Applauding the Ringmaster
Before Paul Jabara and Marc Paul Simon passed away, they suffered a great loss along with many of their friends and colleagues – the death of Neil Bogart. In 1982, 39-year-old Neil Bogart, a father and husband, lost his battle with cancer. For an individual with such vision and foresight about the marketing and making of music to die so young remains a tragic loss that cannot be adequately quantified. Simply, Neil Bogart believed in taking chances with new ideas and, in the process, introduced legendary musical acts to the world and made millions of lives a little more colorful.
His legacy lives on not only through the music of Casablanca but also through the Bogart Pediatric Cancer Research Program, a non-profit founded in 1984 by Joyce Bogart-Trabulus and songwriter Carole Bayer Sager. Based at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, the organization has helped fund a number of programs to support research for leukemia, cancer, and AIDS since its inception 25 years ago, giving children the same kind of hope and inspiration that guided Neil Bogart throughout his lifetime.
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Leroy Gomez (Santa Esmeralda): When Neil died, nobody could fill his shoes.
Brooks: When I saw him for the last time, he came up to me and gave me a hug. At the time, I was just signed to Bob and Jerry Greenberg over at Atlantic Records. He was telling them, “Oh you have a great artist here. Just keep with her”.
Brett Hudson (The Hudson Brothers): The last time I saw Neil, he invited my brothers and I to a party that he had. We sat for about 45 minutes or an hour, me and my two brothers, and we just talked and had a few drinks and laughs. We hugged goodbye and said let’s get together. That was the last time I saw him, at that party.
Hart-Winer: I bumped into him, I think at the Palm Restaurant, sometime before he passed away. He was kind of going there to make everybody know that he was still okay. The face of him was to make the world think everything was alright because he was keeping the label together so that it would be worth something.
Rodriguez: I loved that man dearly and I know that he loved and admired me. God bless him.
Summer: Neil’s passing was very painful. I sang at his funeral but it was an extremely difficult moment for me. He was my Clive Davis. I couldn’t see myself without him as part of my life because he was so in the making of it. It was a very tough time for me. Very tough, very lost.
Holmes: I never had a last conversation with him. It was really tough. I remember going to the wake, sitting there, and all of his kids, who adored me (I was their Uncle Cecil), they would come up to me and they would ask me about their dad. It was really a hard time. I really loved the guy. He was the one that really made my career. He gave me an opportunity where nobody else would. I always felt like he was a brother to me. We’d get up in the mornings and go run together. I was older than him but he felt like a big brother because he really looked out for me.
Klein: He was, without a doubt, the PT Barnum of the record business. He really was.
Aucoin: Neil would shake your hand and say yes to something and you knew it was written in stone. It wasn’t like the lawyers were going to come in and change it. There are very few people today, or even then, that you could say that about. Plus, he had a thirst for life, he loved people, he loved artists. He was there for every artist. He would go to shows. To get the president of a label out today, good luck. That was a time and place where we all enjoyed being together. We loved the artists. We loved what was going on in the industry.
Brooks: Well he was the boss! He was really like a risk taker. He’s a gambler. He went out there and he was on a roll.
Joe “Bean” Esposito (Brooklyn Dreams): He was a wound-up guy. Very animated. I could tell he was very smart. I know this guy was a real risk taker. I admired the guy because he put everything out there and he became very, very successful.
Prestwood; I was fascinated with Neil because he was such a talented man. He just had an ear for things that were amazing. He did something that was phenomenal.
Hart-Winer: He was just this cherub! He was adorable. He was so happy and smiling and he had so much energy. I thought he was really charming.
Gregory Johnson (Cameo): Neil Bogart was a very jovial guy. He was always laughing. He seemed pretty cool.
Goldman: Neil was the perpetual dreamer and he was also somebody that made things happen and made things come true. I don’t think that there’s anything like him that happened again. It was pretty awe-inspiring, that’s all I can say. After working for him, I didn’t want to work in the industry anymore. It wasn’t fun anymore. I really had fun going to work. I always had the most respect for this man and he was my mentor. I will say that until the day I die.
Summer: Neil was a maverick and he was very much a Renaissance Man. He was somebody who could take a lot of foreign objects and make them work together. He was like a magnetic comet moving through a sphere of space, attaching and drawing everything to himself that came near him. You didn’t want to leave him. He was just magnetic. You loved him. He was, for me, a mentor, he was a big brother, he was a protector, he was an educator, he was my parent when I needed him.
Larry Blackmon (Cameo): He was a maverick, a renegade. He was a solid ears music man in the business. I never got to go to his house and experience his little disco room but I had a great deal of respect for anyone that was able to have what it took during those days to build anything.
Tomi Jenkins (Cameo): I would say he was a maverick. He was one of the most innovative men. He was a music guy, just a guy who loved music, who was supportive of musicians and the music that they made. That was Neil, man
Bob Perry (Independent Promotion, Southeast): Neil was a brilliant record man. He had a great ear and he had lots of friends. I would promote his stuff when I was working for other labels because I just wanted to and I’d stay in touch with him. He was a great record man. He was a great guy who kept his word. In my little corner, when I was 27 years old getting ten grand from Neil, that was pretty damn amazing.
Rob Gold (Director of Marketing): When he interviewed me for the gig he paced back and forth behind his desk like a caged tiger. He was a genius but also, in my opinion, there’s a cycle of genius close to insane and he was some of both. If Neil were around today, believe me he’d been one of the first to tie in gaming and the Internet to whatever he was promoting. I am proud of my association with Casablanca and Neil Bogart.
Cowan: He was a genius. I always admired him. He was a very wise man. He was a philosopher. He once said to me at one of the first meetings that I had with him around the time that Casablanca opened thief first office across the street from my office at Gibson & Stromberg, “The most revolutionary thing a person can do is change their mind”. I never forgot that.
David Hodo(Village People “Construction Worker”): He was an extremely likeable person, enthusiastic nearly to a fault, but he was Casablanca. I studied him closely, as I do anyone I respect, and learned a lot from him.
Ray D’Ariano(Director of East Coast Artist Relations): Neil Bogart was Casablanca, in my opinion. He was a great human being and he was the record guy of all time, in my opinion. There was a magazine back in the day and on the cover they called him the “Sultan of Sell”. He was like Walt Disney, Vince McMahon, George Lucas, Ringling Brothers. The music business never saw anything like him before. His way of thinking and his way of doing things was beyond their comprehension. They didn’t know what he was doing. They would never sign KISS. They would never sign Parliament-Funkadelic. They would never hire a nighttime promotion staff to go to discos because they wouldn’t even know about the discos!
Nathan: He was a pioneer. He was a brilliant guy. He was the epitome of a snakeoil salesman. He could sell sand in a desert. He created illusion. He was an amazing character.
Hudson: What I learned from Neil Bogart was the art of the pitch and sell the sizzle not the steak. That’s what he did. Neil’s attitude was, “I’ll get you there but your talent has to sustain you.”
Moulton: I think Neil, God rest his soul, was the person that most people feel was the person or the label that really got behind disco, even though he had KISS and Cameo. He was the one that really brought it to the foreground, considering that a few years earlier he thought it sucked. I gave him credit because I knew how much he disliked it then.
Chotin: He had his hand on what was coming in the music scene. He was just ahead of the game. I think that’s what made it so special.
Artie Wayne: People, as we grow older, should let go of negative things in our lives. My relationship with Neil was for so long and so productive and at one point or another, lucrative, even though we ended up on bad terms. In retrospect, those 24 or 25 years that I dealt with the guy are more important than a half-hour.
DiMino: He was easy to deal with and you just felt that he understood what you were trying to do. He was one of those guys that brought stuff out in you as well. He was able to get into that discussion with you, be part of it, and bring up ideas as well.
Goldman: He was an amazing, creative entrepreneur in the greatest sense. He’d come up with ideas that would just blow me away. I remember just being enamored by him. He was my mentor.
Rodriguez: There was an amazing energy and excitement about Neil Bogart. Neil surrounded himself with the best. If he knew that there was a particular individual who was the best, then whatever cost it took to get that individual, he was going to get him or her. He assembled an incredible team of people.
Nancy Sain (National Pop Promotion): Neil had magic and he spread it around. It was contagious. Knowledge is power and Neil gave me knowledge.
Jean Millington (Fanny): He was quite personable and charismatic. He was always very pleasant and on the upside and very hopeful speaking about the band, what’s going to happen.
Sudano: My fondest memory of Neil is just a picture of him in the office standing up just excited. Neil’s vision and energy, passion and belief and can-do spirit are what I remember about Neil. He just didn’t see “no” and in spite of whatever the odds were, he just saw the finish line and the victory and had no fear. When he couldn’t make payroll, he still kept up appearances. It was all or nothing for Neil. We’ve missed that since he’s been gone, trying to find that somebody who believes that much.
Summer: To this day, Bruce and I will be doing something and we’ll look at each other, something will become difficult and we don’t know how to get around it, and we’ll look at each other and go, “What would Neil do?” We still do it at this age of our lives. I would say that Neil has left an incredible legacy in us that’s intrinsic that will stay with us for the rest of our lives.