Ahmet Ertegun, longtime president of Atlantic Records, died by rock as he had lived by rock. His death was the result of a brain injury suffered when he fell backstage at New York’s Beacon Theater on October 29, as the Rolling Stones prepared to play a concert that marked former President Bill Clinton’s 60th birthday. He had been in a coma since then, and died on December 15, 2006.
I knew Omelet (as he was fondly known) fairly well in the old days at Jazz & Pop. Atlantic's offices were on the second floor of 1841 Broadway, at 60th Street, and ours were on the top floor, so there was always a certain amount of up and down in the elevators: records, publicity stills, visiting. And Elektra, the Doors’ label, was at first up the block at 1855 Broadway and then across the street in the building that was then the Gulf + Western building and is now some Trumpery or other. Same goings-on. It was nice.
He was the son of a Turkish diplomat, but as a hustling record company guy he didn’t hesitate to stoop to dubious business practices. He told a story on himself of how when in the early days of the label he would go around to radio stations to try to get them to play Atlantic product, he would, if he got the chance, secretly scratch the records of competitors to render them unplayable, at least until replaced.
I vividly recollect a lunch with Ahmet and Eric Clapton and Delaney & Bonnie and a few other music biz people, served up in the conference room by Ahmet's personal chef.
Not to mention a formal cocktail/dinner party at the Erteguns' East Eighties townhouse, a surprisingly and disappointingly blah residence. We spent our time admiring the Magritte and wondering at the rather scary chicness of Mica, his society darling wife, who also ran an interior design company.
And once when Jim showed up unannounced in my office and we wanted to take him out to dinner at Trader Vic's and he needed a tie, we called downstairs in a panic and Ahmet's secretary came to the rescue with a very elegant one of his for Jim to borrow.
Lotsa memories. He was an urbane and civilized gentleman, and he was also a hip and happenin' dude. They do not make them like him anymore. Rock on, Omelet!