We were Billy’s first gig. We got him into show business. He started in the mail room, collecting letters and staying in touch with fans. My mom was so impressed with his writing skills, she soon had him start writing our press releases.
One thing led to another and he became our manager, and one of the top managers in the business. He was a master of imaging and packaging. He was responsible for molding the teen idol image for me, for getting me on the cover of all those teen magazines, like Tiger Beat, during what I’ll call the Puppy Love era of my career. That was his forte.
He did the same thing with Cher and his other clients. Imaging was everything to him. We parted ways in the late 1970s, but we always stayed in touch as friends.
And about five years ago, he came to Las Vegas and said, “I would love to work on the next direction of your career.” So he became my manager again. But he was always like part of the family, one of the brothers. We always called him “Fish” — that was our nickname for him.
Sammeth somehow turned into “Salmon” and that turned into Fish. And he always called me “Kid.” Even when I was 60. In fact, that was the last word he said to me when I talked to him a couple of weeks ago. I said, “I love you, Fish” and he said, “I love you too, Kid.”
A version of this story also appears in the June 20 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.