For readers of glossy celebrity magazines or viewers of the television program TMZ or followers of websites like PopTV.com, Elliot Mintz is a Hollywood publicist and media consultant for clients past and present ranging from Paris Hilton, Nicky Hilton, Don Johnson, Shauna Sands, Yoko Ono, Sean Lennon, Bob Dylan and the estate of John Lennon as well as companies like Planet Hollywood Hotel and Casino and Bijan Fragrance.
Elliot Mintz is also known in the world of broadcasting as a past radio and television personality, having interviewed over 2,000 people as a radio talk show host and later as a television correspondent and host. He went on to host “The Lost Lennon Tapes,” a syndicated weekly radio program that ran from 1988 to 1992. The Lost Lennon Tapes broadcasted previously unreleased tracks, rehearsals, composing tapes, interviews and home recordings of John Lennon whom Mintz first met in 1971.
In the world of John Lennon and his living legacy, Elliot Mintz is known as a confidante and friend of John Lennon. His memoirs of John Lennon appear in the book Memories of John Lennon, compiled by Yoko Ono available from Harper Collins.
Undoubtedly, Elliot Mintz is a man whose life has been an incredible journey.
It’s not everyday you get to welcome someone who influenced you and that is happening tonight with our special guest Elliot Mintz. Elliot Mintz started in the world of media as an underground radio personality and became known as a very major press representative whose clients have included Bob Dylan, Don Johnson, John Lennon, Yoko Ono and others. Elliot thanks so much for making the time to do this. It’s a pleasure.
Paul the pleasure is mine and it’s a delight to meet you.
Who is Elliot Mintz?
I guess it depends who you ask.
I think most stories are best from the beginning. Where were you born and what was life like growing up?
I was born February 16th, 1945 in the Bronx. Raised in New York. Lived there until I was seventeen, eighteen years old and caught a plane to LA where I’ve been ever since. My recollections of my childhood are always sketchy. I can give them to you in non sequiturs. I have one sister. My parents were deeply loving people who were married for over 40 years. I lost my father recently at age 99. My mother had passed in her seventies. I never recall the two of them having an argument. It was a kind of 1950s Norman Rockwell childhood as far as I can tell. I can picture a barbershop poles on the street corner of the neighborhood. The local pizza shop where I saw my first Wurlitzer juke box and where I probably first heard Elvis. There was a park not far from where I grew up in the apartment, two bedroom apartment. And I would like to take long walks in the park. I was a terrible student. I had an awful stutter. My stuttering resulted in me having to take speech therapy classes which is one of the reasons I speak this way. When I first decided I wanted to be a DJ, you know you always try to overcome the things you can’t do, like the people who lose their limbs and decide they want to climb Mount Everest. Well, I used to (imitates his old speaking manner) talk like that. I’m not making fun of people who stutter. So I sounded, and besides talking like that I had a New York accent because it’s the only place that I had been to – street corner. So early on I wanted to get beyond the limitations of expression and maybe expand it somewhat. My childhood was neither happy or sad. It was solitary with few friends, poor scholastic grades, lots of reading, lots of reflection, endless hours in movie theatres.
You just mentioned Elvis a second ago. What music did you fall in love with when you were young?
My parents had one of those gigantic radios in the living room, a very modest apartment in 190th Street in Manhattan, not far from the George Washington Bridge. My father lived in that apartment until the end of his life – all of his life. But there was this big mahogany device with that giant speaker in it, you know? It could’ve been a Grundig Majestic, I forgot what it was, and I grew up listening to ‘50s music. First doo-wop, which I love to this day, which I heard in high school, when people would go into the bathroom to create that great early reverb effect off the tile walls, and do the great doo-wop classics that the Five Satins and the others did. My parents came in at the end of the Frank Sinatra experience and the dawn of Doris Day and the Hit Parade and Smoke Gets in Your Eyes, a very innocent time in America, and I would listen to little bits of that coming through the radio without paying a great deal of attention to it. Until I heard Elvis and that changed everything and from that point on I would listen to the basic music of the ‘50s. If you pick up any one of those classic albums of the one hundred of the top ‘50s hits from the 1950s, that’s what I was listening to and that slowly segued into, probably like most people, from Elvis to two people: Dylan and the Beatles.
You mentioned a minute ago, you said you made it out here in LA. What was it that brought you out here?
There were two major factors, Paul. One, because I was such a miserable student in school and was left behind in every grade, had to attend summer school every summer, finally got out of high school with a 66 average after, I think, five years. My IQ was about ten points lower than the national average. I’m not a smart person. I of course applied to every college that I could, was obviously rejected by all of them except for Los Angeles City College, a community college in LA. So one of the reasons I wound up here was I was invited by a school when all the others turned me down. The second reason was when I was around 16 I saw a movie called The Misfits, the last movie ever done that starred Clark Gable and Marilyn Monroe before they died. The movie also included Montgomery Clift, Thelma Ritter, Eli Wallach. It was written by Arthur Miller who was married to Marilyn Monroe at the time. He wrote Death of a Salesman. It was about a dying breed of cowboys trying to make the transition from wrestling or roping wild mustang to sell to wealthy Texans as Christmas presents to their children, to roping wild mustang to selling them to the dealers to put in dog food containers. And there was something about the essence of The Misfits, which I’ve now seen a hundred times, it’s my favorite film – Casablanca is my second favorite – it was my first view of the West and I knew I wanted to be there in some capacity. The third was I wanted to get out of New York. So it was those three things that motivated me to get on a plane one day and come to a place I’d never been to before, knew nobody and try to get a start.
So you came out here, you don’t know anybody and from there you become a part of this Los Angeles music scene and you become a disc jockey. What lead you down that path?
Well, Los Angeles City College, fortunately, turns out to have had one of the very best broadcasting departments in America. And it was free. It was a small class, 30 or 40 students and I studied everything having to do with broadcasting. I wanted to know how to broadcast. I wanted to learn how to do the weather, how to operate a camera, how to be an engineer, how to do news, how to do everything having to do with broadcast, to work on losing the New York accent, to work on losing the stutter and I gravitated to a particular area in broadcasting which was interviewing. I found myself all-consumed with the study of how to conduct a meaningful interview and there was a little college radio station KMLA that if you opened the windows really wide and spoke very loud you could be heard to the lunch room, and the students would practice that way and I started practicing by interviewing people on KMLA. I was 18 years old. It was a preview of coming attractions. I enjoyed listening. I believe that everyone had a story to tell. I believed that most people were not willing to give up their story without some degree of an acoustic environment that suggested, “I really want to know,” and I learned my first lesson in interviewing which was “Ask the question. Shut up. Get out of the way and let the guest respond.” After a year or two at KMLA I just applied to a variety of local radio stations and was accepted by one, KPFK, which was a listener-supported station, part of a group called the Pacifica Foundation. There was a station in New York, Texas and Berkley, etc. and if people liked what they heard just sent them a check. Kind of like PBS and that kind of thing. I was 21. I was the youngest talk show host in America and I began doing nightly radio shows, interviewing the cultural icons of the time. After a year or two there I went on to do the same basic thing on seven or eight different radio stations, commercial stations, and then on to television, by talking to people. My guess is I interviewed over 2,000 people. I also took phone calls from listeners, an estimated 20,000 on-air phone calls as well, and in the process over a ten-year period I tried to learn my craft.
Throughout the course of you doing radio, when you were on the air and when you were doing these interviews, what were you trying to accomplish out of that? What did you want the listener to get out of the experience?
The essence of the person I was speaking with. I viewed myself as a conduit. The guest speaks to the audience through me. I was not there to judge or to argue or to quarrel. In those days FM radio, you could sit and talk to somebody for two or three or four hours. Today we have now reduced a sound bite to a sound bark. You’ve got about three seconds to get an answer out. I would be terrible on today’s radio. Nobody would pay any attention at all. See, Paul, I’ve always believed that if somebody has something to speak about, that touches your life, your heart, your experience, there is a valuable exchange because you get another point of view. I wasn’t that big on the exclusives. I wasn’t that big on just racking up how many famous people I could get. Some of my more memorable interviews for me personally were with anonymous people with something to say as opposed to extraordinarily famous people who had nothing to say. When I say they had nothing to say, I append that by saying that they had nothing to say through me. There are some musicians who can create these sensory perceptions through lyrics, instrumentation – music, but they don’t talk because all of their brilliance and wisdom and inspiration comes through a very tiny aperture. Just like there are some great writers who can write but can’t speak. There are a zillion great speakers who can’t carry a tune and can’t write a book. So, I wanted to probe. I wanted to explore and felt there was a camaraderie of interest here, between listener, myself and guest, and perhaps something good would be spoken and, optimistically, maybe something would be learned.
You just mentioned that many times the person you interviewed, they weren’t the most famous person. I’m very curious to know was there anyone that you always felt you could have gotten something good out of that constantly eluded you. That you couldn’t get them.
I would have loved to have spoken with Marilyn Monroe but I arrived in Los Angeles shortly after she had passed. So shy of a séance, I couldn’t have interviewed Marilyn but I always wanted to. On my wish list there were three or four unfulfilled interviews. We all have them. You’re a radio guy. You’ve got a secret list in your back pocket of the three or four people who you just, before you hang up your microphone, you’ve got to sit down and talk. We all got ‘em. We all got ‘em. For me, it was Elvis, Howard Hughes, the Pope, and Mother Theresa. Those were the four, if I could sit down and broadcast the essence of who they are, it would have been extraordinary. All for different reasons. I can’t recall anybody else who I really wanted to talk to who I didn’t get a chance to talk to.
Well on the other side of the coin, can you name maybe three or four people that you were elated to interview and when you were done, you thought “This is great.” There’s nothing better than that feeling.
There were some anonymous people at the time, like a man named Jack Gariss, who is one of the creators of a device called the bioscope. He taught me more about meditation than anybody who I ever met and I’ve been meditating for 30 years. Jack was an anonymous person when we met but was one of my favorite interview subjects. He would be an example of somebody where people could say “Jack who?,” but if they listened to the broadcast it could change their lives. In terms of the ones where you did the interview and you drove home that night, and felt that something meaningful had occurred, the first time I spoke to Yoko. The first time I spoke to John. The first interview I did with Bob Dylan. Then I have to scratch my head. Those are three that jump off the page at me but there were writers like Norman Mailer and Ray Bradbury. There were mystical people like Baba Ram Dass and Alan Watts. There were iconic figures like Salvador Dali. There were an endless list of musicians, actors. Sitting in Jack Lemmon’s trailer when I was 18 years old. Him agreeing to talk to a kid from school knowing that it would only be heard at L.A. City College after he had been nominated for Days of Wine and Roses. An afternoon that I spent with John Wayne. A day I spent with Groucho Marx. You don’t have the time or the tape, Paul (laughs) and I don’t have the recollection to go through all of them. But each name that I just mentioned, when I drove home – and sometimes on the way home I would put the tape recorder on play so I could listen to how it sounded before I would get to the station – and there were moments that just propelled me. Partially, being in awe of the person or persons that I spoke with, partially because they said something that I would never anticipated that they would say, and primarily because I felt such good fortune to have had that opportunity.
On the note of Yoko Ono, you mentioned her as one of the interviews that you felt was especially meaningful. If my memory is correct, you interviewed her around the book Grapefruit came out. Is that correct?
I’m so bad with numbers. I can’t do the time table so Grapefruit had already been written. I had read Grapefruit. I recall that she had released an album called Approximately Infinite Universe which I listened to and I found I was transfixed by it. Approximately Infinite Universe, Grapefruit as well as Yoko’s involvement in bed-ins and the rest of it – she captured me. There was something about the essence of what was coming through. Whenever I heard her public pronouncements – I was aware of her long before we spoke – but she sounded like a completely original woman. There is a term, it has legal meanings and it has philosophical meanings, it’s called derivative. Some people believe that all work is derivative, something that preceded it. I don’t know if that would apply to the space program, but people say it does apply to rock ‘n roll that was an out growth of rhythm and blues. I mean there are definitely progressions with Yoko. I’m going to pour you another glass in a second, I’ll finish talking about Yoko. I heard her say things that I had never heard expressed before and I really needed to speak with her. I really needed to hear more and the first interview that we did, it was a phoner. I was on a local station, she was in New York. We spoke on the telephone for an hour. When I got off of the phone, I just knew that I had met somebody unlike anyone I had ever spoken to before. In that sense I probably shared the experience that John did when he first had his encounter. Refresh your glass…Cabernet Sauvignon by Essex.
What am I drinking now?
You’re having Cabernet Sauvignon, 2009 Esser from a California label. I’m drinking a glass of Macon-Villages Chardonnay. This here is the 2009 Louis Jadot. It’s basically the house wine. I have a bottle of this every day. You’re on red, I’m on white, but all roads lead to the same path.
I suppose ironically, I’m wearing all white and you’re wearing red.
That observation had escaped my attention.
There’s a book, I’m quite fond of this book, it’s called Memories of John Lennon and it was compiled by Yoko Ono, and in it you mentioned that when people ask you what John Lennon was like, that they already know. That line really struck me when you read it. Were you nervous to meet him? I mean, think about it like this, here’s a Beatle and one of the most influential artists of all time. What’s going through your head?
Well I met John on the radio, again, on the telephone. I interviewed him first on the evening of his birthday – live. So, we quote “met,” but we met verbally. It was different. You know we met on the telephone. We talked on the phone. Talking to somebody on the phone creates a completely different experience. You’re not fixated upon meeting somebody who looks exactly like they looked in the photographs that you had seen of them or the movie or whatever it was. So speaking to him was as natural as natural could be. He was a gracious and accommodating interview subject. He had some experience in this area. He also felt so real and if one listens to that first interview – the Mintz-Lennon interview, there were many that would follow – it was like talking to an old friend for me. Now of course, I knew who he was. I think the only thing he knew about me was that he had listened to the Yoko Ono interview that I had done, weeks or months before. He was also aware of the fact that Yoko and I had struck up a telephone friendship where we would talk to each other on the phone after the interview. So he had some insider knowledge as to who this dude Elliot was but we never spoke until we spoke on the radio live. That was completely comfortable. It resulted in a telephone friendship with John as well, where for weeks and months following the first John Lennon interview, John would call me or I would call John, or Yoko would call me or I would call Yoko, or the three of us would, virtually every day for weeks or months. Hundreds of hours of conversations. You know, people do the same thing. They just call it Facebook, right? Before my time, I think it was called pen pals. For John, Yoko and I it was just the telephone exchange. One day, the two of them drove across the United States from New York to California. They didn’t actually do the driving. Somebody drove them, in an old car. John called and said, “We’re here and we would like to meet you.” I admit that when I got into my car to drive to a little community about give or take fifty miles from where we’re sitting, Paul – a place called Ojai – and John described the car he was in, which I keep calling an old Rambler or station wagon. People have asked for greater identification about the vehicle, but that’s all I remember. And I pulled up along side their car, in what I recall to be the middle of the field, and turned the engine off and got out, and the door opened and Yoko came out first and John followed right afterwards. John said to Yoko, “Go on. Give him a hug.” Yoko is not a demonstrably affectionate woman who just gives hugs and kisses to people and it was a hesitating hug and a hello, and John put out his hand and I shook it, and I looked at that face. This was during the ‘working class hero’ look with very long hair and, of course, the wire-rimmed glasses. He looked like John Lennon. He looked as familiar to me as my closest friends, my parents. I had known him for years. There was no nervousness. There was no hesitation. There was no reservation. Now, if we had not had the telephone relationship prior to the meeting in the field, I may have been a little hesitant and maybe he would have been a little guarded but after a minute or two he said, “So look, we’re going to this house we rented. Just follow us.” And I followed them to a house that they were renting and we spent the day together. And Paul, from that point on, in all those years, eight years, in all those hundreds of hours of conversation, all those visits back and forth – John and Yoko would come to my house and I would visit them at the Dakota when we would travel – I always knew that I was talking to John Lennon but I never attached that to anything having to do with Beatlemania or I Want to Hold Your Hand or any of that stuff. When we were having conversations it was just two dudes talking, debating, discovering. The only time that it was different was when we were in public, if we went out to a restaurant and I saw the way everybody else reacted to him, and how he just needed to react to everybody else, that the vibe was slightly different, but the times shared with them privately were as comfortable as me sitting here and talking with you.
I was thinking about you a few weeks ago. I was at the John Lennon Art Gallery in Atlanta at the Weston Hotel. At first, I think spent probably so long looking at all the stuff that they started wondering what my motives were. I looked at the artwork and then I started looking at something altogether different. I started looking at the people who were coming and how they were reacting and also, who was coming in. You know, young people. You have become kind of, like Yoko, the voice of John Lennon in this era and it has to be a tremendous responsibility. I thought about that also when I was reading your recollections in the Memories book. What is that responsibility like?
Well, let me immediately say that I totally divorce myself of the perception that I am the voice of John Lennon. I insist upon that. (Laughs) Nobody speaks for John and I go out of my way, because people have asked me frequently “What would John say about the war today?” and “How would John have felt about George Bush?” or those things, and I always preface it by saying, “I do not speak for John.” Never have, never could. I only wish he could be here to speak for himself. But in terms of me discussing the relationship between John and Yoko, we were family. My responsibility is to historical accuracy. I am not a John Lennon or Yoko Ono sycophant. I was never the house propagandist. I’m not here to advance any kind of myth about him or Yoko, and John has his frailties as we all did, and I never thought of him as a saint. He was a really good guy who did his best to make this world a little better during the time that he was given to do it. Now, as long as I stay focused on that I’m OK with it but I’m no spokesperson for John Lennon.
On that note, I wanted to talk a little bit about The Lost Lennon Tapes, which was a syndicated radio program. It, I believe, gathered six to seven million listeners during it’s peak?
I’m told that those were the numbers. I don’t know who was out there counting them but I heard that.
What are some of your most vibrant memories from the Lost Lennon Tapes?
That’s a good question, Paul. Nobody has ever asked me that before. I’m going to do a quick mind scan to see if one comes up. I’m pouring myself a glass of Chard. There were hundreds of hours of this broadcast that I did called The Lost Lennon Tapes followed by an additional number of hours called The Beatle Years. I did them for a radio syndication company called Westwood One Radio and they were heard on hundreds of radio stations once a week. They were one-hour broadcasts. It involved the airing of previously unheard John Lennon material. Rehearsal tapes, demo tapes, spoken arts, partial interviews, at-home recordings where they just left the machine on. This was a time – I’m not good at the numbers but I think it was 25 years ago – where Yoko had these hundreds and hundreds of hours of material on John and I represented Westwood One. And I arranged a dinner between a man named Norm Pattiz, who created the, was the CEO of Westwood One, and Yoko. We went out to dinner. Yoko had the material, Norm had all of these radio stations, and over dinner it was suggested that perhaps there would be some value in playing the stuff on the radio. By the time we got to dessert and a discussion about a host, somebody floated my name, one of the two. I said, “I accept.” and it began. My joy was in listening to the composing tapes, in listening to these hours and hours of John with an acoustic guitar or at a piano, figuring out – I’m not a musician so I don’t know what the phrase is – the right chords or the right keys on the piano, experimenting with the lyrics, you know, with a little tape recorder, a little Sony, on the piano, and listening to the evolution of songs that would later become known to all of us. So the first time that I would listen to a composing tape of Strawberry Fields Forever or whatever the song might be, it was an accurate representation and reproduction of John’s creative process and I loved that. Years later, John would wear a little button on his lapel that read “I prefer it in mono”. I like listening to recordings. I mention this without any ego attached to it whatsoever – before The Lost Lennon Tapes, I can’t recall boxed sets or collections that involved alternate takes, bonus tracks, all the stuff that’s now a staple for 5,000 musicians. I think it occurred with some jazz artists but I don’t recall it with rock people. If somebody has information that contradicts that, I would love to hear from them. It was new and it was daring and different to let people hear material before it was 100% ready with the makeup on it. I preferred it in mono. I preferred it in its primitive stages. I loved being the fly on the wall, listening to this experience evolve and I think that’s what accounted for the popularity of the radio series.
Your passion for it, in part.
And others that would feel the same way.
Let me refresh your glass.
Thank you, sir. Of the songs that John Lennon wrote – and this may be a question you’re tired of answering – what would you say is your favorite composition?
From the Beatle period or as an individual artist?
How about one of each?
OK. As a Beatle, I loved In Your Life. “There are places I remember.” That song grabbed me. In conversations with John, when I would ask him those questions on air, because when we were not on air doing interviews we rarely, if ever, talked about the Beatles. John had a great sense of pride about that song. He also felt really, really good about Strawberry Fields. He also had really, really positive feelings about I Am the Walrus. Those were the three that we talked about when I asked him what his faves were. There were lots that he acknowledged as being well-written compositions and many that he acknowledged as being extraordinary compositions between himself and Paul, because, as most people know, a lot of these songs were Paul’s songs, a lot were John’s songs, a number were collaborations, but when they were teenagers they had an agreement that every Beatles song would be titled a Lennon-McCartney composition. Although, obviously, there are songs like Yesterday that was purely a Paul McCartney composition and obviously a work of genius. But rather than dividing who wrote who about what, etc., In My Life, Strawberry Fields and I Am the Walrus are my three favorite Beatles songs. In terms of his individual work, Imagine is our collective. We’re sitting here tonight in January of 2011, and I note that every time the ball drops in Times Square to bring in a new year, they play two songs to the crowd of the million and the viewers of the hundred million around the world, and somebody plays on the loudspeakers first Imagine, then Frank Sinatra sings New York, New York. Imagine was the wish, the hope, the prayer, the vision. It is the song that is most, in my opinion, indicative of the feelings and passions, beliefs, hopes, wishes, dreams, of John. Conversely, I really took to a song called God. He represents my feelings and represented his but what touched me so much about it was the reprobatory nature of the way he expressed his sentiments. Watching the Wheels, Beautiful Boy – dozens and dozens and dozens of others. I was a little old for the Beatle experience. Keep in mind that my teenage years was influenced by Elvis. But by the time I was in my twenties it wasn’t about the Beatles, it was about John and Yoko and, a generation later, for the children to follow it, would be Michael Jackson. I felt that John did his best work after the Beatles. His collaboration with Yoko, who helped to teach him how to imagine, the power of imagining, struck a responsive chord in my heart.
You mentioned a moment ago, Imagine. My mother is someone who most people think of as being a traditionalist and a Christian type, and something that she said about Imagine – I’ll never forget her saying this to me. She said, “Imagine is what everybody really feels but maybe doesn’t admit.”
What an interesting quote from your mom.
Aside from that, this I thought was kind of an unusual question. John also had a fine taste in music and he covered a lot of songs that I thought were awesome versions like Ain’t That a Shame and so many. Was a cover that you thought, “Well done”?
Absolutely. Without question, without reservation, instantly, with all due respect to Ben E. King, with all due respect. When I hear John Lennon singing Stand by Me it puts the universe in perspective. It was the best cover of that song, just like Ray Charles’s cover of Eleanor Rigby was the best cover of that song. Stand By Me by John Lennon was it for me. And if one visits the rock and roll album, the one that was produced by Phil Spector, and listens to John’s covers – I know a lot of people are dismissive of that and they kind of feel that why should John Lennon cover other people’s songs when he was such a genius? His genius was recognizing the value of reminding people of these experiences that they may have missed. That was part of his genius. He wasn’t some kind of creative hog – ‘if it isn’t about me and if it isn’t one of mine, why should I do somebody else’s?’ Those songs, the ‘50s song from the rock and roll album, were the songs that he grew up listening to in Liverpool, via the BBC, that led him down the long and winding road.
I wondered if you were going to say Angel Baby.
Well, I happen to have a particular love for that song. I think that Angel Baby – Paul, in some ways, just based upon what you shared with me a few moments ago, I probably share a lot of your mom’s beliefs. Your mom was a devout Christian? So she would acknowledge that angels are messengers of God. They are sent here for that purpose.
I would think so.
I don’t mean to misrepresent your mother’s feelings but I think that that would be the natural extrapolation.
Well I believe in angels and I believe that they are messengers of God, and I don’t remember how old I was when I first heard Angel Baby. It had to have been, it was in the 1950s when the song came out or maybe later. I was just a kid. But when I heard it, it sounded like a choir from heaven. The song is like a psalm and if you can clear it through YouTube, or whatever you have to do these days to get the angels to sing to people, run it. I listened to it in the past eight or nine months on an old Wurlitzer jukebox, which is the way it should be listened to. It’s sacred.
It’s absolutely a mesmerizing song.
Yes. Especially if you hear it in mono, on vinyl, on a 45 RPM that’s not been digitally enhanced, on an old jukebox or an old turntable with the tone arm, it’s just like heaven being here with you. It’s interesting, John and I never discussed that song and I attended a number of those “Rock and Roll” sessions, those Spector sessions. I don’t know how I would have reacted being in the room listening to John singing Angel Baby. So, yeah – Angel Baby, Stand By Me – a toss-up. Make one the A side, one the B side.
One note on that. Rosie – the woman who wrote that song – she said that John’s version was her absolute favorite.
Yeah, which, I can see it. He really embodied it when he sang it.
For the record, Rosie and the Originals’ original version – my favorite version.
However, John did right by her.
Yoko Ono, she’s somebody – her art had been scrutinized by a lot of people but I’m impressed that she always releases her art and her music. I think a lot of great artists are releasing their work – yes, for their audience but also to turn themselves on. What motivates her?
Again, without speaking for Yoko because she does that most eloquently on her own, my observation is Yoko attempts always to be true to her own heart. She doesn’t sit around with a bunch of consultants to discuss ‘What material should I do? What should I wear? What stylist should I use?’ etc., to try and sell the most records or get the most recognition or any of that stuff. Yoko is an original and her allegiance is to her art. Always has been from day one to day two. Here’s what’s changed, Paul. The rest of the world caught up with her. I’m not sure of the next statistic I’m about to give to you but I think, I think, I think that if you went to billboard and looked up ‘dance singles’ during the past five years, you would find that ‘dance singles by Yoko Ono’ have achieved the #1, 2 or 3 position at least a half a dozen times in the past five years. She is a lady in her 70s.
Well, on the note of Yoko Ono, I’d like to tell you and all the listeners about an experience that I had in Athens, Georgia. I saw Sean Lennon perform. I can tell you it was one of the most moving concerts I have ever seen in my life. I remember sitting there and I was sitting next to a guy who is a friend of mine – he’s an attorney – and he didn’t get it, and you know, that’s cool. And I didn’t hear him when he was talking to me. He would talk to me, he would say things and I was fixated on this concert. What do you think about Sean Lennon?
I’m going to answer the question but first let me ask you a question. The concert that you saw, was that before he and Charlotte formed Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger? Was he just performing solo?
Yes, it was right after Friendly Fire. An incredible album and incredible video accompaniments that go with it. I’m incredibly impressed with his work. It was a beautiful concert. It was at The Melting Point, a very, very intimate venue. I was blown away by the songs.
I commend people’s attention to Friendly Fire. It’s a package of two discs. One disc is just music and another other disc is what I’m going to call a video, but it’s not just your traditional video. It’s shot like a movie. I think it was shot in 35mm. It has a story line to it. It’s exquisite. Bijou Phillips is in it. Lindsay Lohan is in it. I make a brief cameo appearance but you have to look really fast and really hard to see me in it. Friendly Fire was, in my opinion, Sean’s primal scream. It was an intensely emotional time for him and a complex time. In recent years, he has been travelling the world with his girlfriend and fellow musician, and they have a little group – it’s them. That’s the whole group and the group is called ‘Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger’. And people can look that up or just go on SeanLennon.com and they’ll be led to videos and the rest of it. I saw them perform in L.A. about a month ago and they’ll be back here in two weeks. It showcases their collective genius in composition and presentation. It’s a stripped-down, metaphorical, mystical, psychedelic, ‘eternal presence’ exchange between the audience and performers. It harkens back to the days when you would go to a concert, not expecting to see your rock and roll hero, but expecting to be touched, excited, intrigued and leave in a state of personal reflection. It might be the most unique musical act currently touring the world. I love Sean. I met him when he was a week old. He’s 35 now. He’s the son I never had you know. He’s an inspiration to me. I cannot say enough about his generosity of spirit, his creative abilities, his absolute brilliance, his humor, consideration, reverence. Love Sean. I love Sean. He was here last month. You know what we did, Paul? Just before the night of the concert, he was only in L.A. for a day or two. He and Charlotte came up to the house. We set up a couple of cameras. I sat and I talked with him for an hour and a half in front of the fireplace that you’re probably hearing in the background, and we reminisced a little bit about our 35-year journey together. And looking at him and remembering him from the years that he would come out in the summers, when he was seven, eight, nine, ten years old, and he would stay with me in Laurel Canyon in my old house. When I would go to New York to attend his birthday parties. Our adventures on the road. Awards ceremonies. Hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of hours and nights in this room where we’re sitting, where we’re having our recording/telephone conversation. If you ever have an opportunity to meet and interact with Sean, that’s a true gift. But considering the pedigree, it should not come as a surprise.
Well, you’ve talked about a lot of these people and I have a pretty good idea of who your answer will be but in your life, what person have you that met most inspired you?
I think Jack Gariss.
Yeah. Right now, people who are listening to this are scratching their heads and saying, ‘Who?” When I was 21 or 22 on KPFK radio, I met this man who was the man who turned me on to meditation and metaphysics. He had the most lasting, meaningful impact. Hundreds of people who I met who touched me and influenced me for different reasons, for different reasons. Sometimes God places some people before you for specific purpose, to evoke a special response, to open a new door, and I could give you a litany of them. A guy named Jack Gariss, who taught me about meditation, probably impacted me more than anyone I have ever met.
I was looking on your YouTube channel – you can check out YouTube.com/Elliot Mintz videos – for your future it said: “Trying to figure that out” What do you see in the future for your life?
I have all of these pages. I have the Facebook thing and the Twitter thing and the MySpace thing and, basically, I’m just holding all of those pages to avoid the people who pretend to be me and say and do outrageous and embarrassing things. By the way, virtually everything on the internet about me at the moment is either embarrassing, inaccurate, pointless, or having nothing to do with who I am. So it will be very easy for people to ascertain that, I’m in the final stages of completing a web site – a little late to the rodeo – and that will be the place where, for those who care, that’s who I am. I have visited the YouTube thing and I have Googled my name, and I sometimes feel a total disconnect with that guy who I see on the screen with the electric blue tie and the spray tan and all that stuff. You know, there is a difference between who we are and what we do and there’s probably more of a significant difference about how we are perceived. That’s the runaway train of the internet. In answer your question about the future, I consult Tarot card readers and I consult people who have certain gifts of peering over the horizon and sharing with me what they see. And in these interactions and interchanges, some of the spoken visions resonate in my heart with my own dreams. It’s been told to me, and what I feel is that I’m in the third act of my life right now. As we sit here this evening, I’m 65 years old. I’m closer to the end than the beginning. And this is act three. And the broadcasting years, and the media consultant years – they came, they went. They were everything. They were everything. When I wrote that ‘Whatever your perceptions of John Lennon were, they were all true.” what I was trying to explain was any vision anybody may have had about what Elliot’s life was like as a broadcaster, those 2,000 interviews, or what would follow with media consultation – those are probably trueto them but my truth is yet to be manifest. If I were writing the script, and I don’t believe I am – I do believe in predestination. I believe in God’s will. I believe that the script has been written. And what I see on the dust cover on the book jacket is a life outside of Hollywood, a life away from show business, a life that would be more rural than urban, a life that would include the natural elements that elude us in big cities – horses, oceans. I could see myself teaching some classes in media in a small college, for those who would be I interested. Or doing something on the internet where I could talk to people about media issues if they wished to. What I primarily want to do is take all the information that I’ve learned in 40 years of broadcasting and media consultation, and make myself available on a pro bono basis to various causes and charities that I believe in. When John and Yoko did the bed interviews, John said what they were trying to do was to send out advertisements for peace, and they wanted to use the same devices that Wall Street used to sell toothpaste. Well, I know a thing or two about influencing public opinion and media. Instead of applying that to another actor or another actress, another show business personality, I’d like to apply that knowledge to those people who are trying to make this a better world. I see that in my future. I’d like to do a lot more horseback riding. I’d like to meditate more. I’d like to sleep later. I’d like to dream. I’d like to travel to places that I’ve not been before just for me, not because I’m tagging along with a client. I would like to explore the mystic more than I have. I’d like to revisit some classic literature that I read too early in my life. I’d like to get married. I’d like to stay healthy. I’d like to be able to be in a position to encourage others to pursue their dreams and not abandon any vision because somebody told them they couldn’t do it. And when it’s time, I would like to pass gracefully, with gratitude. That’s what I see in my future. There was I think a 15th century German mystic named Meister Eckhart who once wrote, quote “Man plans. God laughs.” So what I just put down on your tape recorder computer machine device is Elliot’s vision for Elliot. I quickly admonish myself, you can’t always get what you want.
When you look back on your life – full of great people, stories and events – what is the best thing about being Elliot Mintz?
Hmm. Paul, that’s another question I’ve never been asked. You’re really good. So rather than give a knee-jerk response, let me reflect upon it for a second. There’s nothing wrong with a little fireplace white noise. (Pause) Look, I have received far more than I’ve given. I am just so grateful to have been put in someplace during this incarnation where I could act as a filter or a conduit to others as a result of people that I’ve met. So the best thing about having been Elliot Mintz is that I’ve been given that chance. Just been given that chance, that I met some extraordinary people and that I have passed along the information that they have bestowed upon me. So, I am the CEO of the Cosmic Messenger Service. It’s a kind of a more ethereal version of FedEx. I accepted the responsibility. I hope I’ve lived up to the tenets of the job description, and I’ve lived to see the sparkle in the eyes of those who, at one time, believed that they couldn’t and then, ultimately, we allowed that they could.
This is a kind of a 180 but a second ago you mentioned that you hoped to get married. I’ve always wondered this and I don’t know why I’ve wondered this. What do you look for in a woman? You mentioned Marilyn Monroe earlier. Are you a Marilyn Monroe kind of guy or an Audrey Hepburn kind of guy?
(Laughs) Actually, I’m more of a Mother Theresa kind of guy. She would not have been a possibility (laughs), she had taken a vow. I’m somewhere between a Marilyn Monroe kind of a guy and an Audrey Hepburn kind of a guy. The ideal comic woman for me was always a cowgirl. Recently, they had the rodeo competition in Las Vegas, Nevada. Seven days, 30,000 people showed up. Well, you should have seen some of those girls roping steers. Let me tell you, Paul that would make the heart jump a beat or two. To be more specific, years ago I attended a film festival and I don’t remember if it was in Germany or Cannes. I was representing Melanie Griffith at the time. She had been nominated for Best Supporting Actress in a movie called Working Girl. She’s a marvelous actress and I’ve known her for many, many years. She was married to Don Johnson. She’s currently married to, and has been for many years, to Antonio Banderas. Tangentially, her mother is Tippi Hedron who starred in The Birds, the Alfred Hitchcock film. Anyway, Melanie and I were at a film festival to promote Working Girl and she had done 30 or 40 interviews throughout the day. The last interview that she did, a woman walks into the room where every reporter has five minutes to ask their questions for the country they represent, and the reporter said to Melanie, “Look you’re very, very hot right now and you’re an Academy Award nominee. You receive so many scripts and you’re offered fabulous sums to do it. What is the criteria that you use to decide who you want to play? What kind of woman do you look for in a script?” And Melanie responded as follows. She said, “I look for strong women with open hearts who will back up what they say they’re going to do.” The reporter thanked her. Left the room. Melanie and I were both exhausted. I went back to my room in the hotel and I reflected during the night about her answer to that question. And the following day I had breakfast with her and I said, “You know, you taught me a great Zen object lesson last night and that was, simply, that the same thing you look for in a woman in a script for you to portray in a movie, are the same qualities that I look for in a woman to share a life with. I look for, and love, strong women with open hearts who back up what they say they’re going to do. Now, those three elements with a touch of the cowgirl sounds pretty good to me. My home number is (laughs) … sorry, just being silly.
Well, go ahead – give them the number. (Laughing)
No, no, no.
My two final questions for Elliot Mintz. Some of the best restaurants in the world are here in California, or so they say. I feel you can find out a lot about a person by this question. What is your all-time favorite meal? (Laughs) So we’ve gone from women to meals.
Great question. You know, it’s not the meal it’s who you share it with. Not only who you share it with but when you share it. I can give you a list of the top-ten restaurants in Beverly Hills – or around the world. I’ve dined in many of them. When I was in my teens or twenties, I took a young lady, the first girl who I ever loved, to a place called Du-Par’s – it was an all-night coffee shop on Ventura Boulevard – and it was late at night and we had cheeseburgers, fries, chocolate shakes, apple pie with some vanilla on the side. All these years later, I can still taste. I went the next 30, 35 years without ever tasting meat. I live off of fish and chicken. That changed a month ago. I had my first bite of meat after, I think, 35 years. But that night at Du-Par’s may remain my most memorable meal. It was … the times, it was … the lady. And man, those fries were as crispy as the kind that you used to be able to get in New York.
My final question is very appropriate here. Yoko Ono was just talking about John Lennon and she said he would have loved Facebook and Twitter. In a lot of ways I think sometimes people focus on the bad side of these things but there’s a good side to it too. It connects us all. We’re able to share messages. We’re able to see that people across the country and people across the world are not that different. This broadcast is going out all over the world. My final question is: what would you, Mr. Elliot Mintz, like to say to all of those people listening in?
Hmm. Be true to your own tweets. Do your best to express them to people in person. Never feel a need to limit your expression and understand, with all of the great promise of the social network and sites and wizardry of computers, that they can never kiss you, hold you, or caress you. That words can only go so far. In answer to your question, Paul – turn off the machines and be with someone.
Well, Elliot. Thank you so much for doing this.
Thank you so much. Might I add – and I don’t want to sound patronizing or anything like that but I’ve done a couple of hundred of these – you’re damn good at what you do. Really, really, really good and I want to encourage you to continue to engage in this form of inquiry with as many people as you can and share it with as many people as you are able to do so, because you have the divine gift of posting questions, getting out of the way, listening, and giving somebody an opportunity to reveal themselves. This one’s been a pleasure.
TRANSCRIBED BY GAYLE BRAZDA & PAUL LESLIE