The Black Godfather (2019) Movie Script

This is Bill's new album.
Is it your first album you've done?
Yeah, that was my first singing, period,
I didn't sing before.
I... I was into another thing altogether.
What did you do before you sang?
Well, I had been in the Navy
for nine years,
and then I got out
and I worked in aircraft.
I made toilets for 747 aircraft.
One of the reasons I'm here is that...
I met Clarence Avant.
I have a lot of respect for Clarence.
What he's done is a very unusual story.
That's why we're sitting here talking.
He puts people together.
And they do what they do.
How do you put together a life...
from knowing people?
I've never seen him with a tool.
His tools...
are his...
you know, ability to...
manipulate people.
I don't mean that in a bad way,
And if he needs to do it in a bad way,
he's probably good at that, too, you know?
Meet Clarence Avant.
Clarence's name kept coming up.
Who is this guy
that I keep hearing about?
My friend s...
His name would come up, Clarence Avant.
Say Clarence Avant's name,
and the doors open,
and the seas part.
Oh, man. He was too fly.
You understand me?
He talked the talk, walked the walk,
dressed the part. Played it, you know?
Oh, you just keep on using me
Until you use me up...
Clarence knew everyone.
- Everybody.
- Everybody.
He's a celebrity's celebrity.
My brother...
Writers, with singers,
with record companies,
with business deals...
He was just all over the place.
He was in the mix.
He finds a common ground
between people who are different.
This mysterious figure...
that everybody respected.
Like, a person from the street
to the White House, he was known.
One of the things he understands
is there are different kinds of power.
There's the power
that needs the spotlight,
but there's also the power
that comes from being behind the scenes.
He wasn't there, but he was right there.
If you only knew
You'd wish that you were in my shoes
You just keep on using me...
Clarence Avant is a complete original.
A badass and a legend.
He's a very incisive thinker.
A historian and a maker of history.
That's who Clarence is.
Clarence Avant,
from a two-room schoolhouse
in North Carolina
to the boardrooms of Motown,
and MGM, and everyplace.
James Brown told me,
"White folks just, you know, respect him.
They scared of that nigga.
Scared of him."
Oh, you get in a crowd
Of high class people...
His advice, per word,
is probably worth more
than just about anybody I ever dealt with.
You knew if you were making a deal
with Clarence, there was something there.
You always got the truth from Clarence.
You got it straight. You got it quick.
I don't know anybody else like Clarence.
Clarence is the final word.
He became that mentor for us all.
He became that godfather.
The godfather.
Clarence is the godfather.
Oh, you just keep on using me
Until you use me up
I can't make speeches.
That's not my... That's not my life.
I make deals.
This is interesting.
Absolutely no fucker's giving me
a check...
for doing this. I might say anything now.
That's the goal.
Well, no. Then I'm gonna...
I'mma say I don't know anything.
Mm-hm. Fortunately, there's other people
who will tell us stories as well.
You don't know anybody
who can tell my story.
Yeah, well, I don't know about that.
Clarence is one of my favorite guys.
I think Clarence exemplifies...
a certain...,
a certain level of street smarts
and savvy...
that allowed him to move
into worlds that...
nobody had prepared him for
and say, "I can figure this out."
Do you remember the first time
someone ever said you're the godfather?
People call me that.
People can call me anything.
People have called me a son of a bitch,
so what? That's part of life.
I was managing a club
in Newark, New Jersey.
Teddy Powell's Lounge.
Teddy was a concert promoter.
He had Sam Cooke and Jackie Wilson,
people like that.
Teddy Powell was a legend.
So these legends...
He was like a sponge.
He absorbed the best of everybody he saw.
I was in my 20s, I guess.
So, Joseph G. Glaser came in one day,
and he owned a company
called Associated Booking.
He represented Dinah Washington.
And Dinah was rough.
So Mr. Glaser heard me argue with her,
and he was laughing, so...
And he wanted me to be an agent.
He said, "You're a great salesman."
What did I want to be an agent for?
You know, Clarence was a guy who...
wasn't looking for the job
he ended up with.
I said how the fuck was I gonna be
a goddamn agent,
and writing reports up
and all that shit, and...
You know, that's not my life.
Not at all.
But he, um, he's the guy
that really made Louis Armstrong.
Joe Glaser was
Louis Armstrong's agent, manager, and...
You know, they were together
for virtually all of Louis' life.
He managed Dave Brubeck,
Duke Ellington, Sarah Vaughan,
and Billie Holiday.
He had a lot of acts.
And he talked Clarence into getting
into show business as a manager.
Joe Glaser was tough...
He was a tough guy.
Joe was connected.
They were all Al Capone's folks.
Prohibition creates
the modern entertainment business
in America.
The underworld creates
a network of restaurants, speakeasies,
places where you can get drinks,
and they provide entertainment.
So, when Prohibition was repealed,
the structure created
by Prohibition remained.
Now we have all this talent,
and they need management.
And so, the gangsters
who were involved with the speakeasy world
are still there, and now
there's a legitimate business to be run.
I was too young
to know about Al Capone.
The fuck did I care
about Al Capone, man?
I mean, shit.
I wasn't worried about nothing like that.
No, I don't ask Mr. Glaser questions.
I just learned from him.
I think we had, at one time,
about 70% of all the black talent
in America to book.
They owned everything:
the booking agencies,
the publishing companies,
record companies, and the clubs.
Business people...
Not mafia. It's business.
Oh, please.
Please, Clarence.
Somebody was holding a guy by his heels
- out of the window,
- Remember that.
and his overcoat fell all over his head.
And I said, "What's going on up there?"
They said, "Jackie Wilson's trying
to renegotiate his contract."
- True story.Nat Tarnopol.
- It's true.
Those were some heavy days, man.
Yeah, I used to
walk Joe Glaser home at night.
We would talk about people
who came in the office,
how bright they were
or how dumb they were.
Did they belong with us?
Um, did... did we want to be around them?
And Clarence was one of the favorite guys.
Clarence was an honorable,
decent, hardworking guy
who tried to do the right thing.
And, you know, in the agency business,
with managers and people like that,
it's hard to find
a person quite like that.
I think that Joe recognized this
about Clarence
and thought, "This is a guy
who should be looking out for artists."
I think that possibly, culturally,
the guy was smart enough to think,
"You know, if I'm gonna have
all of these great artists,
Louis Armstrong and Sarah Vaughan,
wouldn't it be great
to have an African American,
or a black, or a Negro...
or whatever we were at that time...
uh, be, you know, a conduit for them?"
Clarence became the manager
of Little Willie John,
and later on, Jimmy Smith.
The thing I was always
most impressed about Clarence with...
was that he once represented Jimmy Smith.
The greatest jazz organist who ever lived
by a country mile.
Jimmy Smith was a genius with the organ.
He was a creative guy,
but a character.
Very eccentric.
Quincy and I became friends
because after Jimmy made
that "Walk on the Wild Side,"
everybody wanted Jimmy.
The first time we met,
I had just convincedPhilips Records
to start a record label called EmArcy.
We gave $100,000to Dizzy Gillespie,
to Art Blakey,
to Gerry Mulligan, to Cannonball,
to Clark Terry, et cetera.
And so Clarence came in,
and he wanted $450,000 for Jimmy Smith.
And I said, "Wait a minute, man.
You gotta be crazy, man.
You're smoking something!"
And he went out and got half of that.
He didn't get 450,
but he got half of that from Creed Taylor.
We were on then.
What was your
first impression of Clarence?
Can't put that on camera.
No, it was love at first sight. It was.
And respect.
It's a tremendous respect,
'cause he has no BS in him.
Not a drop.
It's having that person
that you can...
really count on.
I mean, they really count on each other,
you know.
If you talk to Quincy about, you know,
"Man, shit, man,
Clarence is a son of a bitch, baby.
He's a true gangster, man."
Now he used to...
Quincy'd go off on a tangent.
"Yeah, man. Shit. Him, Sinatra, baby,
that was shit."
You could never get him in the corner.
That's part of the game, man.
If you don't ask, you don't get.
Life is about one thing: numbers.
Nothing else.
What did Tina Turner say?
"What's love got to do with it?"
Not a fucking thing, man.
That's why I tell people, life begins
with a numberand it ends with a number.
Love ain't got nothing to do with shit.
It's all about numbers. Nothing else.
I had a manager,
and he had his offices in Carnegie Hall.
Every now and then,
I would just walk to the window
and stand there and just watch life go by.
And one morning,
I looked across the street,
and there was this man...
Now mind you,
this man was dressed to the nines.
Do you hear me?
And so, he would come,
and he would stand in the entryway,
and he would look north,
and he would look south,
and then he straightened out
his shoulders,
he took his bag,
and he stepped out of that building,
and down Seventh Avenue he went.
And he was this color!
Do you hear me?
Oh, my God.
I'd never seen anything quite like it.
Every description of Clarence,
he was one of those guys.
He was a man about town,
he was all in the clubs,
he knew all the cool people.
I took him to the Copacabana...
With Lena.
And we went backstage
to try to get Diana Ross.
And they said, "Miss Ross is resting."
I said, "Resting my butt, man.
Lena Horne's out there. Get out here."
Clarence had
a little bit too much lemonade that night.
He had to get a cab
to carry me into my apartment,
15 West 72nd Street.
I was drunk for two days, man.
I ain't been drunk since.
- Oh, please.
- No, I haven't!
- Oh, please.
- That's why I put ice in my wine.
When I was dating Clarence,
there were so many,
you know, interesting places,
restaurants, and people.
And we would visit, like, Harry Belafonte.
It was, I mean,
it was one thing after another.
I love you, I love you
Baby, I love you...
At one time, Jackie modeled
for Ebony Fashion Fair.
Ebony Fashion Fair
was a tour that would bring high fashion
to black neighborhoods.
The Ebony Fashion Fair models
were, like, the first models
that black people really saw
on the runway.
So, for a black guy in 1960-something,
a Fashion Fair model was, like,
a big deal.
When Jackie met me,
I got into Birdland free.
I got into the best restaurants, you know,
because you knew certain people,
you know, like Mr. Glaser.
You know, hey!
He'd always have a car pick me up.
And I thought, "Who is this guy?"
And then one day,
I guess he was really trying to get...
win me over.
And for some reason, he mentioned...
how much he had paid
the Internal Revenue Service.
"Okay, so if you paid them that much,
that must mean that..."
Guess he was trying to tell me
how much he made.
Hey, I told you. Life begins
with a number, and it ends with a number.
- Thought it was important.
- Life's about numbers.
I had been on a tour with Jimmy Smith
and Dizzy Gillespie.
That's where Lalo was playing the piano.
Pianist, composer,
and arranger of Dizzy Gillespie.
We were touring around the world.
And so, when I get back,
Mr. Glaser come into his office.
"I'm sending you to California."
I said, "For what?"
"This piano player
with Dizzy wants to be in the movies."
Because when you got into TV
and television,
there was big money.
And Mr. Glaser thought
Lalo had what it takes.
And what am I gonna do
with a white composer?
He said, "The same god damn thing.
You heard, Negro.
Get the fuck outta here and go to work."
I really didn't know nothing
about movies, man,
and television, shit.
Mr. Glaser said, "Don't worry about that."
And I met every head of every studio.
He knew everybody,
but he knew the head
of music publishing of MGM.
And he... Right away, he got me a movie.
Right there.
Clarence ran the ship for Lalo.
I'm sure that a lot of white people
were very surprised
when Mr. Schifrin showed up
with his manager.
They probably thought he was his valet
or his driver.
You know, Lalo did over 100 films.
Over 100 fucking films.
Bruce Lee,
he liked my music so much,
he offered to teach me martial arts.
He made me build a dojo in my house.
I became a black belt.
Lalo's probably the main guy
who set him up in the publishing world,
where he learned
that a copyright is a gold mine.
I had told Quincy,
"I'll never get married,
never live in California."
Well, Jackie got pregnant.
So I took her out to see my mother
in Summit, New Jersey,
where I'd bought my mother a house.
I remember him calling her
while we were dating,
and he would always refer to her
as Gert.
And his mother gave a beautiful tea
for me at her home.
My mother took me in the kitchen,
and she was talking to me.
She said, "Boy, what's wrong with you?"
I said, "I ain't ready to get married."
She said,
"You used to ask me about your daddy,
and now you talkin' about
you ain't gonna marry that girl?"
We got married.
And then...
moved to California.
When he came to LA,
it was like, he was starting his life
all over again with Jackie.
He was changing his life.
California soul...
I was just looking for a house
'cause Mr. Glaser told me to find a house.
Baldwin Hills was the shit.
Ray Charles and Nancy Wilson lived there.
Everybody lived in Baldwin Hills.
So one day, Mr. Glaser came out.
"Looking for a house?"
"Yes, sir."
"Where?" "Baldwin Hills."
"Where the fuck's Baldwin Hills?"
I said, "That's where Negroes live."
Back then, there were no Negroes living
in Beverly Hills.
But he said,
"You find a house in Beverly."
I said, "Sorry, I can't afford it."
"I didn't ask you that."
Found a house.
California soul...
Glaser is the one who bought the house.
Of course, I borrowed the money from him.
Didn't have nofuckin' money.
I had a few dollars, but not like that.
He was dealing with all the studio heads
in the old days.
And got away with it.
He's just fearless, man.
Absolutely fearless.
I remember all those guys
were talking about,
"The man's holding me back."
He was in there talking to Lew Wasserman,
the mofo.
And meeting with him
and getting things done.
Lew created the agenting system,
you know. And ran the studio.
And Clarence understood
the power in connectivity
and the power in relationships.
Lew Wasserman was a good friend.
I used to meet with him,
just the two of us, have lunch.
Whatever time he had a fund-raiser
or something,
he'd call. "Clarence, I need you."
Most of the fund-raisers were held
at Lew Wasserman's house.
And I would always see Clarence
at those events.
Was he the only black person
at these events?
I'm... saddened to tell you
that that may be the case.
Clarence has that something
where he can connect with...
And he has.
He came a long way
in a short time.
Lalo worked a lot for David Wolper.
David Wolper did documentaries.
So... I get a call
from Mr. Glaser one day.
"You gotta go meet Art Modell."
"Who the fuck is Art Modell?"
"He owns the Cleveland Browns."
"What do I want to meet him for?"
"Well, your friend David Wolper
wants to do a documentary.
And there's a guy who plays
for the Cleveland Browns
named Jim Brown. Doesn't want to be
in the documentary.
You gotta convince him."
Jim Brown was a football player.
He's a running back,
who is as big as anybody on the line.
And if you watch film of Jim Brown,
he's just brutalizing people.
Number 32, Jimmy Brown,
makes tissue paper of the Giant line.
There's no stopping the great man.
He sets the Cleveland team on fire,
and it's a five-alarm blaze!
You have this guy called Clarence Avant...
that everybody's talking about,
but nobody seems to understand
just exactly what his official title was.
I couldn't tell you now exactly what he...
Was he an agent, a manager, a lawyer?
...what he was.
And so, we're talking.
"You wanna be in the movies?"
He just looked at me.
"Yeah. You own a record label?"
I guess he said,
"Who the eff is this schmuck?"
He had a definitive... personality.
You know, he was Clarence,
and he wasn't gonna be no different
than that.
And he had his way of operating.
And I liked that.
We put him into movies,
which he did.
One of the big films was The Dirty Dozen.
Jimmy Brown as Napoleon Jefferson.
"Jefferson is any man fighting
for recognition against the odds,"
says Brown.
"I think I understand him pretty well."
He was a presence.
There was something so credible about him.
He filled the screen.
Clarence was a guy
that you really had to see
to put certain kinds of deals together.
Woman, what're they looking at?
It's the first time
they've seen a black man before.
I became the first black actor
that had a love scene
with a white actress,
which was Raquel Welch.
He does this movie
with Raquel Welch, 100 Rifles,
and there's a picture of Raquel Welch
with her arms around his big, black chest.
People are like, "Whoa!"
I got threats.
America was not indulging
with interracial love scenes
on their... silver screen.
These values
that America said it believed in...
were not being manifested for us.
Jim Crow was everywhere,
racism was everywhere.
It's a very heavy time.
It's a time of great conflict.
I never marched.
If I got hit, I'd hit back.
I'd be dead now.
There were so many question marks
at that particular time, racially,
and Hollywood had its own power base,
and here was...
an African-American man in Hollywood
that was defying
what Hollywood was supposed to be.
I don't let nothing get in my way
about anything that I wanna do.
That's the way I think.
People say, "Where'd you go to college?"
Shit. Ninth grade is as far as I got.
I learned a lot
from a guy called Joe Glaser.
A lot.
When Mr. Glaser died,
I told Jackie, "We have to move."
'Cause I owed them money.
One month goes by, three months go by,
the fourth month...
Mr. Korshak called.
"Clarence." "Yes, sir."
"Your loan is forgiven." Hung up.
I don't have problems.
I have friends.
It's almost like he took a situation...
and saw there was a lot of power
in this situation...
and decided,
"Okay, I landed here,
and I'm gonna take everything here
that's here
on this little island
that I just landed on,
and I'm going to use it for good,
and I'm gonna use it to lift up my people,
and I'm going to use it
to push down barriers,
and I'm gonna use it to open doors,
and I'm gonna use it for the right thing.
I'm gonna use it for justice."
He got involved in wanting to be
an entrepreneur in his own right.
So in 1970, I launched Sussex Records.
Clarence is very proud of the name.
I don't know if he's mentioned it to you.
The two things people want more.
Think about it.
Success and sex, what else is new?
"Success," that means suc... sex... sex?
Success and sex.
Sound like something him and Quincy
was talking about high.
He goes his own way.
He doesn't feel the need...
to fold himself into a pretzel
to be popular.
He just, you know...
m... moved to his own drum beat.
Over the course of between,
like, '68 and '71 or '72,
Motown basically moved from Detroit to LA.
And so, Clarence opening Sussex
in LA in the early '70s...
He's in the moment
where LA is becoming the new center
of black commercial music.
I was involved with him
on his formation of Sussex music.
At that time, I can't think
of very many black entrepreneurs
in the rock and roll business,
let alone on the true business side
of the music scene.
And Clarence was one of those kinda guys.
I didn't want anybody to tell me
who I had to sign,
so I... the first artist
I signed was Dennis Coffey.
- The first 45 I ever bought.
- Really?
I gave you money
from the first time I had some money.
I spent my allowance on that.
- You did?
- Yes.
Dennis Coffey,
the Detroit Guitar Band, and "Scorpio."
And I had no idea...
that Dennis Coffey was white.
It just was a funky, funky, funky record.
"Scorpio" went to number one
on the black charts,
and then the black DJs found out
that Dennis Coffey was white...
and were very upset,
and they called my father
and said,
"You didn't tell us he was white.
We didn't know he was white."
My dad said,
"Who gives a shit what he is? It's music."
It speaks to the fact
that Sussex wasn't a stereotypical label.
Everybody wanted to be Berry Gordy.
But I changed that around.
So what I did,
instead of going with black acts,
I had white acts.
Wadsworth Mansion,
the Gallery. The Gallery had a record
called "It's So Nice to Be with You."
Number one.
Ah, it's so nice to be with you
I love all the things you say and do
There was nobody else
doing anything like that
in those days.
A black-owned label
that had all these different things.
That's theunorthodox Clarence,
not gonna follow a script,
not gonna do what he's supposed to do,
not gonna do what's expected.
I met Rodriguez
by way of Dennis Coffey, and...
I liked his music. Liked his sound.
He saw the world was a bigger place.
He's saying that there are so many voices
that ought to be heard,
I want everybody to hear what I hear
in these voices.
He was one of my favorite artists.
But you couldn't give it away.
It took 40-some years.
And it started in South Africa.
So, long after Sixto cut his records
in Detroit for Clarence,
and everyone thought
it was over and done with,
he developed this cult following
in South Africa.
South Africa is under apartheid.
They ban the album.
The government literally...
It was against the law
to sell any of his albums.
Something you call unique...
The white-run South African government
was brutally oppressive.
And Rodriguez's music
was inspiring people to oppose
the policy of apartheid.
As the tears rolled down your cheek...
There was just
so much bootlegging going on with that.
But for the movie,
nobody would've known about it.
I watched my dad
smile through that movie like,
"Oh, finally,
everybody gets to see what I saw.
I wasn't crazy
to take a chance on this guy.
I wasn't crazy to put all my money
in for this guy.
I wasn't crazy to mortgage my house.
I wasn't crazy. Like, I was right!"
Rodriguez was, to me,
he was a brilliant writer.
So was Bill Withers.
Grandma's hand clapped in church
On Sunday morning
Grandma's hands
Played a tambourine so well
Bill came to see me.
He said, "I've been to all the labels.
I guess you'll be the last one."
I said, "Well, you have to wait and see."
I remember getting a taste
of Clarence's personality when...
...I went up there,
then they had cassettes,
and I played "Grandma's Hands" for him.
And he got up and ran around the desk,
and I thought,
"What kinda guy is gonna run..." You know.
You didn't hear many records
of people talking about grandmothers,
but everybody has one.
It just resonated with me, and I said,
"Wow, this guy has got it!"
He said, "Do you have enough songs
to make an album?"
And I said, "Yes."
That was it.
Oh, Jesus Christ. Bill.
Ain't no sunshine when she's gone
I mean, come on, man.
Ain't no sunshine when she's gone
And she's always gone too long
Anytime she goes away...
- Bill was not a...
- He wasn't obvious.
He wasn't an obvious star whatsoever.
And Bill will tell you that himself.
"I don't know what he saw."
Bill Withers is interesting
because he expands what...
commercial black music is,
in that Bill looks like a folk artist.
I know, I know, I know, I know...
He's sitting there with a,
you know, acoustic guitar on a chair,
but around the frame of him
was a really great, funky R&B thing.
I know, I know, hey
I oughtta leave the young thing alone
But ain't no sunshine
when she's gone...
Clarence is like that. He's, you know...
He's a little to the left, you know,
uh, in terms of how
he sees and does things.
And that's what makes him unique.
Clarence made
some great choices musically.
"Lean on Me" was not my choice
for a single.
I wasn't some kid.
I mean, I was 30-something years old,
and, you know,
I had a whole life behind me.
And so,
I will always be indebted to Clarence
because he provided the big leap for me.
From being
a professional aircraft mechanic
over into this world.
Sometimes in our lives
We all have things...
The person that's responsible
for your transition,
that's the key to you changing your life.
Lean on me
When you're not strong...
Those songs are just so huge.
I mean, even today. It's...
You can't really...
spend a lot of time listening to music
without hearing some Bill Withers.
- They've stood the test of time.
- Yeah.
We will never forget "Lean on Me."
That's as famous
as "The Star-Spangled Banner."
We still work every day
at what we do, right?
Still trying to do that.
After all these years.
Still trying to find that one classic
that will stand the test of time.
Clarence did it... a few times.
Well, I'm from Slab Fork, West Virginia.
What's the odds of two guys
from Slab Fork, West Virginia,
and Climax, North Carolina,
making a fuss... in Hollywood?
Yeah, I had some hit records.
You know. Hey.
I think that's the real tribute
to Clarence's ear,
is that he had a feeling
for whatever wasn't being done
at the time.
Must've been kind of a lonely place
for him.
For all that kind of brusqueness
and loudness,
it's never a one-way street with him.
He's not just talking
to be heard, but he's talking to provoke.
I wanted to do a tribute
to Smokey Robinson,
and I was talking to Don Cornelius,
but Don said,
"You need to talk to Clarence Avant."
He gave me a number, I called Clarence,
and he answered the phone.
"Hello, who's this?"
I said, "This is Danny Bakewell."
I said... He said, "Well, who is that?"
And he says... So I said,
"Well, I'm the head
of the Brotherhood Crusade."
And, you know, he said, "Well,
what do y'all sing?
What's the name... What's your group?"
"We don't have a group.
This is a civil rights organization,
we wanna talk."
He said, "I don't talk
to no civil rights organization.
I'm sick of these niggas."
You know? Then he hung up the phone.
So I was like, "Now, wha... Who is this?"
So... I called back.
And he said,"Man, I told you,
I don't want to do no civil rights.
Okay? I'm trying to make some money."
I said, "What I was doing is talking
about self-help,
you know, and mutual aid.
We have to do something for ourselves,
have to stop standing on the sidelines,
asking white folks to do something
for us that we could do for ourselves."
He said, "I like that!
That's what I'm all about!"
And as I began to know Clarence,
I realized that he was a lone stranger
in the world he was operating in,
because he didn't dance, he didn't sing.
You know, he was in the music business,
but he was so much more than that.
Right now, we turn our attention
to the Soul Train Gang,
the Soul Train Line,
and a master storyteller,
Mr. Curtis Mayfield.
You would have never heard
95 percent of black artists
without Soul Train.
Soul Train was the weapon
of the movement
that it didn't know it had,
which was joy.
Before Soul Train,
there had never been
a weekly program show on national TV
that featured black people,
for black people,
by black people.
Not even anything close to it, really.
And the amount of white people
who would experience black culture
for the first time in an undiluted way,
that was... Soul Train was that for them.
And they couldn't get enough of it.
Welcome aboard, you're right on time
for another sweet ride on the Soul Train.
The unbelievable Al Green coming at you,
right after this important message.
Haven't you forgotten something?
Hey, aren't you Frederick Douglass?
Yeah, we studied about you
in school yesterday.
About how you were a slave,
and how you took your own freedom,
and then began to fight for freedom
and dignity
for all our people.
Say, but what did I forget?
Are you gonna go out into the world
with your hair looking like that?
You have a black TV show
that is sponsored primarily
by a black hair product company.
Dick Clark had been the king
of youth culture and dance TV
since he joined American Bandstand
in the '60s.
Almost every act who would pop,
in any sense, played Bandstand.
Every new dance that became hot
around the country was on Bandstand.
So Bandstand was a big, big force
in the culture.
And Soul Train was...
really, really threatened that,
because it was a new style for America.
Soul Train, you know,
was obviously doing very very well.
And Dick Clark had...
um, unfortunately created
a competing dance show.
Hello! Thank you very much!
Let me get untangled
from this cord here.
He starts this show
called Soul Unlimited
and gets
a pseudo-Don Cornelius host on it.
Did you like Japan a lot?
Yeah, it was pretty good. Yeah.
He's on ABC. It was gonna come on
after American Bandstand.
It's gonna have a big preview.
Also, its advertisers.
It came to Dick Clark
versus Don Cornelius.
My father actually was fighting
for his life.
Dick Clark approached me,
and he wanted me to endorse it.
Now remember, I was a consultant at ABC.
That's why he came to me.
Dick Clark offered me a lot of money
to do it.
I said no.
So, what I did,
I went to New York.
I said, "If you let Dick Clark go for it,
I will put people
in the street that will..."
I didn't know what I was gonna do.
You say all that shit,
the white people got scared.
He had the ability to walk in a room,
tell people
exactly what they needed to hear.
And if you were smart, you listened.
And the decision was made bluntly.
ABC would not move forward
with Soul Unlimited.
So I won that battle.
Clarence came to my father's aid
and did his magic.
I'm Don Cornelius,
and as always in parting,
we wish you love, peace, and soul!
Yeah, I helped a lot of people, but...
my job, so far as I'm concerned,
is to move us forward, period.
That's all he's done.
That's all he's ever done, anyway.
You know, um...
just help those who need help.
But he's never forgotten, you know...
the hardships.
Never, you know, forgotten the pain.
'Cause equality drives him.
But I do think it's from his childhood.
We were poor, man.
I'm talking about poor, poor, poor.
We had chicken feet soup,
we were so goddamn poor.
Now if Quincy was here, he would say,
"Well, you're from Climax."
That's not true.
I was born in Greensboro
and raised in Climax.
There's no better place
for Clarence to come from than Climax.
Because... his whole career
has beena series of climaxes
that shook the world.
There were eight children,
and me being the oldest.
Gertrude is my mother.
I just have
all these great memories of her.
Yeah, she loved telling me stories
about her childhood, which wasn't easy.
She did domestic work
since she was six years old.
You know, it wasn't...
Her parents weren't technically slaves,
but I mean, they were.
And she was fast with her mouth,
you know, and she didn't take any crap.
They're very similar,
my father and my grandmother.
I know some people in the South
where Clarence grew up.
And I got a phone call one day
from a good friend of mine,
and he mentioned the word "sweet potato."
And Clarence's nickname is "sweet potato."
'Cause I would say,
"Everybody's got a sandwich except me!"
"Well, you ain't got one.
Get your ass outta here."
And I would be so embarrassed
because everybody would have...
And they would tease me.
"Sweet potato."
That's all I had to carry to school,
was sweet potato.
Growing up, you know,
being born in 1931 in the South
and living under Jim Crow law,
he saw a lot of things
that nobody should see.
How do I describe racism then?
The KKK was all around us.
My mother would just tell us,
"If you hear a car coming, run and hide,
lay down flat."
You know, just to protect yourself.
Was your father
ever with you during your childhood?
Nope, I was born out of wedlock.
Well, I saw him a few times.
He'd never give me shit,
so he didn't mean anything to me.
But I didn't have a father...
per se.
I had a stepfather.
Gert, she was married
to a gentleman called Eddie Woods.
And I certainly didn't get along with him.
I knew he was very mean.
I knew he was very abusive.
I knew he was physically abusive.
My mother used to get
the shit beat out of her.
And I was tired of it.
And I was like 12, 13 years old, I guess.
So one day,
I put some rat poison in his food.
So my...
brother who is deceased, Weldon...
Poochie, we called him...
Poochie said, "You better not eat that."
I had to leave.
I went to my Aunt Annie
in Summit,New Jersey.
And I had never been on a train before
or anything like that.
And after going to New Jersey,
it was a whole new world
that I had never even...
couldn't even imagine.
If he hadn't left the South...
and especially, he was in the Carolinas
in the period he was in...
the opportunity for him
to move forward was very limited.
Especially someone
who didn't have an education,
wasn't part of any black elite.
The Great Migration had started
in the '20s, really,
and '30s, and '40s, '50s,
scores of black Americans went north.
So Clarence ended up in New Jersey,
which is where his aunt lived.
She was the first of the Avants
to go north.
A few years later,
I got this job at Martindale-Hubbell.
It was a law directory.
"What did you do at Martindale-Hubbell?"
What did black people do in those days?
There was no such thing
as black executives,
so you just carried books
or whatever you were doing.
I used to watch television
or read the papers, and...
my whole life changed...
...when Emmett Till got killed.
The Emmett Till case
is one of those seminal events
in race relations in America
that really pointed out...
the disparity of justice
when it came to black Americans.
Emmett Till was a young kid.
Summer vacation, you know, went down south
with his relatives to Mississippi.
The story goes that he saw a woman,
a white woman,
who claims that he whistled at her.
And he was found
the next morning brutally murdered.
His mother brings the body
back to Chicago,
and everyone says
it should be a closed casket,
but no, she wants the world to see
what happened to her son.
The photograph of Emmett Till's body is,
you know, for kids today, it went viral.
It was the day after he was killed.
I started crying and screaming...
how badly I hated white people.
The gentleman that run the place,
his name was Mr. Nofer.
He came out...
told me to come in his office.
Everybody knew that I was fired.
And he said that they were all terrified
for him. Terrified.
Not only because it was clear
that he was going to be fired,
but, you know, you are a black man,
even in New York,
going off about white people.
In America.
I went in his office and...
I sat on the couch.
He said, "I understand your emotions."
So he said, "I'm not gonna fire you,
but you can't do it again."
That clearly changed my life
in terms of civil rights,
or whatever you wanna call it.
It just changed me.
Memphis is a confused
and shocked city tonight.
No one can believe what has happened.
It's been just a little over an hour
since Dr. Martin Luther King died
from an assassin's bullet.
Reverend Andrew Young,
King's top lieutenant,
was at the hospital awaiting word
and described the shooting.
As he came out of his room,
on the edge of the balcony,
he was shot.
And we thought a firecracker had gone on.
Most of us were downstairs
on the lower level.
And we immediately ran up and saw
that he'd been pretty badly wounded
and sent for the ambulance,
and the police, and everybody.
A man dies when he refuses
to stand up for that which is right.
A man dies when he refuses
to stand up for justice.
A man dies when he refuses to take a stand
for that which is true.
In the wake of Dr. King's assassination,
we wanted to do something.
Clarence had come up with the idea,
Clarence and Jesse,
of putting on a big concert,
a five-day kind of music festival.
Oh, who really cares?
Who's willing to try
Oh, to save the world
To save our sweet world?
We happen to have with us, in the studio,
a very dear friend
who is the executive producer
of that film.
He's a man
who has helped many, many careers
during his career, including my career,
and I'd like for you
to welcome him warmly,
Soul Train Gang, Mr. Clarence Avant.
All right.
- How're you doing, Clarence?
- A little nervous.
- I'm a little nervous.
- You of all people?
- Yeah.
- Clarence...
I'd like to get into how you got involved
in Save The Children,
as its executive producer.
We were able to work
with Reverend Jesse Jackson,
come up with an idea
that this film should be made
after looking at all that talent
out there,
and so, in 1972, we filmed it.
As a dealmaker,
he's the best in the business.
There's no negotiating dealmaker
in Hollywood
or New York better than Clarence Avant,
just none.
I used to say,
"Why do ya'll all defer to Clarence?"
He said, "Clarence Avant's the only one
that has the muscle,"
was the term they used,
"to get a lot of these artists."
'Cause you gotta remember,
in the '70s, now,
the mob had a lot of control
in the music industry.
I said, "He knows gangsters?"
He knows how to talk to everybody.
He's not with them,
but he knows how to talk to 'em.
I was looking for a tall, imposing man.
And in those days, everybody was bright,
darn near white, and curly-haired.
They used to call it "good hair."
And this very short,
dark-skinned brother came in,
who was very emphatic, you know,
like a guy like your uncle at...
at a reunion.
One of the things that's unique
about Save The Children,
and one reason the roster is so great,
is that it was able to bring together
the three dominant labels
in black music at that time,
which was Motown, Stax,
and Atlantic Records.
No other event ever brought all
of that talent together on one stage.
The film that resulted
featured the best and the brightest
of black acts of the day.
Jesse wanted to have a black crew.
Black this, black that, black that.
Clarence told me I was the director.
He said, "You the producer,
and you the director."
We want black folks out there
on them cameras.
Oh, baby, give me one more chance
Show you that I love you
- Won't you please let me
- Back in your heart
Oh, darling, I was blind to let you go
Let you go, baby
- Not since I've seen you in his arms
- I want you back
- Yes, I do, now
- I want you back
- Ooh, ooh, baby
- I want you back
- Yeah, yeah, yeah
- I want you back
It's also got brilliant,
brillant documentary footage
of Sammy. There's an amazing section
where he comes out
to an all-black crowd in Chicago,
and they're booing his ass.
If you look at that Save The Children,
he was clearly nervous.
He was nervous
'cause they caught him hugging Nixon, man,
and they booed him.
Clarence convinced the naysayers
to give Sammy a place on the show,
so he could state his case to the crowd.
Disagree, if you will, with my politics...
Good, but don't...
I will not allow anyone to take away...
the fact that I am black.
And then sings, you know,
"I Gotta Be Me."
Daring to try, to do it or die
I gotta be
And people are crying
at the end of this thing,
and I'm... You're damn near crying,
because this is not just a performance.
This is a man who's really saying,
"No, I am one of you, and I...
Don't judge me this way."
My father has this great sense of music.
He understands the vibration of music.
He understands that music changes
the way you feel.
He understands the power of music.
I used to call him Magic,
because he connects all of these worlds
and makes them his reality.
He's in the music business.
He's in the movie bu...
He's in the entertainment business,
but he's also in politics.
There was a guy running for Congress.
He would've been the first black guy
from the South.
I'm Andrew Young.
My preparation for politics
and my previous experience
was somewhat different
from that of most of my colleagues.
That's me in St. Augustine, Florida.
Andy really didn't know me,
and I really didn't know him.
So I call Andy.
He called up and he said,
"You Andy Young?" I said, "Yeah."
He said, "You running for Congress?"
I said, "Yeah."
He said, "In Georgia?" I said, "Yeah."
He said, "Nigga, are you crazy?"
I said, "Well, I don't know.
I probably am."
He said,
"Well, if you crazy enough to run,
I'm crazy enough to try to help you.
What do you need?"
I said, "I need everything."
I said, "Suppose I can deliver...
Isaac Hayes...
and the Rare Earth."
He said, "I don't have any money!"
I said, "I didn't ask you that."
Andy said, next thing he knows,
he's driving down the street,
there's a big billboard on the street,
saying, "Concert coming for Andy Young,"
and he's got all these artists coming.
I mean, it was just...
it was just magical.
So they showed up,
and in the pouring-down rain.
We had 30,000 people.
And that launched my political campaign.
My dedication is not just to blacks.
My dedication is to anybody
in this society
that has not had an opportunity
to enjoy all of the rights
and privileges of this society.
The one thing Mr. Glaser said to me...
You have no rights
unless you have the right to vote.
I believe in, heavily,
in the political system. Period.
His attraction to politics,
again, is first and foremost
as somebody who likes people
who have that thing that nobody else has,
and seeing that. And responding to that,
again, that way of just seeking people out
who you would be surprised he knew about.
He called me and he said,
"Do you really know this Jimmy Carter?"
I said, "Yeah."
He said, "You not gonna get me
out here supporting
some Georgia cracker..."
"...and get embarrassed."
He said, "I want to help him."
I decided to mix it up
like a scrambled egg and get involved.
You can't go just one way, one color.
You have to look at the whole system,
and I look at the whole spectrum
of this country.
When Jimmy Carter decided
to run for office,
Clarence pulled most of Hollywood together
to support this peanut farmer
from Georgia.
So I think he organized
one of the first big fundraisers
for Jimmy Carter.
You go to a Clarence Avant event,
it would be Lew Wasserman,
Quincy Jones, and Barbra Streisand,
and Diana Ross,
and Berry Gordy.
So it was the fact that he had this net.
They always had people at the house.
We were either going to an event,
or an event was at our house,
or they were always involved.
Ted Kennedy was always at the house.
He saw very clearly
that celebrity was power.
Look, I think Clarence
is somebody who cared about politics
because he recognized
that economic progress,
cultural progress, social progress,
political progress are all tied together.
Three-one pitch.
There's a drive into left field!
That ball is going, going, and outta here!
Henry Aaron has just tied Babe Ruth
in the all-time home-run parade!
Clarence called me up and said,
"Andy, you know Hank Aaron?"
I said, "Yeah, he lives
around the corner." He said,
"If he's about to break
Babe Ruth's record,
he's supposed to make some money."
He said, "I'm not talking
about his salary,
I'm talking about him having endorsements.
Will you tell him that I'm not crazy
and I'mma call him?"
I said, "Well, I can't vouch
for you not being crazy!
But I'll tell him
that you've been very helpful to me
and he oughta talk to you."
I wasn't getting any offers.
I was somewhat reserved.
I was somewhat, um...
I thought that everything
should come to me.
I explained to him, I said, "Hank,
I'm not really a sports fan. But...
I'll try to help you."
I said,
"You gotta understand numbers, man.
If you haven't made a deal
before you hit 715,
who the fuck cares?"
That was the magic number
in baseball forever.
No one's gonna break Babe Ruth's 714.
Now, Babe Ruth, you have to understand,
has become a mythological figure.
He was the Bambino.
He was larger-than-life.
Played for the New York Yankees,
which is the greatest baseball franchise
in history.
He won a lot of championships,
so there's an investment in him
as this almost-mythical figure embodiment
of baseball,
embodimentof the American Dream.
So, when this black man
begins inching closer to his record,
there's, like, a national sense of crisis.
He gets letters, I mean,
flooding into the stadium in Atlanta.
"Nigger, don't do this."
"Nigger, you'll never...
I'll shoot you on the field."
That was the hardest part.
I wasn't able to enjoy it.
Clarence, on the other hand, was...
the type of person that,
if he wanted something,
he would go after it.
He wanted me to be part of Coca-Cola.
He wanted Henry Aaron
to be part of Coca-Cola.
So what he did, he said,
"I'm gonna go up here
and talk to these SOBs," you know.
He walked up to the president's office
in Coca-Cola. Now, this is unheard of.
Mr. Austin met with me.
Right to his office,
and looked him in the face...
You look at him
nose-to-nose. And you don't say hello.
You just go,
"Niggas drink a lot of Coke."
He said, "You got
a nigga drinking Coca-Cola here,
and he does well,
plays ball in your town.
I want him to be part of your family."
He got the biggest contract for me
that any sports figure had ever had
back in the days when I was playing.
One ball and no strikes,
Aaron waiting,
the outfield deep and straightaway.
Fastball, it's a high-fly
to the deep left center field!
Buster goes back to the fence! It is gone!
What a marvelous moment for baseball!
What a marvelous moment for Atlanta
and the state of Georgia!
A black man is getting a standing ovation
in the Deep South
for breaking a record
of an all-time baseball idol!
And it is a great moment for all of us,
and particularly for...
It was...
his connection to Clarence
that helped him to know
how to market his value.
That's been a marriage made in heaven
because Hank has probably given away
more money
to poor kids
through his Chasing the Dream Foundation
than he made in all the years he was
in baseball.
Henry Aaron would not be Henry Aaron
if it were not for Clarence Avant.
When you're young,
you don't know your worth sometimes.
He was telling him,
"Yo, your worth is this.
This is the money you should
be looking for out of this position
because they pay your counterpart,
somebody who's white, Asian, or otherwise,
that does the same thing, or less,
this amount of money."
Getting true value...
is one of those things that,
as Clarence grows,
this becomes a touchstone.
Clarence put together a tribute
to Muhammad Ali,
and he got ABC to do it,
and then he demanded that they hire me
as the director.
And they said,
"This guy doesn't direct these things!
This is a black show, yeah,
but we don't need... I mean, come on!"
So I told this guy,
"You got one week.
I'm using Stan Lathan.
You either in or you out."
He went into somebody's office
and banged on their desk
or did whatever he had to do
for me to get a call
from my agent, saying,
"Guess what, man?
They want you to direct an ABC special!"
Muhammad Ali,
the greatest fighter of all time.
And there's Clarence,
at the end of the career,
kind of giving him that last pop
that helped him solidify his reputation
as a personality,
not just a fighter.
It's gonna be a killer!
And a chiller!
And a thriller!
When I get the Gorilla in Manila!
Right on.
All right!
It's so funny that Clarence
is content to be behind the scenes,
because he just registers
so impressively and so powerfully.
And so, I think that because of that...
hunger, you know,
that people just want to be
in business with him.
You know, I just... I don't know
how I got involved with anything, man.
I just took shots.
So, in my mind, I've been like this, man.
Everything you want to be involved in.
The whole idea... of the '70s,
when I was growing up,
into the '80s was blacks wanted
to own and control...
their own institution
and their own culture.
Clarence becomes an embodiment
of that because he's a link
between the black business world,
the idea of black entrepreneurship,
and black people
controlling their environment.
He's able to work with white institutions
to get money from them,
and he's tied into black music,
which is driving a lot of the messaging
around black identity,
and black confidence, and black power.
There was only one radio station
that I knew of that was owned by blacks.
So I decided to...
expand my whatever,
and I bought a radio station.
A local radio station,
it was in Inglewood.
When I bought it, I changed its name
to Avant Garde Broadcasting, KAGB.
When you're in the sales department
at a radio station,
you're always hustling.
So you're always trying to sell that time,
that 60-second time buy.
So, I mean, you just have to go out there
and sell sell, sell.
It's still rough on black radio,
but when Clarence was in the business,
it was even worse
because none of these major advertisers
would even consider advertising
with a black station.
Even McDonald's hadn't decided
that they were going to get into
the black people business.
Overtly, Clarence is doing well.
He has Sussex Records, which is
very successful with Bill Withers.
He has KAGB radio station,
but it seems like he was overextended.
He bought that radio station.
I hated that damn thing.
I thought it was a dump.
Bill Withers did very well,
but, you know, you make money,
and you sign all these other acts,
and they sell two copies,
and... it doesn't mean shit.
One thing about the independent labels
in the '70s is that you were at the mercy
of your distributors, which meant
you weren't getting money for 3 months,
no matter how many records you sold.
And you're still also getting bills
from pressing plants,
and you're getting bills
from people who make the labels,
and then you have the fact
that he had this radio station,
and he's cross-collateralizing his money
to try and keep both afloat.
And all of a sudden...
you broke.
One day, the IRS came into his office,
snatched everything
from the records to the desk,
padlocked the joint,
and said, "You owe us money."
It's all gone.
When we lost the radio station,
I think his regret was,
"I didn't really listen to the people
that were trying to help me,
the people who knew
how to run the radio station.
And I was too arrogant to listen."
You know, he did say...
He'll never say that, but he did to me.
I think it was probably
the first big failure that he faced,
that he didn't see an immediate solution
on the horizon.
Bill and I had fights,
but that's part of the game, man.
Arguments, not fights.
I don't fight nobody.
Then there was the business part of it,
you know?
No hard... I understand, you dig?
then it became time to move on, you know?
I'll never forget it.
Bill was like...
How do I put this?
I got very emotional when he left...
I couldn't pay him.
With Bill Withers, you know,
that was a heartbreaker.
My daughter was maybe three
when she got to know him,
and she loved him.
But he decided to leave Sussex.
I had to explain that to her, too.
It was hard for my dad to let go.
He was getting very upset
because I think he felt insignificant.
I remember my dad and I used to swim
all the time.
I'd always get on his back.
He'd be like the big whale,
and he'd swim me to the deep end,
and we'd come back,
and then he'd watch me swim
and make sure my backstroke was good.
You know, we always had a good time.
All of a sudden,
I remember, just one day...
it stopped.
My mom said to me one day,
"You know, City National Bank
may take our house."
I didn't know what that meant,
"What are you talking about?"
"Well, you know, we're... This is closing,
Sussex is closing, Bill Withers..."
everything just...
Then we lost the radio station.
Everything crumbled at once.
My house was in foreclosure.
I was gonna sell the house,
'cause I was broke
and I was gonna get the loan
and then sell it eventually.
And Jackie said, "Why didn't you tell me?"
And well,
"I didn't wanna tell you."
Just a matter of time, things,
I don't know. It's...
You don't leave.
You don't leave.
Where are you going, anyway?
And, you know.
So you're in this together, and you just,
you know, wait it out. And, um...
But you have to face it.
You can't make believe it didn't happen.
He had a lunch with me,
and he was in financial trouble,
told us he's going to have
to fold the company,
and we proved
to be "Here Comes Santa Claus."
And he was forever grateful
because it bailed him out of a hole
that he...
possibly would lose everything he had.
I was very connected to the man,
and I didn't want to see anything
bad happen to him, you know.
Little help from this friend
and that friend, and...
in time, we just pulled through.
It's a long life
in this game, you know.
You wanna keep your friends.
Very important.
And to know who your friends are,
very important.
It's my friend. Shit, I have friends.
I think Jackie
was the force that said to Clarence,
"When it comes to family, we can do this."
Since I've known Clarence
for almost 50 years,
I've known all of his kids, you know,
from the very beginning.
Clarence was a great dad.
He was a great husband.
It feels good to see Clarence
and his wife.
You know, these young cats, man,
in this business.
They look so amazing,
and they still look
like they got wedding cake on their feet.
Like they just walked
off of a soul wedding cake.
Really, he's been a mentor
and someone... and not just in business.
In life.
He actually probably saved my life
from one of the most...
It would've been
one of the biggest mistakes I ever made.
I was thinking about
doing something different in my marriage.
Like... ending it, basically.
And I called Clarence,
and he's like, "What's going on?"
I say, "Hey, man. You know,
I don't think...
I think I'mma get a divorce."
And he says, "A what?!"
I says, "Divorce." And, you know,
when you talking to another guy,
you think that he's... it's guy talk.
"I know what you're going through.
This, this, and this.
You'll be all right."
That's what I was expecting.
What I got was...
"God damn it! God damn it, Jon!
What is wrong with you?!
You're different!
You're not supposed to be
like those other guys!"
And, I mean, he cussed me up one side
and down the other.
And he said, "Get your shit together!"
And he started crying on the phone.
And he's like, "I'm hanging up!"
And he hung up.
And... it blew me away
'cause that was the total opposite...
reaction that I expected,
and he made me think.
And about a week later,
we were at breakfast, and he was like,
"So, how's it going, kid?"
And I'm telling him,
I was like, "You know,
it just feels
like it's all falling apart."
And it just... flowed out of me.
And, um, he grabbed my hand,
and said, "You gonna be all right, kid.
Just take a step back
and you deal with one thing at a time."
Big Jon's like my son, man.
He's a good guy.
He checked me,
like a father would check his son.
Saved my marriage, saved my life,
and humbled me very quickly.
My wife got pregnant,
and then it was a bigger surprise
that we were having twins.
So, when the kids were born,
he called me.
"The first one I named Clarence.
The second one I named..."
I said, "Come on, man."
He said, "No, it's too late.
His name is Clarence."
He showed me a black family structure.
He showed me a black businessman.
He showed me how women
are supposed to be treated,
how you juggle a career and family.
I think Clarence Avant has one of
the biggest hearts in the universe.
I think he also goes to great lengths
to protect his heart,
and I don't think he lets
a lot of people in.
He has countless acquaintances,
friends, associates,
but very few people that I think,
as he would say, he has inside.
But Quincy Jones is one of those people.
I know him, man.
That's why I love him.
I've loved him a long time.
Eternally, man. I love him.
Quincy is very, um...
He loves to share his emotions.
He's a very intimate person,
and my father is not.
But it's very good for my father.
Ever give Clarence
relationship advice?
- Relationship advice?
- Mm-hmm.
No, but I've asked him to stop putting ice
in my Chteau Ptrus wine.
Yeah, I do.
Just trying to get on my nerves.
- I swear to God.
- It's all he's trying to do.
When you see Clarence and Quincy,
it reminds you
of whoever you hang out with, your homie.
Like, no matter they age,
they still busting each other's balls.
Oh, wine is just like Pepsi-Cola to me.
- Pepsi-Cola, man?
- You just put ice in it to...
Get outta here, man.
It's like ice water. Same shit.
You have to be
from Climax to think like that.
I was then a young lawyer,
fresh out of law school,
working at CBS Records
in the law department.
Universal Pictures released a film
called E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial,
which became
one of the most successful films
of all time.
Universal decided
that they would put out
a storybook box set album,
to be produced by Quincy Jones,
executive produced by Steven Spielberg,
narrated by Michael Jackson.
The only problem was Michael Jackson
wasn't signed to Universal.
Michael Jackson was signed to CBS.
Michael did something. Quincy knows.
He made a whole CD...
and didn't get permission.
No one had asked permission from CBS,
and then head of CBS was
a man named Walter Yetnikoff.
He viewed this as an act of betrayal
and a declaration of war.
He sued Universal,
got a temporary restraining order
to stop the album, um,
and all of us end up
in a big conference room.
Universal has its litigators
at the meeting.
Sony has its litigators at the meeting.
Michael Jackson's representatives
are there.
Steven Spielberg's representatives,
Quincy Jones' representatives...
And in the middle
of this big conference room
is Clarence Avant.
And I turn to the general manager
of CBS Records,and I say,
"This Clarence Avant,
what is he doing here?
Who does he represent?"
Without missing a beat, he said,
Clarence represents everyone here."
So, I met with them.
Worked it out.
The rest is history.
He was able to maneuver
and resolve so many issues.
It was crazy!
I'm like, "How was this guy doing it?"
But he was that go-to guy.
Michael wanted to thank my dad
for his help with E.T.,
so a few years later,
they asked him to promote the Bad tour.
Michael wanted me to do his tour
with just him.
And I turned Michael down.
I said, "I'm not a fucking promoter."
I walked into his office one time,
and he started saying,
"Man, you know,
Quincy put me down with Michael.
They want me to do some tour."
I said, "The Bad tour?"
"Yeah, I guess."
"Is that a problem?"
You know, I'm thinking to myself,
"What a great opportunity!"
And he said,
"I don't know what to do with this."
So, you know, I said, "There's one person
who I know, who I've dealt with,
who actually knows all the ins and outs
of every building that is important
for this tour in America,
And that's Al Haymon."
So we brought in Al,
and that completely locked it down.
Inside the arena,
one of the biggest
and most elaborate stage sets ever built,
erected in just four days.
Ninety thousand packed the park,
ten thousand more
than for Springsteen, Genesis, or Madonna,
and they weren't disappointed.
Bringing brighter days
They're all in line waiting for you
So know the truth
You're just another part of me
Al could do everything that was required
of the position they had put Clarence in.
Clarence looked upon Al
as a high-achieving son.
You know, like,
"This is one of my mentees,
and look at what he does."
Everyone was asking,
"Are you gonna be in the record industry
like your father, follow his footsteps?"
It's... I think Al Haymon taught me,
those are some... deep, deep shoes.
It's too much. It was too much pressure.
In the wake of
the fall of Sussex Records,
Clarence dusts himself off...
...and starts another label.
Taboo, you know, the forbidden.
That which is out of reach,
that which you shouldn't have.
The unorthodox,
the unexpected, the surprise.
Classic Clarence.
And as they join us to do
their latest single on the Tabu label,
an absolute smash
entitled "Take Your Time,"
let's welcome from Atlanta, Georgia,
the SOS Band.
The first time I ever heard
the name Clarence Avant,
it was the SOS Band's...
Baby, we can do it
Take your time
Do it right
We can do it, baby
Do it tonight
Baby, we can do it
Take the time, do it right
We can do it, baby
Do it tonight
The '80s brings in technology,
so, literally, the texture
of the music sonically changes.
The LinnDrum,
808, all kinds of synthesized keyboards.
All this music that in 1972 was made
by human beings alone
is now made with computers
of various kinds.
The producer now didn't need
a house band.
And it becomes much more, even more so,
about the masterminds of the music.
And it tends to be one- or two-man teams.
I was managing these guys,
Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis,
and Clarence was looking
for someone to produce SOS Band.
I told him, "I've got these guys.
You know,
they're with The Time, you know,
but they're producers, you know.
They want to do some other things
outside of Prince."
He saw that these guys had talent.
He gave them the shot,
the first real shot.
And so we went in, and he said,
"You'll be producing some songs."
We're like, "Whoa!"
Our then manager/agent,
he asked her to leave.
And he said, "Now, I got a problem
with what you're asking for."
We're like, "Oh, no, Mr. Avant.
Whatever you need,
if we've asked for too much, you know,
we can do it for less or whatever."
He said, "No.
She didn't ask for enough.
You can't do a record on that.
You need some money for this,
some money for that,
you need some money for this."
You know, and we were like...
I... At that point in my life,
as a black man,
I had never met an honorable man
who would give you more
than you asked for...
and enough that you needed.
That told you everything you needed
to know about him,
- right in that first meeting.
- Yes.
People always talking about
Your reputation
I don't care about your other girls
Just be good to me
How does it feel to have
the biggest record on the planet here,
folks? Anybody wanna...
We give all the thanks to Allah,
and Jimmy, and Terry,
which came in the nick of time.
And so, Tabu became alive
after Jimmy and Terry got involved.
If you wanted Jam and Lewis
to produce you,
they had to do at least five tracks.
You got five songs, five more copyrights.
Clarence spent a lot of time with them,
schooling them,
teaching them the business.
He had a flurry of hit records.
Uh, he had the SOS Band.
He had Cherrelle.
What was Cherrelle's song?
I didn't mean to turn you on
Didn't mean to turn you on!
Then one day,
we brought Alexander O'Neal
into the studio
and sent Clarence the tracks.
He said...
"This motherfucker you sent me,
what's that motherfucker's name?"
I said, "Alexander O'Neal."
Who is he?
"He Irish or something?"
And we said, "No, he's black, Clarence."
"O'Neal! What kind of name
is that for a black man? Huh?
Yeah, well, have him come on out."
- Right.
- You know?
There's never any question
You will be my Saturday love
There's never any question!
I'm like, how did he...
He said "querstion." I love that.
There's never any...
- Question
- Uh-uh
- You will be my Saturday love!
- You can be my Saturday, Sunday, Mon...
Sunday Monday Tuesday...
We knew
that all we wanted to do was make
our godfather happy.
Never on Sunday
Monday's too soon
All these records were records
I was partying hard to.
Dancing my ass off to in the clubs, so...
in my mind, he was partial man,
partial god in terms of tastemaker.
Clarence managing, uh, uh...
Jimmy and Terry
helped make the Janet album.
What're you doing? You're working!
Not anymore, Lou.
I'm gonna be a big star!
Janet was signed as a 15-year-old.
She had made a couple of records
with her father.
Come give your love to me
Nobody knew what to do with her,
nobody was listening.
And I think what Clarence's real gift was,
is finding people who had ears.
My father said, "Wait a minute!
I have these two young guys
from Minneapolis.
They worked on SOS.
They gave me a couple hits.
They went to number one,
and they're living in LA.
We should just put them together."
Break it down!
Right here!
Jimmy Jam!
Very special, one man's name that...
means the world to us.
He means the world to us.
A gentleman named Mr. Clarence Avant.
And I remember after the Control album--
The phone was ringing more.
People were always at the house
on a Sunday.
It didn't matter who it was.
One day I'd walk in, it's Bobby Brown,
or Whitney Houston.
Everybody was coming.
Everybody just started flooding the house.
Questions, questions.
"Can you help me with this deal?"
Or, "Can you... "It just happened.
In 1983,
I went to run a place
that was then called MCA Records.
I probably had the job maybe a week,
and I get a call from our chairman,
Lew Wasserman,
and he says,
"Clarence Avant would like to have lunch
with you."
And I remember we went
to the Chinese restaurant up at the lot,
and we're sitting there talking,
and he said,
"Would you like any help
putting MCA
into the black music business?"
And I said, "Yeah, I really would."
He says, "That's good, 'cause I'm gonna
tell you what to do anyway."
And that's what I say about Clarence:
he was never looking for permission.
Which is still an unusual thing
in the culture, you know,
the idea of a black voice being heard
the way it needed to be heard.
One of the things
that's magical or interesting to me
about Clarence's career
is that there's all this history
in the '70s
of him having a record company
and stuff.
When I encounter him as a young writer
in the '80s,
it feels like he's transitioned
to another place
in terms of what his role is
in the industry.
Clarence was the guy
that could place you.
RCA, Polydor, CBS Records, Epic, all that.
And I begin to realize that
it wasn't simply that he was having
young black executives be vetted
for, like, white executives.
It was that the white executives
were listening to him.
He staffed
our entire black music label.
I, right then, figured out,
he's the godfather.
All of us would go to him
from time to time
to ask about how to get someone
that we wanted,
how to make sure we didn't lose someone
that we wanted to keep.
Because, you see,
Clarence knows everybody.
You know, he knows everybody.
And everybody could trust him.
Say, well, if Clarence said it,
it must be all right,
'cause Clarence is not going to get you
out there on something
that's gonna backfire.
What's extraordinary about him is...
he... he's got this instinct
on young people, young executives.
He's been so involved in the careers
of so many young people,
not just in the entertainment industry,
but just throughout.
He's always a person
that people say, "You shouldtalk
to Clarence about that."
Every deal I had, every contract I got
as a record executive,
I would send it to Clarence.
What to ask for, what not to ask for,
what to push back on,
what not to push back on.
Usually it was about,
for him, it was... money.
What's the money like?
And was it on par
with what white executives were getting?
If he thought it was rightfor you,
it was about the right thing for you.
I'd gone
from Berry Gordy's pet assistant...
I took care of his animals...
up to his assistant, and on and on.
And I'd hit this kind of ceiling
with the company,
and that's when I heard from Clarence.
He helped me construct a deal
at Warner Brothers Pictures
that allowed me to develop television
and film projects,
and ultimately,
to take some of those things to Quincy,
which we got made.
If you wanted to get a job in Hollywood,
in the record business, or as an actor,
or with the studios,
Clarence was the guy you went to.
And Clarence was the guy
that saw that you...
were taken care of,
that you weren't, uh...
You know, we're in a business
with a bunch of assholes.
You got five of 'em sitting here.
You have to understand something:
when you walk into this town,
you are green.
You have no concept...
You know the music business,
but you don't know the business of music.
Making your money is the creative side.
Keeping your money is the Clarence side.
I'mma give it to you raw.
Clarence makes sure
that you don't get fucked.
Straight up,
there's a lot of fuckin' going on
in the entertainment industry,
and if you are important
to the overall greater good,
he's gonna step in like Super Black Man.
When we went to meet him,
we also knew that...
you know, he handled Jimmy and Terry.
So, we needed to know him because...
- we wanted to be Jimmy and Terry.
- Yeah.
You know,
we wanted to follow in their footsteps.
- Exactly.
- And he was the gatekeeper.
I remember running into L.A. Reid
and Babyface.
And I remember
people thought we were in competition
with each other,
and we'd never even met
the brothers before.
But we met them, and L.A. said,
"Hey, can you introduce me
to Clarence Avant?"
And I said, "Yeah. Absolutely, we can."
First, let's just talk about
hearing about Babyface,
'cause I was trying to sing.
I was in college,
and one of my boys called me.
He said, "Man, give it up." "What?"
"You ain't heard of Babyface, dawg?"
He was terrible.
"Dawg. Look here, dawg."
I didn't put two and two together.
Babyface came from The Deele.
I want to be with you
Wherever, ever you are
I only think of you
On two occasions
That's day and night
I go for broke
When I heard that shit...
I go for broke
When I heard the motherfucker say...
I go for broke
I was in the mirror every day.
This nigga's yodeling!
This motherfucker's making yodeling hot!
Clarence set up a series of meetings
with all of the top record executives:
Jerry Moss from A&M,
David Geffen,
Joe Smith was at Capitol Records,
and Clarence was the orchestrator.
He was, like, sort of the mediator,
the orchestrator, pulling it all together.
The next meeting was Clarence set us up
to go and see Clive Davis.
I said, "You know,
they're gonna complement,with anE,
the kind of operation that I had...
in the urban field."
Clarence, without question,
was an absolutely essential part
of how that deal came through.
The one thing that stands out was
that Clarence said,
"You must own your masters."
They were artists.
They were just singing.
You know, maybe if that's all
it was ever gonna do,
they would've lasted...
ten years.
But Clarence said, "No, this how you put
the company together.
This how you do business.
This how you take all
of this talent that you have,
open it up,
and grab other people that are talented,
and now put them out."
If you look at the run of talent
that L.A. and Face signedto LaFace...
Take TLC,
which reinvented
the vocal group tradition.
Don't go chasing waterfalls
Take Toni Braxton.
Love shoulda brought you home
And you take Outkast,
which became one of
the most innovative groups
in the history of hip-hop.
So fresh, so clean
So fresh and so clean, clean
You have a really powerful label.
I mean, one after another,
we became a powerhouse.
He was an advocate for...
all of the creative people, you know,
the writers, the producers, arrangers.
Motown really expanded the power
of black music as pop music.
My girl, ooh...
When I sold Motown, I was thrilled
when Clarence became
the chairman of the board.
Alain Levy, chairman ofPolyGram,
said it's a three-year deal.
I think it was either 600...
$650,000 a year.
with a $250,000 bonus,
two-year option.
I got a piece of paper, said, "Damn!
Second mortgage is gone,
the first mortgage is gone.
I can pay Herbert and Jerry back.
Free at last."
Hey, hey, hey...
Alain Levy made me
the new president of Motown.
It was to bring in new life.
I had Uptown Productions.
A lot of new groups out there,
making music that I think could turn
this company around.
Well! Who are these new groups?
Yo! Check this out!
I'm funky fresh Dr. Jeckyll
So cool up in the place
Uptown, Uptown!
I said, "Wait a minute."
I said, "What the fuck is this?"
Levy gave Andre $250,000.
Nobody asked me.
I was trying to transfer some
of the energy of Uptown into Motown,
so that artists would want to come.
Andre and I...
disagreed on a lot of things.
End of the day, it's a culture clash.
I think we'd call it, in medical terms,
organ rejection.
They gave you a company that was broken.
It'd been losing money for 12 years.
They couldn't expect you to turn it around
in a year or two!
I had only been president for 18 months.
They chose to make me the scapegoat.
Clarence was...
He was my protector.
My dad was... "Okay,
even if he deserves to be fired,
I have to get him his settlement package.
Because, in fairness,
if he were white,
he would get aseverance package.
This guy,
he needs to get aseverance package."
Yeah. I had a few arguments with Levy,
so what?
He was one of my closest friends there.
I have arguments with everybody. Shit.
I got Clarence Avant backing me up.
So the meeting lasts about three minutes,
and they said, "All right. No problem.
We'll take care of that."
He will sit at his desk with a pen
and a piece of paper
and he'll write it out,
"You know what? This will happen to this.
Okay, this was this and this."
And he formulates a map
of how to resolve it,
and then he puts it into action.
What he was doing, it had to do
with seeing
that everybody was treated right.
Seeing that things were fair,
that things were just.
He's been the only one like himself.
And, you know, a combination
of Reverend Sharpton, Martin Luther King,
Malcolm X of the record business.
Sometimes, Reggie, I say to myself,
"How in the fuck did I get involved
in all this shit?"
He does so much and sacrifices,
it's amazing.
People have trusted him for,
you know, all their lives.
And, I think, for me, it's something
that was conditioned from him.
The current job that I have
as an executive at a talent agency...
uh, lends that as well.
Whenever we saw anyone in distress
after Clarence helped us,
we'd say, "'All right, Clarence.
You gotta help these guys.
You gotta help these people."
And Clarence would help.
And I'm not just talking about music,
I'm talking about civil rights.
I'm talking about anything that had to do
with the rights of people,
creativity, just being able
to do your own thing,
to voice your opinion.
Clarence gave you a place to do that...
and would protect you while you did it.
How you living, Biggie Smalls?
In mansion and Benzes
Giving ends to my friends...
He was only 24 years old,
was just starting what was expected
to be a promising career in music.
But tonight,
it's only what could have been.
The rap star had just left
the Soul Train Awards Party
and was sitting in his car
when a vehicle drove by,
and someone opened fire.
When Biggie died,
I saw another side of Clarence.
And he was really, really affected
by Biggie's death.
After Biggie's taken
to Cedars-Sinai Hospital.
It strikes everybody at the hospital,
after they get through the grief,
that they're all in danger.
And particularly, Mr. Sean Combs.
Since Biggie was on his label,
Puff was the likely next target.
Usually, Clarence gets the call
from a position of fear
I called him like most people call him.
He's the one to call
when we're in trouble.
Because they worried
about people at airports
looking for him, they drove to San Diego.
From San Diego,
a flight was booked to go to Miami.
So again, this was sort of masterminded
by... Clarence Avant.
'Cause we in the music industry,
everybody's getting caught up
into something.
You know, we were young, talented people,
never been hit with wealth or power.
You know, I'm sitting here
because he kept my ass outta jail,
like two, three times.
I'm cured now, though, everybody.
I'm cured. Everything's good, you know.
Y'all can have me over for dinner.
Everything is good,
thanks to the godfather, Clarence.
I would hear,
and I dunno if I'm overstepping,
but I would hear about people
that were in very serious situations
when it came to... life.
Just life in general.
And they would say, "The only person
that can help you with this...
is Clarence Avant."
When I was...
...having difficulties
with Death Row Records
and Suge Knight,
there was a lot of call
for violence and action.
And the message that I received
from Clarence was just to be me
and to think about those kids
that's looking up to me,
and the youth that are inspired by me.
So one action that I create could be
a million actions that'll be followed.
You know, I was young and...
considered a gangster, or a thug,
or whatever you wanna call it,
and I didn't really want to hear it,
but I had to reevaluate the conversation
and say,
"Well, this man is a legend. An icon.
If he's taking his time
to deliver this message to me,
he must see something in me."
So it just made me take on
a stance of peace,
and it'll always be about peace
and be about love,
and to confront violence with love.
Clarence is the type of person
that wants everyone to do better
because he understands
that there are strength in numbers,
and the bigger that we are together,
the bigger we will be as a entire culture.
Never asked us for nothin'.
As far as monetary and stuff like that,
I just think that he does it
out of the love,
which makes me do it out of the love
with a lot of these young guys.
I'll be honest with you,
I've talked to, you know,
Jimmy, Terry,
L.A., Babyface, a lot of the guys,
so it was like,
"So, whatever happened
when he did this for you
and did that for you?
Did... Was there a cost to it?
Did you get a bill for it?"
"Nope! Never got a bill for it!"
I don't know how he made a living.
He never seemed to charge anybody.
Well, everybody comes to me for this,
that, this,
that, you know. And so,
if I like the people, why not?
He had an attitude.
Did you know he had an attitude?
He does not suffer fools lightly.
As much as he loves a good laugh
and a good story,
he does not suffer fools.
People get upset with my attitude,
but I don't give a fuck, you know.
He has this facade of being gruff,
and mean,
and "I don't give a damn!"
and "Get the fuck outta here!"
And blah, blah, blah.
All of that is just a facade.
In the middle of all thatMF-ing...
is an extraordinary,
elegant man.
Part of the magic of Clarence is
there's so much more there
than what you see.
He doesn't talk in terms of emotion.
If you press him on...
"What is love, Clarence?"
"Do you love something
or someone loves you?"
He pushes back on that.
I think some people will see Clarence
and go, "Who's this gruff guy?
He's talkin' about money all the time."
That seems to be his overt way
he likes to present himself,
'cause he always talks about life
as numbers.
Well, life is about one thing: numbers.
Life is about numbers.
I told you, man.
Life is about numbers, didn't I?
- Yes, you did.
- Shit!
You come with one,
and you end with one.
When is your birthday?
I remember when he collected
the million dollars for Bill Clinton,
which was unprecedented
in what that was gonna mean
for the consolidation of a voice
inside that,
and this is how you really are heard.
You know, this is how the...
He was also completely unfiltered
about this is how this game works.
You either join a country club,
or you remain a goddamn caddy.
I'm not a fuckin' caddy.
So, Bill Clinton
and I became very close friends.
He's real quiet
at first. He's reserved.
He doesn't exactly
throw himself at you. Um...
But I just liked him.
And I just kept being with him,
and I thought, "God, this guy's special."
He has put Bill Clinton's feet to the fire
in front of an audience...
to the point
that he will ask the questions
as to why and how
we can be really comfortable
that, once you get this job,
all the promises that you're making
to this community,
you're gonna really stand by them.
You know?
You know, like,
he would just straight up be like,
"Motherfucker, what're you gonna do
when you get the job?"
You know, I like that about him.
It's never gratuitous.
But if he has something to say
that's embellished, let's say, by a...
purple word,
he doesn't hesitate to use it.
I was invited to the White House
three months after he became president.
The fuck do I care
about Lincoln's bedroom?
I didn't see Lincoln
when we went in there,
so it doesn't make any difference to me.
Fuck it, man.
So we stayed, big deal. That's all.
Nothing like that don't move me.
hangin' out with Bill Clinton...
is a long way from Climax.
My favorite story...
is... deeply personal.
When the Republicans were trying
to run me outta town,
Clarence Avant looked at me and he said,
"Don't even think about it...
Don't even think about it." He said...
He said, "This ain't gonna happen...
unless you give in."
He said, "Don't spend a lot of time
on this in public. Do your job.
Let people see you working.
It ain't gonna happen."
You know, it was so Clarence.
You know, it was like...
now that's maybe selfish of me to say,
but that's my favorite story
'cause, you know,
when it's raining outside,
if a guy comes up with a little umbrella,
you feel pretty good.
And Clarence, for me,
has always had that umbrella.
Not just for me,
but for anybody he thought...
needed a handout.
Anybody he thought...
needed somebody to be a wall.
The guy's a rock. In every way.
So, Clarence is viewed in the party
as being a go-to person
if not, you know,
part of that group of folks
that are called the king and queenmakers.
He's the kingmaker.
He not only is satisfied with that,
he realizes that that's where
he can be most effective,
and frankly, where he's most comfortable.
He would have parties at his home
that had great musicians
and great friends there.
And Clarence would be
at the grill barbecuing.
Jackie would be
in the kitchen hustling around.
All the kids would be playing together.
You could not be an African-American
candidate in this country
running for a serious office in anything
and not have consulted with Clarence Avant
on the way that things should be done.
The first fund-raiser I went to,
one of the first things he invited me
to was... from...
He wasn't even a senator yet...
was for Barack Obama.
He called me
about a young man in Chicago...
...named Barack Obama.
When it came time
for the convention in Boston...
uh, and I remember Barack called Clarence.
He said, "Clarence, they want me to speak,
but I'm not even prime time."
Who do you think made
that fuckin' telephone call?
To somebody in John Kerry's camp.
I don't know who the fuck it was...
He made that famous speech.
Barack Obama!
They moved Barack to prime time,
and then the whole country sees,
"No red state, no blue state.
These United States." It changed history.
There is not a liberal America
and a conservative America.
There is the United States of America.
There is not a black America,
and a white America,
and Latino America, and Asian America.
There's the United States of America.
Did I ever think
I'd see a black president?Hell no.
It wasn't in the card game.
When he said he was gonna run,
I thought he was nuts.
I had a conversation with him
and explained why I thought
the moment was right,
and I'm not sure that Clarence
actually thought I could win,
but he was nice and encouraging anyway.
There is that generational issue,
and Clarence,
like Vernon Jordan and others,
they are really the bridge...
from a time where there was
almost no opportunity
to a time where doors began to open.
And they led the way
in politics, in business,
in the arts, in saying,
"You know, make room for us."
For most of their lives, oftentimes,
that door was just open a crack,
and success was tenuous.
And I would never challenge them...
sticking with some of the folks
who'd brung 'em to the dance.
When they were both running
against each other,
I remember going to my father,
and I said, "Listen, I like them both,
and I'm not against Hillary or anything,
but I feel like this...
Something's happening with Obama,
and I really want to be involved,
they're asking me to do things, and...
But if it's gonna be weird
with the Clintons...
He was so great.
He looked at me and he said,
"You're a grown woman.
You can make your own decision."
And I said,
"I'm really not against anybody."
He said, "No, go."
And then of course, he said,
"And he's not gonna win."
And I said,
"Dad, he's gonna win."
He said he had...
No chance in hell, is Obama gonna win.
- Didn't you?
- Yep!
Nicole, in coming
on-board very early on my campaign,
in her own way,
she was expressing values
that had been taught to her
by Clarence and Jackie.
And part of that is independent thinking
and... making up your own mind, and...
uh, I... I'd like to think that...
Clarence didn't necessarily mind
being proven wrong.
Don't think he didn't rub it in.
Obama! Obama!
- Thank you.
- Obama! Obama!
Thank you!
God bless you,
and God bless
the United States of America.
After the inauguration,
I became an ambassador to the Bahamas.
You know, and then the best part
for me about the whole ambassadorship
was having my father's longtime friend,
as a Secretary of State, swearing me in.
She didn't do a lot of ambassadors.
He came to Washington, and I saw this...
I had never seen it before...
of beaming with such pride.
For him, it was like all this shit
finally came together to make sense.
I'm sure that he was enormously proud,
and rightfully so,
because Nicole served our country well.
I did most everything
I wanted to do in life,
except being Warren Buffett
or Bill Gates.
Alex, what about you?
You ever feel pressured
to live up to your father's name?
- Oh, shit.
- What's that supposed to mean?
- Well..
- Let Alex answer the question.
- It's a big deal. See?
- Every day. Every day.
- Oh, I see.
- See?
Every day.
For sure.
It was harder on Alex
because of his gender, I think.
For me,
I had a different tape in my head,
which was,
"I'm saying yes to everything
because I'm Clarence Avant's daughter,
so I'm doing it.
I'm gonna do this. I'm gonna do this."
But it was always
because I was his daughter.
It was, like, amazing to be raised
from my mom and my dad.
But, you know, everyone was like,
"I need to holla at your dad!"
So it's kind of...
sometimes it's kinda crazy
'cause they take a lot of time. A lot.
They're taking the father-son time away
or, you know, son-father time away,
sometimes, it feels.
My father... I'll never forget it
'cause this, like, makes me cry.
Uh. Whoo.
It's like, you know, he's like,
"You know,
I don't know how long I'm gonna be here."
It's weird because sometimes people say,
"Shit, when he goes,
who're we gonna call?"
And for me, it's like,
"Who am I gonna call?"
It's tough.
It's tough.
I told him the other day,
I said, "If you left this planet tomorrow,
you fulfilled your purpose.
It was very clear what your purpose was.
That's... It's obvious."
And he never wavered from it.
Never. No matter what business he was in.
Didn't matter if he was promoting a tour,
running a record company,
running a radio station.
He knew his purpose, head-on,
was black people
are going to move forward.
He'll take something
that was impossible and make it possible,
because he'll bring the parties together
and make them understand the concept,
the overall vision of it.
Then he makes you realize
your responsibility
to whatever it is,
and then your responsibility
to give to the next one.
Each one, teach one.
Everybody's giving.
And then the spirit gets bigger
and bigger,
and the circle gets bigger and bigger.
And you keep touching, and moving,
and shaking.
And Clarence exposed us to that world.
Look at, like, that artistic journey
and put anything in between it.
Little Willie John is all the way
over here,
and Michael Jackson's right there
in the middle,
and then there's Bobby Brown,
and then there's Alexander O'Neal,
and then go another layer,
and then you go from Quincy Jones
to L.A. and Babyface, and Jimmy Jam
and Terry Lewis,and Teddy Riley,
and the list goes on and on and on.
It's not even like he's a bridge.
He's the way!
You know, we call him the godfather
as our parent.
You know, we're all children of Clarence.
We're all children of Clarence.
And it's weird
because sometimes you don't even know
the other children of Clarence
until you see them do something
or say something.
You're like, "Wait a minute.
You don't just say that.
That came from this bloodline."
What the fuck is this?
Now I'm getting nervous.
Do you think it's possible
for there to be another Clarence Avant?
There could never be another Clarence.
I don't feel comfortable
answering that question
'cause it sounds a little crazy.
I don't... I don't wanna...
That's not something
I'm not even trying to think about.
You only find one of those people.
You don't find more than one.
There will never be
another Clarence Avant.
However, his goal is to plant seeds,
so that there can be individuals
just like him.
We all trying to live by his...
the example that he set, a'ight?
Which is, you know,
share what you've learned
with the next generation.
He actually says...
he has said it to me many times.
He's like, "Baby, you gotta get
your generation to be active.
I'm tired.
This should be fun.
Oh, yeah.
- My main man!
- Hey, what's up? What's up?
- A star is born.
- That's right!
And so today,
my man,
they gonna put your name
on the Walk of Fame.
Thank you.
Sometimes in our life...
Because it isn't always about the money.
Well, he would beg to differ.
Yeah, I know. He would beg to differ,
but I would argue that
that's part of his game.
I believe what's most important
to Clarence Avant
has nothing to do with money.
And he will argue it all day long,
but I disagree completely.
It has to do with
how much did it help you,
help your family,
and help your people,
help everyone?
Thank you for doing what you do.
We will take this
to the next generation
and keep on going.
If he felt like you were
going out there and doing for others
as he's tried to do for you...
then I think
he would feel much better
about not getting that.
But if he feels like he did all this,
and you did nothing...
with it, and you helped no one,
then that was a bad investment.
- Yeah.
- Of my time and my love.
That's why we'll always have respect
for Clarence Avant, 'cause in the...
in the end,
he's got family. He's the first family,
and that ain't been about money,
that's about love.
Let's get that family together.
That's the example.
Oh, lean on me
Hey, man, I had a good life thus far.
If I wake up tomorrow morning,
and I'm Warren Buffett,
I'll have a better life.
You know, whenever I see Clarence,
he always gives me a hug,
and cusses me out,
and then ask me what I'm doing.
Know what I mean? He's like,
"Motherfucker, what are you talking about?
You know, I mean,
that's some bullshit!"
Clarence had that old,
by the bayou cussing.
"Now, you get your mother fucking ass."
You know, how you got
that inflection like that.
"You get your mother fucking ass!"
For me, he's called me
every kind of name
you can probably think of.
Clarence would be on the phone,
calling the president of a studio an MF.
What the fuck is he doing?
"What the fuck was that?
What y'all doing?"
You've never been cussed out
till Clarence cusses you out.
A Clarence curse-out was like...
"Wow, that was great."
Like Stockholm Syndrome.
"All right, motherfucker!
Let's go get paid!
Let's go get paid!"
Most affectionate "motherfucker"
anybody could give you.
It's almost likeJekyll and Hyde.
You can't believe that we're talking
about the same...
eloquent person that we know so well.
You know, I've been called motherfucker
so much by Clarence,
I thought "motherfucker"
was my middle...
Clarence has never cursed me out,
I am so proud to say.
Now, when y'all through with me,
how much y'all paying me for all this?
To bring the light
To bring the light, yeah
I'm sorry if this is a bore
But I wasn't fitting in here before
So I toast him tonight
When your trajectory was off
And couldn't find true north
Just lost
He would say,
"Protect him at all costs"
Then he would hang up the call
But we
We can still hug him now
After all these years
'Cause when the darkness comes
He's our chandelier
To bring the light
To bring the light, yeah
I'm sorry if this is a bore
But I wasn't fitting in here before
So I toast him tonight