Weintraub: No '14' for 'Ocean'

Talent mogul, Carl Reiner reminisce at Milken

BEVERLY HILLS -- Jerry Weintraub won’t be making an “Ocean’s 14,” he said Tuesday night during a conversation with Carl Reiner at the Milken Institute Global Conference.
 
Reiner, the self-described “living legend,” and Weintraub entertained a standing-room-only crowd with stories of Weintraub’s dealings with Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, and other giants in the entertainment industry.
 
Weintraub, the former CEO of United Artists and longtime music mogul, first delved into the industry through an acting class he never finished that included James Caan, Dabney Coleman and Brenda Vaccaro. “I was the only one in the class that didn’t make it.”
 
From there, it was a job delivering mail at William Morris, until he overheard a couple of guys at lunch talking about an opening for a TV agent at MCA. So he called the department head.
 
“I hear you’re looking for an agent in the television department… I’m interested… I wanna make a move,” he said.
 
“It’s so brilliant. There was no lie there,” Reiner said. “You put it in such a way, the guy had to grab you.”
 
His next big break came from the King of Rock and Roll. He cold-called Presley’s manager, Colonel Tom Parker, with the idea of a series of concerts in huge venues like Madison Square Garden.
 
“I don’t know who you are, I don’t know how you got my phone number. But it’s not gonna happen,” Parker told him.
 
“I made this same phone call for one solid year,” Weintraub said. “On the 365th day, he called me.”
 
Parker told him to meet him in Las Vegas at a certain roulette table with $1 million. “I didn’t have $1,000, probably, but I knew it was going to happen.”
 
He got the money just in time from a wealthy investor he didn’t know previously and gave Parker a check for $1 million. One condition Presley had was that Weintraub make sure there were no empty seats at any of the concerts.
 
The first show in Florida sold out so fast they added a matinee at the 10,000-seat arena, but only 5,000 tickets sold for the early show.
 
Wentraub walked into a nearby jail, exchanged a few bucks with the warden, and prisoners unscrewed 5,000 chairs and removed them, covering the empty spot in the arena with a big tarp. After the show, the prisoners put the chairs back in for the night show.
 
Presley wasn’t aware of the plot, but he noticed there was more “energy” with the nighttime audience so he told Weintraub not to book matinees anymore.
 
“That may be the most creative thing I ever heard,” Reiner. said. “To take out 5,000 seats? To get prisoners to do that? That’s bad writing…That ain’t gonna work in a movie.”
 
That story and more are told in Weintraub’s book, “When I Stop Talking, You’ll Know I’m Dead: Useful Stories From a Persuasive Man.”
 
He also told the enthusiastic audience a story he left out of the book.
 
Sinatra dragged him to Texas to get his heart checked by Sinatra’s specialist. Although Weintraub wasn’t supposed to drink after 8 p.m. the night before his appointment, Sinatra brought booze and women into the hotel and they stayed up drinking until 6 a.m. They did the same thing four days in a row and never saw the doctor.
 
Back home, Sinatra asked Weintraub if he was okay. “I’ve been drunk for four days, Frank, I’m not okay,” he told him. “Please, leave me alone Frank. My heart. My heart.”
 
“If you’re alive after what we just did, your heart is fine,” Sinatra told him.
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