Elliot Mintz: A Sound Portrait

Elliot Mintz is a former radio and television personality who went on to become a media consultant for many well-known celebrities and CEOs.  I cannot think of anyone in the business they sometimes call the Hollywood “entertainment industry” who has grabbed my attention quite like Elliot Mintz.  I cannot really think of many people who would not find him interesting…years ago when he represented a lot of the A-list celebrities like Paris Hilton, he seemed a million miles away from my own life.  Then there was the many recordings I heard of his nationally syndicated radio program, “The Lost Lennon Tapes” that played rare alternate takes, composition tapes and interviews of Elliot’s friend John Lennon.  John Lennon along with maybe Frank Sinatra or Elvis Presley may be the only people in the history of popular music with enough interest that an entire radio series could be devoted to them.  You may think Paris Hilton and John Lennon are worlds apart, but you have to understand Elliot Mintz.  He isinterested in the true essence of a person.  The media and people in general for that matter tend to try to put people in neat categories, a box.  As he told me during our first encounter, “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.

I was curious about Elliot Mintz for a long time before I finally decided to email him.  I asked him a question and he wrote back and immediately gave me his phone number.  We corresponded for years until I finally had enough nerve to ask him if he would be interviewed.  Why I was afraid to ask I can’t quite say.  He said “yes,” and it was few years later, in 2011, I would find myself in an airplane heading to Los Angeles, California.  It was more than just curiosity.  Sometimes we just know it’s the way we’re supposed to go.  There I was in his house where I was free to ask whatever I wanted.  This was a man who had seen and heard a lot.

The first question I asked him was “Who is Elliot Mintz?”  He said, “I guess it depends on who you ask.”  I haven’t really had someone answer the question of who they are in that way.  Elliot Mintz has said he doesn’t really know who he is, but if there is any reason for that, it is because he has spent his life looking at who other people are.  He has seen a lot, heard more and along the way tried to look at it and think about what it means.

So who is Elliot Mintz?

If you spend some time on his website www.elliotmintz.com  you may believe he has been the conduit between some of the most interesting people who have ever lived and the listening world.  He was born in New York, but found himself moving to California at a very young age.  He decided he wanted to be on the radio.  This may have been a surprise to some people given that Elliot Mintz was very shy and had stutter and a thick New York accent.  Over time he overcame those challenges.  It was interviewing that Elliot Mintz really loved.  It was more than the extraction of information, it was a person’s very essence.  Many of the people he would interview were or would become in some cases the most iconic people of all time…Groucho Marx, Salvador Dali, John Lennon, Bob Dylan and Jack Nicholson.  Elliot Mintz was always a preservationist.  To hold onto the tapes is to be a keeper of the stories.  In this respect, some interviewers become almost like archivists.  Elliot Mintz kept the tapes and for many, many years they remained tucked away, unknown to most.  It was long before the internet.   These piles of unmarked tapes could not remain hidden forever.

The question Elliot Mintz began being asked repeatedly was “Elliot, when are you going to write a book?”  Elliot has told me that a more accurate biography is written by someone other than the subject.  It seemed to me like Elliot was looking for something more accessible where those who wanted to find out more could make up their own mind.

What would be created was something old and something new.  A jukebox that doesn’t need a coin.  In short, that is what elliotmintz.com is.  You get to decide to watch or listen to whatever strikes your interest.  You can play it all day…and because of the incredible content on this website, I choose to think of it as a portal into new worlds.  The stories and minds of people like Alan Watts and Jack Gariss are all available at your fingertips, and not a coin is required of you.  Some of the material is visual, but a lot of it is audio…radio has been called a theatre of the mind and this description always comes to my mind when I think of elliotmintz.com

At first elliotmintz.com was only available on computers and laptops.  Now the reach of the website has been expanded to iPhones and other more portable devices.  I decided I had to do a second interview with Elliot Mintz, which he agreed to do.  The website has a lot of insight into Elliot Mintz’s opinions, recollections and thoughts, but my curiosity was still not satisfied.  I spoke with Elliot Mintz and the second conversation was far more personal and more of an inner-view than the first.  I felt like I had gotten his essence then, but I felt I was gaining more of an insight into who he really was…  If we are judged by the company we keep, Elliot Mintz is certainly diverse and intriguing.  I found myself speaking with a publicist named Michael Levine who has written the best-selling book on public relations of all time.  Then there was Te Kay, the technical wizard and digital artist behind elliotmintz.com…to call him a webmaster really is a disservice.  Then there are two of Elliot Mintz’s broadcasting colleagues—Sirius/XM DJ Jim Ladd and Roy of Hollywood, the host of “Something’s Happening” on KPFK 90.7 FM in Southern California. 

 Since the beginning of my radio program, almost all of the shows have followed the format of music along with an interview.  I found myself creating something without knowing what it was…exactly.  Was it an audio documentary?  Was it a radio broadcast? Was it an audio book?  The creation of the piece continued.  Daniel Buckner helped me write program…if you want to call it that.  Henry Jordan of Jordan Digital Studios mastered, produced and mixed it.  The musical selections you hear are courtesy of songwriter and recording artist John Goodwin.

In the end, I decided that this was a sound portrait.  For those who are looking to find out a little bit more, I want to invite you to listen or read this piece which I am quite proud of…

Spoken arts radio is something very rarely done these days.  The two exceptions ot the rule are Roy of Hollywood in California and Bob Fass  in New York.  In keeping with that tradition, I am very honored Elliot Mintz and his friends have allowed me to ask questions and create a spoken arts record of Elliot and the launching of his fascinating website.

With that said, I believe the story is not over yet… elliotmintz.com will have more selections added to the jukebox. 

This “sound portrait” will be available soon.  For those who prefer to read, a text version of the program will also be available.  I look forward to your thoughts… 

I will also admit that my curiosity still persists.  Communication is very important to Elliot Mintz and I believe we will pick up where we left off and go just a bit deeper on another night… 

Te Kay: Web Editor & Producer

Allow us to introduce a digital artist and visionary. A man who sculpts with binary, paints with hues of electronic color and light, a man who brings sound and images to people globally. Meet Te Kay. The artist and designer of elliotmintz.com.

His work on elliotmintz.com has created a journey, an adventure. He has created more than simply another stop on the information highway. If the internet is a yellow brick road, Te Kay has designed the Emerald City. He did so with a portable, virtual juke box full of magic and entertainment. Magic, indeed, is what he has done. He has resurrected many old tapes…some unmarked, containing interviews, music and memories and arranged them in the halls of elliotmintz.com for visitors to enjoy, where ever they may be.

Let’s meet the man behind the curtains…Te Kay.

Ladies and gentlemen it is my pleasure to welcome our special guest, Te Kay. Thank you so much for joining us.
Thanks for having me Paul. I’m glad to be here.

 All right. It’s a pleasure. I think most stories are best from the beginning. What was life like growing up?
For me it was a simple, happy life. I’m just a boy from the midwest. And I lived kind of out in the country, but just far enough out of the city, to be in the country. So it was close enough to stuff. You know there is good schools out there and It was a happy, pretty normal, American childhood I would say.

You could say that you’re in part, the master mind behind this website, elliotmintz.com, and it is quite a website.
Thank you

You’re welcome. Thank you actually. How did you learn about this web and media artistry?
 I picked up a number of skills when I was working for a recording artist, for many years. I don’t live in LA anymore, but I lived in Los Angeles for a good 15 years. Most of that time I worked for a recording artist, who was signed to Interscope Records. She never really went anywhere, but I worked for her for many years. Basically her sound engineer at the beginning, because I was the only person on her personal staff. I picked up all the other skills. I learned how to edit video. I learned how to not only do music, but other kinds of audio editing, and sound design. Then eventually when we started to go on the internet, I learned how to do websites, and all her social media, and how to hack the MySpace page. I learned flash, and so I got into coding as well and that also ties into web designs, there’s a lot of coding in it. I just picked up all these skills one by one. Just in a course of working as her, I was also her system administrator as well. It was kind of like a Johnny of all trades.

 When I’ve interviewed Elliot. For anyone who’s kind of just a curiosity seeker here, who’s checking this out. Who is this Elliot Mintz?
Well as the website sort of, is a roundabout way, a memoir of his, of him. He didn’t want to write a traditional memoir, and he doesn’t like to write books in general.  But he had all this stuff on tape, different media—sound, and video. He has piles of it from way back. So the site itself, kind a take it as a whole.  Take you through great part of his whole adulthood really, and you can see who he is from the site. And get to know him. His interesting character that has been in the midst, in the kind of thick of the entertainment…America entertainment industry really. It mainly centered in Los Angeles. He’s kind of in the middle of it for a long time, very close to it. And so many of us are also fascinated with celebrity and entertainment that he himself has become an interesting figure, in and of himself.

 How did you come to meet Elliot Mintz?
Through actually another person I think you’ll be interviewing, Jim Ladd. DJ from Los Angeles. I was introduced to Elliot, through Jim. Incidentally Jim had given me my first big break on the internet design stage, when he. He just tapped me to design his Myspace page. It turned out really well, everybody like it. So I was kind of referred by a mutual friend of Jim and Elliot’s, to Elliot. Who was looking to make a website and, was having trouble finding the right person to do it. So it was a friend, of a friend thing.

Interesting. When you first met Elliot Mintz, what was your first impression?
You know the first meeting with Elliot, sometimes its kind of,   to impress a little bit. He has me drive up to his house, up on Mulholland Drive. It’s a very treacherous and beautiful drive up there. Beautiful home and overlooking the city. It’s kind of a poor boy like me, that kind of impressive. Seem suggested it’s kind of big time. He’s very well mannered, and kind and generous. Of course he was a friend of a friend, so I was at ease anyway. Just a genteel, intelligent man.  That’s my first impression.

One of the things that people can find on this website, elliotmintz.com is, they can find these interviews. There’s a collection of them. My understanding is a lot of these interviews were old tapes. How did you go about getting them in a format, where they could be heard on the website?
Those tapes took a pretty long journey. Even before I started working for Elliot, he used to have them, well he salvaged a number of them.  A lot of them were lost. He’s got like a fraction of what he used to have. He had like reel-to-reel audio tape, a lot of it, like a big pile of it. At one point, he had a secretary, or someone who was working for him, transferred it all to VHS. Then another person even later down the line, recorded off the VHS, into digital files. That’s what I inherited at that point. But at that point, it was basically a mountain of huge files, with no catalogue, nothing. It was a blind mountain of material that we had to pick through by hand. That’s part of what took so long, to make the site. Elliot tells me, there’s even more, still sitting in boxes.
Not over yet.

 Well, in addition to what you said about these unmarked tapes. What was the biggest challenge you faced to get elliotmintz.com live?
It was organizational challenge, logistically. That’s just one example, that mountain of tape. There’s stuff from all over the place, and we worked on it for over a long period of time, and there are many revisions to some of the work. At some point of course, we had other people involved.  Other production crews. When he did those interviews in his living room, we had production crews, from the outside we were working with. So we were constantly, have to adapt to other teams, and getting stuff from them, and then  doing our edits. Like I said, after a while we started having multiple versions of things, and we started losing track. Over time, you realized that you should have been more organized, in the beginning, but we finally ironed it out. Yeah, the biggest challenge was in keeping it organized, finding everything. Often Elliot would say, I know this interview. I’ve heard it, it could be a difficult job to find it. So there was a lot of organizational challenge there, that’s part of what took so long too.

 What was one of the ideas that you had that was like a light bulb that went off, that has added to this project?
A lot of small suggestions here and there. But I guess, going back to the very beginning. We started with like a blank slate. What would the website be, what would it look like, what would be on it? Actually I was inspired party by, his living room, and the scene over to the city that you see out his patio window. In which you see behind him, are some of the interviews on the site. It reminded me of the backdrop of on like “The Tonight Show” or something where you see the city behind the desk. Of course that’s in one of the “Mintz on Mintz” interview, you see him just like that. He’s sitting at a chair, you see the city behind him.

So that is natural to aesthetic, as if you’re sitting in the living room, his living room. Like just watching home movies, which you kind are, in many cases. You just put the Wurlitzer thing on top of it and things on top of it. So some of that stuff, there’s a germ of it there. I kind of pitch to him, but it really came off, of what I found material. His living room, his love of the juke box.

 Our special guest is Te Kay. One of the web and media master mind behind the website, elliotmintz.com. What you just said, there’s a John Hiatt song called “The Window on the World”.  I kind a think that song kind of describes what this website is.   Great song by the way. What in your opinion, is the most interesting part of the website?
What I found the website quite fascinating is, are the collection of radio interviews, what’s called radio interviews on the site. What I was struck with is, I end up listening to all of them with Elliot, in the course of editing it of course. I was kind of struck at not only how Elliot, as a skilled interviewer could get these people, to open up at length. And so candid, and forthcoming. It surprised me, how radio used to be this way. When I hear people interview today, everything’s rushed, everything’s prepared. There is a veneer to try to even figure, out what the sincerity is. But in these interviews from 30, 40 years ago. Like I said, they’re candid, they’re honest. They’re not guarded at all. They’re completely open, and they fascinated me, blew me away. It’s like wow, I wish it was still like that. Of course you’re hearing some of these subjects, very famous, very revered people. And you hear them speaking so clearly, and honestly, and at length. It’s really just a breath of fresh air, it’s a delight, to hear it. 

 I have to say I concur with you, but what radio used to be, and what it still could be.
Yeah, that’s what these podcasts are becoming, I guess.

What is Elliot Mintz like, to work with?
Thankfully, very easy to work with. I worked a long time with him, it would have been terrible if he was any less, wonderful to work with. He’s easy going. He likes to take his time. He never works on weekends. You know, it makes it easy. Elliot is a perfectionist in a way, but that’s fine. I’m cool with that. I rather work for a perfectionist, than someone that really doesn’t care, and just wants to rush something out. I take pride in the work, just as much as he does. He couldn’t be easier, kinder, and gentler, and more understanding, person to work with. Just took a little longer, that’s all.

One thing that I think is definitely true. There are not many people, who could argue with the notion that, Elliot Mintz has led a very interesting life. Why do you think he has lived such an interesting life?
I guess, number one, there’s the proximity factor. I forget who said the saying, success is 80% showing up or something. Elliot has been right in there. He was interviewing people, authors, actors, musicians. So he was constantly being exposed to those people, and he lived in Laurel Canyon.. All his neighbors, were all rock stars and stuff. He was just there. When you show up, and you’re there. You’re witness to all that great stuff that happen. And also as you hear in a lot of his interviews, he’s got a lot of very natural curiosity, and fascination and enthusiasm. That really brings out a lot of stuff, in the people he’s interviewing.   That also keeps him engaged, people trust him. He’s friends with everyone, everyone out there. So it’s just beingthere, being engaged, and being cool. I think it just keeps you in the game.

 Tell me about some of the people you met, as a result of doing this project, elliotmintz.com?
Basically the subjects he had in his living room. More interesting, meeting Sean Lennon, Marianne Williamson. Those were cool people, kind of interesting to film them, and stuff. Those are probably what I would say, are the more interesting aspects.

 Of those fireside chats that he had. Was there one that you thought was especially interesting?
I like the Sean one, Sean Lennon. Just because it was, he and Elliot are so familiar, in almost a familial way. It’s not like another interview. They had like short hand going on, and a wink, wink. It’s very entertaining to watch. Yeah, I’d say that was the most interesting one to me.

 What is the best thing about being Te Kay?
I guess Te Kay itself is like a persona in a sense. It goes back to the early days of social media, on Myspace. I picked a persona.  I stylized it.  So Te Kay is really like a enhanced version of me, and I kind a like that. I like keeping it separate from my own identity. So I like the anonymity of Te Kay. He can be like the cooler version, of this other guy. But I don’t think people would be as interested in.

For anyone who hears this, what do you want to say to the people who have tuned into this?
It’s a general admission to the world I guess. I would admonish people to practice humility. I noticed how people’s opinions, are so hardened nowadays. And we’re seeing cultures hardened against each other, and ethnicity etc.   I’m seeing a lot of harm in a many different ways. It seems to me, that people are embracing certainty. When they should have a little bit of humility, about what they really know, and what they really don’t, and what they’re holding in their hearts. I find cultures that are going to war with each other, and political parties, that won’t talk to each other. It seems to be manifestations of an immodesty that seems to be dangerous. So I’d love to see everyone recognize, or part of recognize the importance of humility.

Wow. I have been asking people that open ended question for 11 years, and I’ve never had anybody say that.  That’s a great answer.
Oh. Thank you.

 You mentioned a while ago that, Te Kay is kind of like your alter ego in a way.
Who would you say you are, at heart?
I’m just an average boy, just an average American boy. When I say humility, I guess it’s because I come from, a respect of being very humble. I’m just another guy. I’m doing my best. If I can do something special or contribute, to the stream of humanity. You know I’ll do it. I don’t need to have my name on a stature. I just love to have the satisfaction, of having done something, and just knowing that.  I’m just another guy I think, just another meteor going across the sky.

Oh yeah. One more thing. This is kind of something I notice the other day. On the website, when you click on the little statue in the corner. I believe it turns into Buddha.
What’s that all about?
Actually what that came from is, just beginning thinking of the living room scene, we were changing around. Elliot has those 2 statues that you see, in his living room. He actually owns those. So he had 2 photographs. Like which one you want to put in the corner, and he couldn’t decide. So I just said. You know, I’ll just put one in there, but I‘ll make it, if you click on it, it flips to the other one. Just for the heck of it, to leave it at rest for a while. We never returned to it, it just stayed that way.
And now we know.
It’s a secret right there.

I keep thinking, there has to be an Easter egg somewhere.
Well we may add one too, who knows.

Well Te Kay, thank you very much for this interview.
You’re very welcome Paul.