Gone, all of it gone. The rapturous first-name greetings from the matires d’ of the chicquest restaurants in Hollywood, gone. Gone, the negotiations with Mo or Jo, Jay Lasker, Clive, or other Giants of Our Industry while getting fellated by $500/hour hookers. Gone, the lakes of cognac and great glittering dunes of blow. Gone too, after 20 years, even the scandalously young, blonde, megahottie wife, as seen on Baywatch, encamped now in the beach house they once shared, and there presumably seeing a lot of a more age-appropriate boyfriend while her lawyers drool at the prospect of relieving Jerry Heller of a huge hunk of the fortune he amassed over nearly five decades in the music biz. If he wants to get laid nowadays, he…rents.
Of the myriad stars to whose success he may have contributed over the decades, he has had to admit to himself that “I have very little in common with most of them.” He’s still tight with the singer of the long-forgotten Rose Royce, but a lot of the non-forgotten ones — Van Morrison, John Fogerty — are “horrible human beings who wouldn’t survive on the planet if it weren’t for their talent.”
There is no Tower Records now, nowhere to pleasantly squander an afternoon choosing which music to buy in part because of the cover artwork. Bobby Hilburn, who obligingly made a pudgy English kid with Jose Feliciano’s voice into a superstar for him by putting the pudgy English kid on the cover of the Los Angeles Times’s Calendar section, is long retired (and, to be fair, was known to absolutely no one as Bobby, and didn’t decide who appeared on Calendar’s cover). The Giants of Our Industry have been supplanted in too many cases by little pishers who weren’t even alive yet when the Billboard pop chart read like Jerry Heller’s client roster, little pishers who, without Google, might not recognize him as the most savagely reviled (at least on record) man in the history of the music business, cited in no fewer than half a dozen of XXL magazine’s 20 most malignant diss songs ever.
“Gang-banged by Jerry Heller,” rapped the future sitcom producer Ice Cube early in his career, “Getting’ money out yo’ ass like a mothafuckin’ ReadyTeller…You let a Jew break up my crew…Get rid of that devil real simple: put a bullet in his temple.” Little wonder that in the years of his greatest success and fame, when his was the most prominent white face in West Coast gangsta rap, Heller asked his young blonde megahottie wife to carry a gun in her purse, and didn’t enter the Calabasas mansion they shared until one of his bodyguards, either the 350-pound one, or the 375-pound one who’d been an offensive lineman in the NFL, had assured him it was safe to do so.
Earlier, he’d been Creedence Clearwater Revival’s agent, and Marvin Gaye’s and Van Morrison’s. He’d helped launch Elton John (the pudgy English kid with Jose Feliciano’s voice) and Pink Floyd in America, and reveled in having a knack for being in the right place at the right time; he’d actually discovered John Fogerty’s band, then known as The Golliwogs, when he went to a bar in San Francisco popular with nurses said to be easily seduced. Later, he’d become seriously rich booking many of David Geffen’s most acclaimed singer/songwriters, but lost much of his credibility at the end of the ‘70s when he leapt aboard the new wave/skinny tie bandwagon. Only too late did he realize that new wave had apparently been dreamed up by a cabal of rock critics intent on humiliating The Titans of Our Industry.
He licked his wounds and spent three quarters of a decade trying to reconcile himself to the prospect of never again earning more than a quarter of a million dollars per year, and to having to drive last year’s Cadillac. But his stock hadn’t dropped so low that little Eric Wright, maybe the most ambitious drug dealer in Compton, wasn’t willing to pay $750 to be introduced to him. Thank to Heller’s not sharing what he perceives as a common music-biz discomfort around darker-skinned African-Americans, the odd couple hit it off instantly, and formed Ruthless Records, sold a great, great many of them, and outraged the, uh, law enforcement community.