered.
Those spirit animals have been replaced by sheep. Not the kind of sheep some men seek out when their eyesight is failing, and the palms of their hands look like furry mittens.
The kind of sheep I’m talking about believe anything. A riot was an ordinary tourist day, bleach will heal you, and Obama killed Kennedy at 5 years old before returning to his home in Africa and job as a pimp.
There’s no hope for those sheep, but maybe, just maybe, we can save their kids.
ComicMix is OK with outing the person who posted the tweet. I, like Walt, will take the high road and address said person as ‘Twit’ and proceed with my response as planned.
I read your post calling Walt Simonson, Frank Miller, and Neal Adams ‘terrible artists.’ Walt and Neal, because of their age, and according to you Frank, always sucked.
Those artists, along with Howard Chaykin, Bill Sienkiewicz, Denys Cowan, Jay Muth, Kent Williams, Dave McKean, and other ‘old’ creators are doing the best work of their careers NOW.
Their careers changed the game in comics and then some.
You are welcome to give your opinion. However, you write as if your opinion was a fact. Er, nope. The facts are that the artists you think are terrible operate at a level so high you most likely can’t see it. Yes
, that level is high, but it’s also clear. So clear Ray Charles, who was blind and is dead, could see it.
Each artist I mention is a friend. Howard and I butt heads every ten years or so, but his work is always on good terms with me.
Speaking of Mr. Chaykin…
If you’re reading this, Howard, I owe you an apology.
I reacted to words attributed to you. I didn’t take my own advice, which was to reach out and see if there was a problem or if you even said it. I’ve written a zillion articles on character assignation through hearsay.
It’s a dick hater move.
I was a dick but never a hater, so once again, my apologies.
Now back to Twit.
That aside to Howard gave me pause to think. Perhaps Twit, I owe you an apology also. I’ve done what you did.
I said a famous aging artist, “Really sucked.”
I said this at an exhibit that was a retrospective of his entire career. This guy was big time. His early work I loved. His early drawings were so realistic, almost like a photo. As he got older, he obviously stopped using reference and drew from his head. His storytelling was all over the place.
His inked stuff was pretty good but didn’t do much of that as he aged. His color work looked like it was painted in one color. By the end of the exhibit, I hated this guy’s art. So
, me being me, when asked what I thought of his work, said, “His early stuff was cool, I liked the ink stuff but everything else, “really sucked.’
The place was packed, and everyone who heard me began laughing. I felt pretty good until my cousin, who took me to the exhibition, explained people were laughing at me, not with me. “He still sucks,” I said.
“Grow up,” he said.
Twit, Once again, an aside has given me pause to think. Nope, no apology. I found out soon enough how wrong I was about the artist. His name was Picasso
, I promised Ali I would not share that story with anyone outside of the studio. He asked me not to mention his comment. She had just begun working there; that’s not the thing you tell a newbie.
I don’t break promises to anyone. This wasn’t just anyone. This was Brian.
This was Brian, who spent an hour on the phone with me in the middle of his day. That doesn’t seem like a big deal on the face of it, a DC editor spending an hour on the phone with an artist doing a book for DC.
Except I wasn’t doing a book for DC anymore, I was fired. Losing that book was horrific for me, but I now understand it could have been much worse. I didn’t know then; I’ve only known that I suffered from bipolar depression for a few years.
, it seems Brian talked to me for an hour as if he knew something about me I didn’t. He said Mike Gold was working to put me back on the book and to have faith. “Having faith” is unquestionably the last thing that I believe when despondent.
I believed Brian.
That night I was able to sleep with no destructive thoughts or dreams. The next day, Mike Gold called with the news I was back on the book. Again I couldn’t sleep, but this time from excitement and happiness.
, I’m in a good place now. I promised myself I would stop writing about painful subjects to protect that good place.
I kept that promise to myself until a former student passed. After writing about him, I pledged to avoid painful topics again. This was an oath made to myself I broke; that could be a lot of therapy hours.
Not telling his family the good Brian did for me was never an option.
I won’t need therapy, like hundreds if not thousands of people; I’ll miss him, but I’ll be fine.
Besides, this wasn’t just anyone I was writing about; this was Brian.
My deepest condolences to his family, friends, and fans for your loss.
Dear whoever decides who should be recognized with awards and whatnot;
My name is Michael Davis. You’re no doubt heard of me. Depending on who you ask, you will get many different stories.
I’m sure they are all entertaining, like the one where I killed a cat for looking at me or was caught in bed with an underage nanny goat while high on Elmer’s Glue. Stories vary but are pretty much all bullshit. I’ve said for decades that…shit, never mind. What’s the point of me saying anything that proves it’s all bullshit? People like to believe rumors, and I’m a bit too old to give a fish anymore.
Since no one is talking about my contributions to the industry (except when I was thought to be dead), I’ve decided that I would.
I am the only comic book creator with a comic book series in the American school system taught as a curriculum.
So incredible was that feat, The Gordon Parks Academy named their auditorium after me. I’m pretty sure no comic book creator has gotten that honor either.
It’s called The Action Files, and it was so successful the original hardcover series now goes for over $700 bucks on Amazon, if you can find someone willing to sell their copies.
Oh, and it’s been selling for over 25 years. So this ‘recent trend’ of comics in the schools an educational comics blah blah blah can thank me.
I started it.
I was not only there first; I’m still the only comic book creator with a comic book series in the American school system taught as a curriculum.
So, it’s only fair that an achievement like that is given some props, right?
OR…answer the question of why is an achievement of such magnitude acknowledged by academia but not my peers?
Is it the underage nanny goat while high on Elmer’s Glue rumor?
The truth is that goat was over 18.
Please feel free to start with my Pulitzer throw in my Nobel Peace Prize. Wait, those are not industry awards or honors. But I bet if I won those, it would look silly if my industry ignored my accomplishments, would it not?
Did I mention I’m the only comic book creator with a comic book series taught as a curriculum in the American school system or the auditorium with my name on it in the school named after one of the greatest thinkers of the 20th Century?
Most likely, you’re unaware of the Action Files, which is the reason I’ve been left out of all those reindeer games.
John Paul Leon was part of an elite group, the Bad Boy Studio Mentor program. That program’s goal is to help people of color gain entry into comic books and related businesses.
It does not stop there—the main goal is to pay it forward.
Each member of Bad Boy Studios is charged with advancing the next generation and living up to the program motto: EACH ONE TEACHES ONE.
When John came into the program, it was evident he was a star in the making. He began at Bad Boy during the period I was at Milestone Media.
Milestone’s business structure was just as innovative as Denys Cowan’s idea to create the company. The creative partners at Milestone took no salary; we were to be paid for our comic book work.
As an example, I wore many hats at Milestone, owner, founder, head of publicity, talent, and conventions. Nevertheless, I was only paid for writing and drawing Static known to the world as Static Shock.
I created the Static Shock Universe; the model for that creation was my Family. The real focus of that universe wasn’t Static; his sister Sharon Hawkins was.
The book Icon, Milestone’s Black Superman, was really about his sidekick, Rocket. That’s a genius idea from Dwayne McDuffie, so I followed suit.
The driving force behind the Static Universe was my mother, Jean. She was a remarkable woman, but her life was anything but easy. She was a victim of abuse from many sources but never complained.
Her mother, Lenore, my grandmother, and her daughter, Sharon, my sister, both died horrible deaths. That pain weighed on her, although she sought to conceal it.
I wanted to ease some of her pain, even if just a little. To that end, our family became the Hawkins family.
Jean, Robert, and Sharon were the names of my mom, dad, and sister. Hawkins was my cousin’s last name. Initially, Alan Hawkins was Static’s alter ego’s name. Dwayne changed it to Vigil after the civil rights pioneer.
My mother told me, seeing her daughter live on in Static was the greatest gift she ever received from me. The day after saying that, she passed away.
When John Paul Leon came into my Mentor Program, it wasn’t long before I decided his style was better suited for Static than my frequent photo referenced technique.
I mentioned I was only to be paid for writing and drawing Static. I was, except DC Comics never paid me for the entire time I was at Milestone. They refused to honor my contract. (This was twenty-plus years ago and is in no way a reflection of the current DC Comics.)
My wife overheard a conversation where I was told that if I was so hard up for money, take the book back from John, I refused. She started screaming in Spanish.
A few days before this, she found out; we were broke—two years of no income erasing my significant savings. I, like a fool, honored my exclusive contract and looked for no other work. She was livid when I finally told her what I’d been dealing with and insisted we leave the loft where we lived.
My wife was the first generation of her family born in America. Her Family risked death to come here from Cuba. They are hard-working, good people who value family above all.
Josephine was a wonderful woman with a smile that could light up a street. Nothing fazed her except bills. Like her mother, Jo saw bills priority number ONE.
The bill had to be paid the moment she opened the envelope. It did not matter if the bill was due in a week, month or decade. She paid bills immediately.
She never felt we could afford our place, and now, hearing her anger, I knew any chance I had of talking her into staying disappeared with my bank account.
I told her we were only a couple of months behind, the way she shouted you would have thought I spent the mortgage money on crack and the sheriff was at the door.
But I understood why it upset her so, what I couldn’t understand was Spanish.
“CÓMO TE ATREVES, CÓMO ATREVERTE, A QUITARTE EL SUEÑO DE ALGUIEN!”
I had no idea how I would tell this woman that I wouldn’t take the book back. It turns out I didn’t have to. I found out later; she was furious but at the person on the phone.
“How dare you take away someone’s dream” she wasn’t talking about my dream but about John Paul’s dream to draw comics.
Josephine had a bond with John. They were both Cuban Americans, both kind and respectful, and both about Family.
I gave John my Family to take care of when I gave him Static to draw. Because of him and Robert Washington, Static is loved by millions all over the world. Yeah, the TV show was the medium— but no John Paul Leon, no Robert Washington, no TV Show.
In truth, Static may have been just another comic among thousands if not for them. John did a better job with my family than I would have each time I look at his work on the book reinforces that. Because of John if I ever do a Static project, his work will be first among the inspirations I’d pull from.
Each one teaches one is the John Paul Leon story in a nutshell; John’s work is so influential he will be teaching long after he is laid to rest.
Bernard, stay strong; your friend is still within your heart.
Bad Boy Alumni, you’re all very much part of why John became one of the greatest ever put pencil to paper.
To Jo, Tenías razón el chico se hizo famoso, y se quedó como un buen tipo. Espero que tú y los tuyos estén bien. (Yeah, my Spanish still sucks.)
Lastly, to the family, it was an honor and privilege to know your son; the world will remember him as one of the greatest to ever work in an industry full of great creators.
His light will shine for as long as comics exist perhaps even longer.
For Black History Month, DC Comics has the hottest ticket in the comic book world… The Return of Milestone Media.
That happens today.
The in-store books will launch in April, but new and veteran fans can head over to DC’s website and find some digital gold. I’m not a part of the new Milestone, but who knows, perhaps one day I will return if they buy me something pretty. Denys Cowan’s brilliant idea is about to make history all over again, with Reggie Hudlin and Derek Dingle.
Thursday was Clarence Avant’s birthday. Clarence is known as the Black Godfather; he’s also hands down the most powerful man in music. He turned 90 yesterday and is just as compelling as when he was 30.
Fun Fact: Clarence had the winning bid when the original art for Hardware #1 was auctioned off.
Not So Fun Fact: A fraudulent letter was sent to Clarence to prevent me from accepting an offer at Motown, where he was Chairman. That was perhaps the dumbest move ever made in corporate crime.
Clarence knew the letter was bullshit and was not surprised it was sent. He asked what I wanted to do about it.
Clarence is about Black empowerment and needs no “teachable moment” because every moment spent with him is a teachable one if you’re smart enough to listen.
Sometimes I was smart enough; that time, in 1993, I’m not so sure. My answer was to let it go and protect some folk who may have suffered if Clarence made a call about the letter. Clarence told me the person would continue to be a problem if I did not check him.
I didn’t; he still is.
The funny part of this is I don’t want to ruin this person’s legacy. But he had no problem trying to destroy mine. One thing is for sure, I’m not going another year with no resolution.
I have Clarence to thank for that resolve. I will always be grateful for his guidance and friendship.
Jason Medley is a triple threat, a world-class designer, a hellofa writer, and an outstanding human being. His Sheriff Wright series has assembled a great team and is one original bad-ass idea. I will be talking more about that in detail in another column, but he gets a shout-out here.
I gotta give a shout-out to a gifted writer and chef who has beaten the odds and raised 3 super talented children who will each do great things, I am sure of it. More on them later; for now, hats off to Sheila Walls-Haynes.
Lastly, there’s Sidney Clifton, who I will also be giving a lot more ink; in the meantime, here’s a long-overdue congratulations to a no-joke pioneer.
These individuals are doing things that deserve recognition by a lot more people than I can reach. I’m blessed to have crossed paths with each.
From what I take from his writings, he loved playing Cyborg, and it showed. But Ray called attention to what he claimed was at times discriminatory treatment on the Justice League sets.
From the start, this was no-win for Ray. He knew the risk and still went on. He’s taken a lot of, ” let it go, don’t rock the boat, shut up, sit down.” The comments about how he’s going to lose millions because of his big mouth are partially harsh. Those remarks come with attacks on his intelligence and race.
The “dumb darkie” stereotype is always a reason when a Black person draws attention to an injustice that may stop all that money coming in.
Orlando Jones knew the risk when he shined a light on an American Gods director. He was “rocking the boat, and better stop” was a typical post across all social networks.
Ray Fisher knew the risk, and yeah, it may be a dumb move to put at risk your seven-figure income for a purpose for some— but what Ray and Orlando did wasn’t stupid, dumb, or crazy.
Yeah, the “crazy” tag is likewise standard when Black people put their bank on the line. The perfect example is Dave Chappelle. When he walked away from $50 million, he was called crazy and stupid.
Dave, Ray, and Orlando are only doing what the great men and women who died to give us what freedoms Black people have today did.
They are calling attention to the discriminatory behavior of those in power. They did so at significant risk to their careers and bank accounts.
The entertainment industry produces thousands of underdog stories annually. The business is built on good beating evil. Reading some of the negative comments, perhaps there is a market we are missing:
CYBORG: BATMAN!! SUPERMAN CALLED ME A NIG….!
BATMAN: SHUT UP & SIT DOWN!
CYBORG: He called you a Democrat.
BATMAN: OH, HELL, NO! WHERE’S MY KRYPTONITE!?
I believe Ray; I know a guy in a similar albeit lesser-known situation with a comic company.
Let’s do some conjecture.
Assume there is no claim of wrongdoing by Ray; he hasn’t said anything to anyone. But two WB employees claimed Ray was loud and rowdy and called the company racist during the Emmy Awards. So bad was the outburst, the two WB representatives signed affidavits swearing to this explosion of racist hate from the actor.
If that happened, he SHOULD lose the Cyborg gig. WB would have every right to let him go. Having that kind of energy around is toxic and will most certainly lead to a bigger disaster.
Let’s change it up a bit.
Suppose Ray created Cyborg and wasn’t a relatively new actor but a well-established actor and producer. Oh heck, let us say Ray also founded the Actors Studio and the WB made millions off his students who honed their skills under Ray.
Hey, let’s go ALL OUT, shall we?
For shits and giggles, let’s imagine Ray created Cyborg, was a well-established actor and producer who founded the Actors Studio and the WB made millions off his students.
Let’s pretend he’s so accomplished his independent productions are in markets not even the WB or any other major studio is in, leading to an honor no one else in Hollywood has ever achieved.
A Nobel Peace Prize, plus his name on a school, and he rescues kittens!
Should Ray be still be fired if he accomplished all of the above?
Hating a giant corporation is the right of every American. It is not a “do what you want” card. Being loud at one of the industry’s quintessential events, calling prominent studio racist— yes, he should be terminated and banned from working with said company and their related companies and subsidiaries. Whatever he achieved in life, no matter how much money he may have, offensive conduct has consequences.
Now, let’s say Ray had IRON CLAD proof he was 2000 miles away. To save themselves from a PR nightmare, WB would move quickly to issue an apology, hire him to be Cyborg again, and the two liars would be fired, perhaps even arrested.
Now imagine if WB knew the truth but BANNED HIM ANYWAY.
That’s what happened to Ray.
He raised an issue that everyone is aware of now. Joss Whedon was fired after an investigation, and people will now tread lightly.
But why punish Ray?
There’s no way Whedon, who made Hollywood MILLIONS, was let go unless something dreadful happened. Why was Ray punished for bringing light to dark deeds?
It doesn’t matter if Ray was an entry-level actor (he’s not) or had won the Nobel Peace Prize, founded the Actors Studio, etc.— he was wronged, and at significant risk to himself, he fought to do the right thing.
The right thing cost him millions, as it did Joss Whedon.
Some think both careers are over. I hope both can return to their craft, but I’m certain Joss will make a comeback, absolutely. Not so sure Ray will, and you know why.
Hollywood takes their power to treat people like shit seriously. As evidenced by the following true story:
A major studio is aware of a director who intentionally set out to destroy a actor’s career. A career that mimics the fictional one created above, no Nobel Peace Prize but a similar resume.
Would you care that someone with power decided your fate as if you were Eddie Murphy in Trading Places?
Is there a statute of limitations on evil? Would your advice be to let the devil have his due? Would your opinion be ‘move on?’
The director let criminal treatment go, and for years he took the hit. His peers offer no help because they still have a relationship with the studio—their advice; move on, shut up, sit down. He tries, then the studio calls, they want to make his dream project!
They make it without him after giving him false hope.
He’s got a damning paper trail proving that’s his work, but they ignore him.
Buddy Saunders is a giant among retailers. I’m honored to give him the first-ever guest spot at my column.
DC’s planned limited release of titles beginning April 28th leaves too many comic stores out in the cold
by Buddy Saunders
I’ll tell you this up front. In mid-to-late May, a time more in line with when most stores can reopen, Diamond Comics, our longtime distributor, will resume shipping comics from all publishers based on fair-to-all release dates. Were Diamond to begin shipping earlier, many of our fellow comic retailers would be left out in the cold. We very much respect Diamond for making the good-for-everyone decision they’ve made. We are all in this together, fans, creators, publishers, retailers and Diamond.
I want two things. I want to stand with and support my longtime distributor. And I don’t want to receive and sell comics that many, maybe most, of my fellow retailers can’t get because their stores are shuttered through no fault of their own.
Diamond Comics has been our distributor for decades. I know Diamond’s owner, Steve Geppi, well. We first met many years ago, ironically at a DC brain-storming retreat at a Montauk resort on the tip of Long Island. Steve and I were there to help DC editors and creators figure out how to deal with the growing market threat posed by Marvel. Steve was then just another comic store owner like me with no thought of becoming a distributor. But some years later, when my then Texas distributor proved unreliable, Steve, along with Carol Kalish of Marvel, made my transition to Diamond silk smooth. There’s a neat story in that, but now’s not the time to tell it. Bigger fish to fry at the moment.
DC’s decision to begin releasing comics through two newly-minted “distributors” beginning April 28th is ill-conceived.
First, there is the matter of timing. Too many comic stores will still be prohibited from being open on April 28th, the first DC release date.
Second, DC’s new distributors, Lunar Distribution and UCS Comic Distributors, are in reality two of the nation’s largest new comic discounters, Discount Comics and Midtown Comics. No comic retailer should be involved in comic distribution due to obvious conflicts of interest. The only exception to that rule would be a stopgap measure undertaken if the current distributor were failing. That is NOT the case with Diamond. Diamond is solid and as reliable as ever.
Third, these two new comic online discounters have no experience as distributors. Even a vastly experienced distributor like Diamond isn’t perfect, but they are very good at correcting errors. Will the new guys do as well? The answer will come the first time retailers try to get support services such as damage replacements.
Fourth, why are these two new distributors necessary? Creating new distributors for a short-term fix doesn’t make sense. It makes more sense as part of a larger long-term plan. But were Diamond eventually taken out by this process, mid-to-small publishers would be up a creek, a circumstance that would very much benefit DC. Marvel tried something similar—becoming their own distributor—years ago. It didn’t work out for Marvel. Nor will it work for DC if that indeed is their thought.
Any such move, for whatever motive, is unnecessary given that very soon Diamond Comics will return to full distribution mode when the majority of comic stores can resume sales—most likely mid-to-late May.
Every comic store owner has to decide what is best for their store regarding distribution and release times, but greater consideration should be given to long term health rather than to short term gain.
Lone Star Comics and MyComicShop will wait for Diamond, a distributor that has earned our loyalty many times over. And we will wait until as may stores as possible can join us in resuming weekly comic sales. And when that time comes, we’ll have plenty of stock from every publisher, including all DC releases.
DC is asking us to ABANDON Diamond. Diamond and Steve Geppi specifically have acted as the “bank” of the Direct Market, saving and protecting the great mass of retailers again and again and again. Do I have some problems with DCD’s operation? Sure: I’d be an idiot not to—but on the balance they’ve done more to preserve DM retailers than ANYONE EVER, so “walking away” from them in this time of challenge is completely entirely a non-starter for me.
Brian Hibbs, Comix Experience
Last word from Buddy. Thus far I’ve spoken to only a few comic retailers, but those retailers are well established and significant. They favor staying the course with Diamond. I know a lot of retailers read my weekly Lone Star Comics email. Guys, gals, email me at email@example.com and share your thoughts on this issue. Let me know if you are going to go with the DC plan or stay with Diamond. I’ll print some of your feedback, but omit names and addresses to ensure your ability to speak freely.
Oh, and you the comic fan, this affects you as much as any comics retailer, publisher or creator. Your two cents’ worth is equally welcome. Just understand, my plate is mighty full already, so it may be impossible for me to reply to every comment received—our weekly email goes out to many thousands of people!
Writer’s notes: All DC Comics references imply past events. They do not indicate any criticism or suggest answerability from current management.
I’ve built my career around what I call my Studio 54 philosophy. It’s that philosophy that I’ll use to explain how those dancing on Dan Didio’s grave do so at considerable risk.
If you have not read last week’s article, please do so. If you don’t, this is gonna read strangely.
There’s no way to say this without sounding a bit full of myself, so here goes… I’m the Master Of The Universe. Yep, call me Motu if you like, but I am indeed the Master, etc. etc.
To be the Master of anything requires intelligence, the ability to reason, and self-confidence. Believe it or not, reason and self-esteem are more critical than being smart. If I had to pick one overall, it would be confidence.
Another way to put it is a force of will.
Studio 54 was a fantasy, a wish, a dream to me. Never in a million years did I ever think I would be able to roll in there at will.
Well, rejection is a great motivator.
I was NEVER rejected from 54. My most painful rejection was from the most excellent high school known to mankind the universe (of which I am Master) and all of creation (that’s not me) the High School of Art & Design.
WHAT? But we’ve read dozens of articles where you tell of the love for that high school because you went there. The fans of Michael Davis (both of them) are saying.
I did go there— but was rejected my first try. I tried in the ninth grade for admittance to the tenth grade. DENIED! I’ve wanted to go to that school since I found out it existed in the fourth grade. At that age, waiting six minutes is agony— imagine waiting six years.
I could try again, but there was a catch.
The odds of getting into A&D for admittance to the 9th and 10th grade were four people admitted out of every ten that applied. The 9th and 10th were foundation years where you learn the principals of art. Anyone hoping to get into the 11th grade, the odds were 1 out of 25.
The odds were that low because you’re skipping the foundation years. You major immediately. I was told this by my guidance counselor, no doubt hoping to spare me the pain of rejection for the second time.
“An artist is wishful thinking for one in your position Michael.” Translation: “Nigger*, PLEASE. There’s always work at the Post Office.”
I got in.
That was the moment I realized what my boy Lee calls; THE POWER OF DAVIS.
It wasn’t too long after that I was getting into 54. Because I began to look at things differently.
It wasn’t a Black and White world; there are plenty of shades; this underaged Black kid was now made aware of. My friend Earl and later Lee would hop (not pay) the train from Far Rockaway to Manhattan just to stare at what we thought we would never take part in, life like white people lived.
We would stand outside of Broadway plays, hoping to see whatever TV stars we heard were appearing in the play come out. Stand outside movie theaters showing blockbuster movies. One night we noticed the usher tearing ticket stubs dropping his half. One of us would pretend to trip while walking by, grab the discarded stubs go to the back of the line, and MOVIE NIGHT was born. The highlight of our Manhattan nights was always Studio 54. The street was packed with people all trying to get in; we stood there for hours just happy to be near a place we saw on television.
No such ‘stub’ opportunity at Studio 54, but watching the news one night gave me an idea. There was a story about this woman who gifted Steve Rubell a Studio 54 sculpture. I did a drawing and went down to 54 during the day.
I knocked on the door, a lady answered, said with a smile, “No.” When I asked for Mr. Rubell. That ‘no’ caused me to refine my plan. I knew I’d get in eventually Why? One out of twenty-five is why.
There were photos of all the top doorman from the top clubs in a magazine story that for the life of me, I can’t remember the name of. I did caricatures of all of them. Then I talked to an editor of a pennysaver circular. I’d met her at my cousin’s house, she gave me her number. I was studying illustration at the world’s most fabulous high school, and she told me to come to see her when I graduated.
She ran the art.
The “magazine” came out, my intention; give the originals to the doormen.
I set about dropping the artwork off at the clubs. The first club I got into was Xenon, the only real competition 54 ever had. Funny thing the doorman, Charles, had not seen the drawing just undid the velvet rope for me and my girlfriend Renee. An hour or so later, I caught him by the bar and told him about the drawings.
Valerie Perrine dances with Disco stars The Village People at Xenon.
He sent someone to the office to look for them. Turns out Roger, the other head door guy at Xenon, was recruited by 54 and took all the art with him. Charles was so moved by the gesture he told me to come down anytime then introduced me to Brian, Roger’s replacement. From that moment on, I was VIP at the 2nd biggest nightclub in NYC.
This was the night that started to shape my Studio 54 philosophy.
My Studio 54 philosophy:
Get to the decision-maker.
One night I showed up at Xenon, and neither Brian or Charles were at the door. The guy there was someone I’d seen before from his swagger I knew he was the boss. I rolled up to the rope and dropped a “Charles always lets me in” all I got was a look and a view of his back when he turned around on me. I was heartbroken, so I started to leave when I hear—
“WHERE ARE YOU GOING?” The voice belonged to a stunning Black woman who was always at the club.
She was standing next to the guy who turned his back on me. Now I was being waved in by the same guy. Turns out, I was right; the guy was the owner Howard Stein and the woman was his girlfriend Tawn Christian. I’d happen upon some guys crowding her once and told them to step off (white folk, that means “leave her alone” ). I’d forgotten all about that. She hadn’t.
Now not only was I getting into Xenon, but I was also getting in free.
It’s not easy getting to the guy on top, but once you do that makes it much more manageable. Put another way, if you know Jay-Z you now have access to his infrastructure. Work your relationship with Jay first. If you’re interested in just milking connections for whatever you can get, you will quickly be found out.
Once that happens, you’re DEAD. Jay makes a call telling people you’re a dick, you are done done done.
Safeguard your relationships.
I learned the hard way to guard your relationships like its water, and you’re in the desert. At one point, I’m riding high thinking my shit don’t stink (white folk y’all got that I assume), so I bring my boy Lee who invites his boy Lenny who invites his girl Ghetto to Studio 54. I don’t remember her name, but Ghetto fits. While working through the crowded dance floor, Ghetto steps on the foot of a Princess. A real honest to Jesus Allah Jehovah Buddha Kirby Princess.
That was bad enough, but Ghetto acted her name. I’m still surprised the Princess’ bodyguards didn’t shoot Ms. G. That’s kinda what saved me. I quickly owned up to bringing the group that almost caused an international incident. What else could I do? It’s a fair bet we were the only Black people from the hood there. Ghetto’s “YEAH, WHAT? That’s what you get for BE IN IN MY WAY!” Made it more visible.
When wrong, apologize.
If possible, bring up the wrong and take responsibility before you’re summoned to explain yourself. Trust me, seldom will that not get you points.
My apology featured:
A promise never to bring thugs with me again.
A plea to continue coming to Studio 54, the highlight of my life.
A plan: “If you want to bust a cap in the back of her head, I’m ok with it.”
That I said to the bodyguards a laugh from those guys and a hug from the Princess saved my Studio 54 privileges. Roger slapped me on the back, then whispered, “Michael, well done, but if it happens again, you’re gone.”
Consider who brought you in.
No one can control how someone you don’ t know will act. If the Princess wasn’t even-tempered if Roger was in a bad mood, if any of those were in play—I’m dead at 54. Roger then makes a call, I’m gone at Xenon, I’m gone everywhere.
Never again would I make the mistake of hooking someone up with people I don’t know. Roger may have been fired if the incident had turned into a critical issue why? Because of his relationship with me. He was the reason I was there, and in business, if you bring someone in, they are your responsibility at the start of their involvement.
Remember, most likely, YOUR contact has a boss.
Don’t sever a relationship when someone is fired.
This may be the most crucial part of my Studio 54 philosophy.
Roger going to 54 worked out great for me. He was truly touched when he was gifted with the original artwork.
Xenon was my favorite club; however, this was Studio 54.
I was getting into the most famous nightclub in the world and for free.
Talented People always end up somewhere else.
Charles went to a new club ‘X’ Roger went back to Xenon, and Mark from 54 ended up in LA, where he was on the door at a few clubs.
Wherever those guys went, I had carte blanche.
A lot of people are dancing a gig on Dan Didio’s grave. Dan isn’t dead. Far from it.
He’s got almost two decades of insider information from one of the two top comic book publishers on Earth. Dan possesses relationships with world-class talent, and there is no-one except idiots who won’t take his call.
Dan did great things at DC that non-competes he no doubt signed don’t mean shit in reality. All it does is buy DC time to change some internal workings. It also stops Dan from writing DC COMICS: THE UNBELIEVABLE STORY OF SUPERMAN’S METH HABIT.
That’s a joke title, everyone knows Superman does not do meth. The hardest thing he does is drink coke he tried snorting it but sneezed and blew his dealer’s head off.
Yeah, that was uncalled for. I’m going to remove it. But if I do that, you won’t see I did such a noble thing. That means its YOUR fault that silliness is here.
Wow. GROW UP, will ya?
If Dan’s non-compete is one or even two years, during that time, he’ll be working on what his next act is anyway. When my year-long non-compete with Motown expired, my next project with Simon and Schuster was announced a day after it ended. By the end of the month, the project was in the market place.
Dan will not have any problem maintaining his boss’s status because he’s a smart, talented, capable executive.
The dumbest— I mean DUMBEST— thing a creator without the influence of a significant playa could do is go online and bath in a glowing victory they had nothing to do with.
Figure out what real power is.
Roger, Charles, Brian, and Mark, actual power wasn’t because they were the doormen at elite clubs. Their power is WHY they were the doormen.
The doormen at clubs like 54 and Xenon were not just some lucky guy who filled out an application. Anyone could recognize Mick Jagger or Andy Warhol.
Doormen at 5-star clubs were put in that position to spot CEO’s, Senators, royalty, and the like.
Could you spot those people?
Many doormen from the Studio 54 era came from an Ivy League school, an influential, wealthy family, or both.
Don’t take it personally.
Dan was once a friend. I did a giant solid for him, and he never returned the gesture. How could he? His boss tried to destroy me, and Dan would have been an idiot to cross that line.
I’m gonna do exactly what I did when Disney canned him. I’m going to call and offer him a hand. If he needs anything and I can be of some help, I will.
It’s never a good thing to rejoice when someone is suffering a setback.
Once Frank Sinatra was the biggest star in the world. He fell hard from that and was back playing very small singing gigs. Also, an actor his acting career was all but dead. He had to beg to audition for a part in the movie; From Here To Eternity.
He won the Academy Award for his role.
Just like that, he was a headliner again. Within a year, he was the biggest star on the planet again.
Remember if a person screwed you once they may do it again. They may not, but why chance it?
Sinatra never forgot those who were there when he was on top but deserted him when he hit bottom.
Keep the true nature of all your relationships on the down-low.
What many young people don’t understand about influence is this; let’s say you said nothing about Dan’s dismissal. If buddies with someone who did that puts you at risk.
It works another way also.
DC Comics has relationships with many of my Bad Boy Studio Mentor program alumni. Although DC wants nothing to do with me.
Almost to a person I’ve heard this from my former students; “Michael, would you mind if I did x for DC? “Or “Say the word Mike and I’m done with them.”
The ability to remove a revenue source from a company is real power. Why haven’t I done that?
Twice I killed a project that directly affected my house. It wasn’t revenge; it was business.
When I was a kid, I read The Fountainhead. I loved that book. Then I grew up. Now the book and its writer, in my opinion, are jokes.
I will admit the characters in the book are excellent as examples. Everyone wants to be Howard Roark, the novel’s hero, a brilliant architect of absolute integrity.
I’m Ellsworth Toohey. Like Toohey, I’ve built an influential brand command a large part of (Black) content talent and distribution.
UPS Hilton Hotels and DC learned I’m a dangerous opponent AKA the wrong nigga* too fuck with.
As is Dan Didio.
*Writer’s notes yet again: The use of ‘nigga’ in this narrative means imposing dangerous and formidable. It’s a hip-hop term used in this manner, not a racial one.
That meant if you were not from Manhattan, you had little chance of ever getting into what is now known as the world’s most famous nightclub.
Back then and even now, only the very rich or very poor live on the isle of Manhattan. I’m neither, although I’ve been poor and have had a bit of wealth.
Wealth, in this case, being able to afford a Manhattan residence. That by no means is a declaration of endless Benjamin’s. The thing about being from no money when you get some, you either blow it (done that) lose it (done that) or finally learn to make it work for you.
If you’re wondering what the difference between losing it and blowing it is, you’re blowing it.