The aftermath of the Manson Family and its impact on Hollywood represents a pivotal chapter in the industry’s history. Following the notorious events associated with the Manson Family, Hollywood underwent significant changes that reverberated through the film community.
This period marked not only a shift in the cultural landscape but also influenced the trajectory of the entertainment industry, shaping the way films were produced, and shedding light on the darker side of fame and its consequences.
Understanding the repercussions of this tumultuous time provides a compelling insight into how Hollywood evolved and expanded in the face of adversity.
Manson Family: Transition to Carolco; A Period of Professional and Personal Significance
Following my departure from Manson International, I was presented with a professional opportunity at Carolco in the fall of 1986.
A former colleague from Manson, Warren Braverman, who had transitioned to the role of CFO at Carolco, invited me to join the company as the director of distribution services.
This role involved implementing the Business Information Systems program developed at Manson International, a pioneering foreign film distribution initiative. Carolco, located in the City National Bank building, was experiencing a period of exuberant tumult.
The success of their production, First Blood II, had led to unprecedented financial prosperity, with money seemingly overflowing within the company.
I shared an office with Ceci Vajna, the wife of Andrew G. Vajna, one of the owners of Carolco. The unique working dynamics at Carolco, where Andy and Mario Kassar shared an office and desk, mirrored our collaborative environment.
Ceci, having risen from humble beginnings, now led a lavish lifestyle, exemplified by her ever-changing wardrobe and her acquaintance with Nancy Kwan, a prominent figure in the entertainment industry
This period at Carolco was a time of great significance and contentment.
Ceci, my colleague at Carolco, was known for hosting extravagant Beverly Hills dinner parties, attended by both A-list celebrities and rising stars.
I often provided advice for her social gatherings, including seating arrangements to mitigate any discomfort.
In addition to overseeing “letter of credit” payments, which facilitated overseas printing and access to film elements, I managed the day-to-day distribution operations, working closely with producers and post-production teams on various film projects.
As the company expanded, the need for additional production offices became evident, leading to the construction of a new building at 8800 Sunset Boulevard.
Despite the company’s growth and bustling activity, there remained a sense of familial camaraderie at Carolco, with personal touches such as Andy’s mom, Clara, preparing fried chicken for birthdays and employees’ children enjoying Rambo toys.
Our offices were often visited by notable figures like Jerry Goldsmith, who once expressed distress over a musicians’ union ad, and Walter Hill, whose musical choices were influenced by Ceci’s persuasive ways.
These moments added a unique flavor to the lively atmosphere at Carolco.
Feeling troubled over the MPAA’s demand for an edit of Lisa Bonet’s scene in Angel Heart, Alan Parker often paced the office in distress.
A curious incident occurred when a carton of designer jeans with slashed legs arrived in my office, later revealed to be Sylvester Stallone’s preference. Stallone, who visited our office, engaged in banter before swiftly departing.
As our company expanded, noteworthy figures like Arnold Schwarzenegger made occasional visits, albeit not at the same time as Stallone due to an unwritten company policy.
The company landscape evolved as international sales became a significant revenue source, leading to substantial film budgets and interplanetary deals.
With the arrival of Peter Hoffman as Carolco’s president, the company underwent significant changes, including an IPO and the acquisition of International Video Entertainment (IVE).
However, the dynamics within the company began to shift, leading to tensions between key figures and eventual departures.
Amidst this, I received an offer to run distribution and post services at another company, eventually leaving Carolco before significant events such as Terminator 2 and Basic Instinct.
Subsequently, internal discord, financial issues, and legal troubles plagued the company, culminating in significant personnel changes and legal proceedings for tax shelter schemes.
This marked the end of my tenure at Carolco, before the company’s subsequent tumultuous events and transformations.
While the entertainment industry underwent significant changes, Skouras Pictures became a hub for various productions, including iconic films and television shows.
The company’s rich history, dating back to Dimitri “Tom” Skouras’s visionary efforts, encompassed a diverse range of projects, from classic films like “The Thief of Bagdad” to modern hits like “X-Men” and “Zoolander.”
Skouras Pictures thrived under the leadership of Tom Skouras, who revitalized the company’s film distribution arm with successful ventures such as the distribution of the Cohen brothers’ “Blood Simple.”
However, my tenure at Skouras Pictures was not without challenges, particularly stemming from internal dynamics.
Upon joining the company, I found myself at odds with Jeff Lipsky, the head of the domestic division, who expressed reservations about my presence in the predominantly female workforce.
Despite the confrontations, I navigated these tensions, while witnessing the vibrant daily life at the Hollywood Central Studios, where encounters with industry legends like George Burns and George Harrison added a touch of magic to the bustling atmosphere.
Skouras Pictures: Navigating the Industry and Company Dynamics
During my time at Skouras Pictures, the company secured a lucrative domestic output agreement with Paramount Pictures, with notable successes such as Hallstrom’s “My Life as a Dog” contributing to the company’s standing in the industry.
As the head of post-production, I oversaw various film transfers, including working closely with renowned cinematographer Dante Spinotti and actress Dyan Cannon.
Notably, my re-titling of films such as “Blood Oath” and “Picking Up the Pieces” earned me a promotion to the role of Vice President of Post Production, a position somewhat humorously referred to as “V-penises” by Sigrid due to the predominance of males in such roles.
The dynamic within the company was colorful, with a diverse team including a former Vegas songstress, an Olympic kayaker, and a former hot dog vendor who impressed Bill Murray.
Despite these moments, the company’s hesitance to embrace certain projects, such as “sex, lies, and videotape,” led to missed opportunities, reflecting a cautious approach that impacted the company’s trajectory in the industry.
The company atmosphere was marked by both celebratory and sad events, encapsulating the highs and lows of the entertainment business.
Pam Pickering left Skouras Pictures in a contentious manner and joined Samuel Goldwyn, followed by her assistant Lisa.
Jeff Lipsky departed Skouras in October 1990 due to disagreements over Mike Leigh’s “Life Is Sweet” and went on to co-found October Films with Bingham Ray.
Skouras Pictures faced financial challenges, including difficulties meeting payroll, signaling a bleak outlook for the company.
Amid escalating tensions, I received an offer from Maggie at Technicolor to join Odyssey Distributors as the Vice President of Distribution.
Odyssey, a foreign distributor primarily handling New Regency titles, provided an opportunity for a fresh start away from the tumultuous environment at Skouras Pictures.