On Monday evening, the Paramount Studios lot was transformed into an extravagant affair. Hollywood’s biggest stars, including Leonardo DiCaprio, Laura Dern and Chadwick Boseman, as well as execs from L.A. Reid to Jon Platt, among others, arrived to celebrate the premiere of the Netflix documentary The Black Godfather, along with the film’s producers and director Reginald Hudlin.
The doc tells the story of Clarence Avant, a pivotal music executive in Hollywood, who started out managing jazz artists and later produced films and started one of the first fully black-owned radio stations in the U.S.
“This story is important to me not just because it’s my father, but it’s a story of civic engagement, social activism and the power of giving back,” producer (and Clarence’s daughter) Nicole Avant told The Hollywood Reporter on the black carpet laid outside the Paramount Theater. “I want people to be inspired to help others and share the blessing.”
When stars and powerful celebrities like Hank Aaron, Andrew Young and Bill Clinton needed advice, they turned to Clarence Avant, a savvy businessman who used his knowledge to help artists receive fair treatment, such as when he wanted to work with Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis. After hearing the song Jam and Lewis produced for the S.O.S. Band, Avant set up a business meeting at his office.
“Before we went in, our manager at the time went in and said how much it would cost for our services,” Jam told THR. “And so Clarence said at the end of our meeting, ‘About your manager, they’re not asking enough. I’m going to pay ‘x’ amount because this is the fair thing.’ I remember we walked out of the office thinking, ‘Wait a minute, somebody just gave us some more money than we asked for because it was the correct thing to do.'”
Jam and Lewis would go on to produce records for Reid and Babyface as well as Janet Jackson, helping launch her career.
“Sometimes real power is behind the scenes, helping people achieve their dreams,” Nicole told THR. She first came up with the idea for the documentary when she was 8 years old. Three years ago, she decided that the time was right to tell this type of story: “I was excited to connect with Reggie. I asked him to direct, and here we are.”
After the stars finished walking the carpet, everyone entered the lobby of the Paramount Theater, passing a pianist playing music as they went to take their seats for the screening.
“Clarence has been for me the same thing he has been for many of the people in this room: a great mentor, a father figure and a grandfather figure,” Netflix’s chief content officer Ted Sarandos told the audience about his wife and father-in-law before the doc started.
Sarandos encouraged everyone to tout The Black Godfather on social media in order to raise awareness of the doc, which is set to premiere Friday on Netflix. As soon as the film ended, guests enjoyed a star-studded afterparty in the courtyard in front of the theater, with many well-wishers surrounding the man of the hour.