The journalist/manager Renee Pappas talks about Jerry Wexler, Beach Boys, Dennis Hopper, Anthony Burgess & Indiana Jones

"The worst thing that can happen is that they say no…so always pursue your dreams..."

Renne Pappas: Wonderful World, Wonderful People

Renee Pappas’ prominent career in the entertainment industry began as agent with IFA (International Famous Agency) in 1969. After a year and a half as their West Coast lecture agent, (working with Anthony Burgess, author of A Clockwork Orange and actor/producer Dennis Hopper) Ms. Pappas left for a position as Director of Personal Appearances for the Beach Boys.

In 1972 she joined the newly founded Geffen-Roberts Management Company (David Geffen and Elliot Roberts) who guided the careers of artists including the Eagles, Jackson Browne and Linda Ronstadt. After marrying record producer (and co-founder of Atlantic Records) Jerry Wexler, Ms. Pappas left Los Angles for New York where she resumed her studies at Marymount Manhattan College and graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Liberal Arts.  She then joined the interior decorator firm of Scott-Ullman and worked on the homes of Rupert and Anna Murdoch, Bill Graham, Linda Ronstadt, and Michael Phillips. In 1992 Ms. Pappas moved to Greece to act as a consultant for international productions including George Lucas and Steven Spielberg’s production of Indiana Jones Travels with Father, and Lost Civilizations, a Time-Life/NBC Production. She has organized gala fundraisers for UNICEF and the National Gallery of Greece, as well as a tribute gala for Vangelis Papathanasiou (Oscar winning-composer of Chariots of Fire). In 1997, Ms. Pappas served as the General Director of the Festival of Ancient Olympia, which included a performance by Mikhail Baryshnikov and his White Oak Ballet Company. This position led to her being called upon by other Greek cultural institutions to assist them in promoting Greek art and culture internationally.
Ms. Pappas organized three programs on Greek contemporary art for CNN’s Artclub and the Insider’s Guide to Athens for CNN’s Hot Spots travel program. In the area of international print media, Ms. Pappas has placed stories on her clients in The International Herald Tribune, The Wall Street Journal, The Financial Times, Time Magazine, Newsweek, The New York Times, and American Express Departures.
In January, 2005 she was named head of Public Relations and Marketing for the Hellenic Golf Federation. From June, 2004 through June, 2007 she was a member of the Olympia and Bequests Committee which supervises the Zappeion Exhibition Hall and the Zappeion Foundation . She is also a founding member of Friends of the Zappeion. In September, 2009 she became a fund-raiser and publicity consultant for hellenicare. In August, 2010 she became International Ambassador for International Entertainment Corporation


Interview by Michael Limnios


When was your first desire to become involved with the music & who were your first idols?
THE FIRST RECORD I BOUGHT WAS “SLIPPIN' AND SLIDIN'” BY LITTLE RICHARD.  I LISTENED TO WHATEVER WAS ON THE RADIO IN THE EARLY 1960’S…SAM COOKE, THE RONETTES, THE FOUR SEASONS, THE BEACH BOYS AND THE BEATLES. THE FIRST GROUP I SAW PERFORM LIVE WAS IKE AND TINA TURNER. THE FIRST GROUP THAT GOT ME INTERESTED IN THE BLUES WAS THE BUTTERFIELD BLUES BAND. I GOT INTO THE MUSIC BUSINESS PURELY BY CHANCE, THERE WAS NO PLAN…MY SISTER AND I WENT TO WORK AT THE GOLDEN BEAR FOLK/ROCK CLUB AFTER SCHOOL…THAT WAS WHERE WE MET ALL THE BANDS  WHO PLAYED THERE…BUTTERFIELD, THE BYRDS, THE BUFFALO SPRINGFIELD, JANICE JOPLIN…


What characterize your philosophy about the music? What do you learn about yourself from music? 

WITH THE MEMBERS OF THE BUTTERFIELD BAND WE WENT TO SEE THE ORIGINAL BLUES MUSICIANS….OTIS SPAN, MUDDY WATERS…..AND WE REALLY LOVED THE MUSIC. WE LOVED THE STONES BECAUSE THEY PLAYED THE MUSIC OF THE ORIGINAL MUSICIANS….MY PHILOSPHY ABOUT THE BLUES IS THAT IT IS ABOUT HONEST EMOTIONS THAT’S WHY IT TRAVELS SO WELL ACROSS BORDERS AND ACROSS TIME.  I LEARNED THAT I COULD NEVER LISTEN TO CONTRIVED OR FAKE MUSIC OF ANY GENRE….WHETHER IT’S BLUES, COUNTRY, CLASSICAL, ETHNIC, OR ROCK ‘N ROLL, IF IT’S REAL  IT’S GOOD MUSIC….IF IT’S CONTRIVED YOU CAN HEAR AND FEEL IT.


Tell me about your beginning with the Beach Boys. How did you get together and where did it start?

I KNEW THE GUYS AND ONE EVENING AT DINNER  MIKE LOVE AND BRUCE JOHNSTON ASKED ME TO TAKE OVER THEIR PERSONAL APPEARANCE DEPARTMENT.


Are there any memories with the Beach Boys, which you’d like to share with us?

WHEN THE BEACH BOYS PLAYED AT THE BIG SUR FOLK FESTIVAL ALL THE ARTISTS WERE STAYING AT THE SAME HOTEL IN MONTEREY. THE NIGHT BEFORE THE CONCERT EVERYONE GOT TOGETHER FOR A WELCOME COCKTAIL PARTY...THERE WAS A PIANO IN THE DINING ROOM , BRIAN WILSON SAT DOWN AND STARTED PLAYING OLD “DO WOP” SONGS, EVERYONE JOINED IN SINGING...JOAN BAEZ, LINDA RONSTADT, KRIS KRISTOFFERSON....A VERY SPEACIAL MOMENT.


I wonder if you could tell me a few things about your working for the Beach Boys at the closing of the Fillmore East along with the Grateful Dead and the Allman Brothers.

UNFORTUNATELY I WASN’T THERE, HOWEVER I DO KNOW THAT JERRY GARCIA INTRODUCED THEM AND ALL THE BANDS PLAYED TOGETHER.

 

What is the “think” you miss most from the ‘70s?

PEOPLE PLAYING MUSIC JUST FOR FUN


What are some of the most memorable tales from the Geffen-Roberts Management Company? 

I SUPPOSE WHEN WE GOT THE NEWS THAT “TAKE IT EASY” WAS A HIT....IT WAS THE FIRST HIT FOR ASYLUM RECORDS.


Would you mind telling me your most vivid memory from Linda Ronstadt & Jackson Browne?

JACKSON WAS A VERY SWEET GUY, WHEN HE FOUND OUT THAT I WAS LEAVING ASYLUM TO MARRY JERRY WEXLER HE BROUGHT ME A BOUQUET OF YELLOW ROSES. LINDA AND I BECAME GOOD FRIENDS WHEN JERRY PRODUCED A JAZZ ALBUM WITH HER (IT WAS NEVER RELEASED) AT THAT TIME I ALSO DECORATED HER APARTMENT IN NEW YORK. WE WOULD HAVE TEA AND LOOK AT FABRIC SAMPLES…GIRL STUFF…

 

How difficult is for you to “carry” your name in the media, artists cycle and general in your life?

NOTDIFFICULT AT ALL


Which memory from Jerry Wexler makes you smile?

HE SIMPLY DEVOURED BOOKS…HE WOULD BE READING TWO NOVELS AT ONE TIME, EVEN WHEN HE WAS BRUSHING HIS TEETH, SO HIS BOOKS WERE ALWAYS SPLATERED WITH TOOTHPASTE.  HE HAD WANTED TO BE A NOVELIST HIMSELF AND HAD SEVERAL SHORT STORIES PUBLISHED, HE STUDIED JOURNALISM IN COLLEGE AND LATER WAS A REPORTER AT BILLBOARD, INSTEAD OF WRITING NOVELS, HE PRODUCED MUSIC.


Why did you think that Jerry Wexler’s project, continued to generate such a devoted following?

I THINK JERRY WAS THE CONSUMATE RECORD PRODUCER….HE HAD AN ENCYCLOPEDIC KNOWLEDGE OF ALL MUSICAL GENRES , REALLY THE HISTORY OF AMERICAN MUSIC, SO THAT HE COULD BRING ELEMENTS FROM ALL SORTS OF MUSIC INTO HIS PRODUCTIONS. HE KNEW THE BEST MUSICIANS AND THE BEST SONGS WHICH HE THEN PAIRED WITH HIS ARTISTS….HIS CAREER AS A PRODUCER WENT FROM BIG JOE TURNER AND RAY CHARLES, THROUGH ARETHA AND WILSON PICKETT, TO BOB DYLAN AND DIRE STRAITS……..I DON’T THINK THERE IS ANYONE ELSE WHO COVERS SUCH A LONG PERIOD OF TIME AND SUCH A DIVERSE GROUP OF ARTISTS.


From whom have you have learned the most secrets about the music? 

JERRY WEXLER....

 

How did you get hooked up with Bill Graham, do you have any amusing tales to tell from the Fillmore East? 

I ONLY REALLY KNEW BILL WHEN I WAS MARRIED TO JERRY, AFTER THE FILLMORE EAST CLOSED…I DID DECORATE HIS NEW YORK APARTMENT.


Would you mind telling me your most vivid memory from Anthony Burgess (A Clockwork Orange) & Dennis Hopper?

I WAS A LECTURE AGENT AT IFA AND ANTHONY BURGESS WAS OUR CLIENT. I BOOKED HIM FOR A LECTURE AT LONG BEACH STATE COLLEGE. AFTER THE LECTURE I INTRODUCED MYSELF AS HIS AGENT (I WAS ONLY 23 YEARS OLD) HE ASKED ME IF I KNEW THE RECIPE FOR A GIN FIZZ….I KNEW THE RECIPE AND HE SEEMED RATHER IMPRESSED.
I MET DENNIS HOPPER WHEN I WAS A LECTURE AGENT AT IFA AND WE AGREED TO HAVE A MEETING TO DISCUSS REPRESENTATION FOR A COLLEGE LECTURE TOUR WITH HIS NEW FILM. THE MEETING WAS AT A MEXICAN RESTAURANT. HE ARRIVED WITH MICHELLE PHILLIPS AND WE DRANK ABOUT 3 PITCHERS OF MARGARITTAS……HE DID SIGN WITH AGENCY.


Which is the most interesting period in your life and why?

I THINK ALL OF MY LIFE HAS BEEN, AND IS NOW ,EXTREMELY INTERESTING. I AM ALWAYS WORKING, WRITING, DEVELOPING FILM AND DOCUMENTARY PROJECTS AND NOW WITH INTERNATIONAL ENTERTAINMENT CORPORATION I AM DEVELOPING NEW MUSIC ARTISTS, MUSICALS AND ORGANIZING CONCERTS AND FESTIVALS.  I WAKE UP EVERY MORNING WITH NEW IDEAS, NEW CHALLENGES....TO ME THAT’S WHAT LIFE IS ALL ABOUT....MY OLD FRIENDS FROM THE MUSIC BUSINESS ARE STILL ACTIVE AND HAPPILY WE ARE COLLABORATING TOGETHER.

 

Which of historical personalities would you like to meet?

SIR RICHARD BURTON, THE 19TH CENTURY EXPLORER AND ELEANOR OF AQUITAINE, QUEEN OF FRANCE AND ENGLAND.


Which of the people you have worked with do you consider the good friend?

Of all the people you’ve meeting with, who do you admire the most?

BARRY GOLDBERG, LINDA RONSTADT, DON HENLEY, PAUL SIMON, JOHN HARTMANN, SUSAN BLOND, CHIP RACHLIN. MAY PANG….I MOST ADMIRE ELIA KAZAN…


What experiences in your life make you a GOOD people?

I SUPPOSE IT’S BECAUSE I’VE BEEN LUCKY ENOUGH TO HAVE CREATIVE PEOPLE IN MY LIFE....ARTISTS, WRITERS, FILM DIRECTORS, MUSICIANS.......


If you go back to the past what things you would do better and what things you would a void to do again? 

I WOULD HAVE TAKEN PHOTOGRAPHS OF ALL THE DINNERS, ALL THE PARTIES, ALL THE EVENTS I’VE ATTENDED.

 

What do you believe will be the turning point of our civilization?

WHEN TALENTED PEOPLE ARE PUT IN CHARGE OF THINGS RATHER THAN THE HUSTLERS.


What MOTTO of yours, would you like to stay forever?

THE WORST THING THAT CAN HAPPEN IS THAT THEY SAY NO…SO ALWAYS PURSUE YOUR DREAMS..



How has the music business changed over the years since you first started in music?

IN THOSE DAYS PEOPLE GOT INTO THE MUSIC BUSINESS BECAUSE THEY LOVED THE MUSIC.


Any of blues, rock, and jazz standards have any real personal feelings for you & what are some of your favorite?
SAM COOK “WONDERFUL WORLD”, ETTA JAMES “AT LAST”, THE EAGLES “TAKE IT EASY”, THE BEATLES “IN MY LIFE”, CAROL KING “WILL YOU LOVE ME TOMORROW”,  VAN MORRISON “CRAZY LOVE”. GEORGE GERSHWIN “THE MAN I LOVE”.


Do you know why the sound and style of Rembetiko is connected to the blues? REBETIKO, LIKE THE BLUES, IS ABOUT BOOZE, DRUGS, JAIL AND HEARTACHE..


How you would spend a day with Indiana Jones? 

I WOULD LIKE TO SEARCH WITH HIM FOR A TREASURE THAT WOULD CONSIST OF ALL THE PLAYS, PHILOSOPHICAL WRITINGS AND SCIENTIFIC TREATISES WRITTEN BY ARISTOTLE, PLATO, ARISTOPHANES, ETC. THAT WERE DESTROYED. 



What would you say to Evangelos Zappas?

I WOULD TELL HIM THAT GREECE TODAY NEEDS MORE PEOPLE LIKE HE AND HIS COUSIN, KONSTANDINOS ZAPPAS, AND THAT WHILE I WAS ON THE BOARD AT THE ZAPPEION WE MADE IT THE FIRST ORGANIC PUBLIC GARDEN IN GREECE.


When did you last laughing (and cry) and why?

I LAUGH EVERY DAY....I TRY NEVER TO CRY.


What is your “secret” DREAM? Happiness is…

…TO WAKE UP EVERY MORNING WITH SOMETHING NEW AND EXCITING TO DO….MY GREATEST FEAR IS TO BE BORED.

Photo Credits:

Jerry Wexler & Renee Pappas (Photo by Carol Friendman)

Renee, Jerry, John Landau (Bruce Spingsteen's manager) the late actor Peter Boyle and his wife Lorraine (Photo by Bob Gruen)




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