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The Lush Life of Mica and Ahmet, Part II

March 07, 2018

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This Ertegun blog focuses on Ahmet’s spectacular lifestyle and the energy, creativity and just plain chutzpah (Yiddish for guts and nerve) it took to pull off this remarkable feat (he was a Turk who learned quickly).

Ahmet Ertegun in 2004 with Mick Jagger at the induction of Jann Wenner of Rolling Stone magazine into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

My reference was the same book I mentioned in Part I, but I learned very quickly that I’d have to reread it in order to write a second piece. So I sat down, ignoring the flowers that needed fresh water and the dishes in the sink and said to myself, “Okay, it’s 431 pages. Don’t stop until you finish.” I was so stiff when I finally got up I could barely walk.

It’s a terrific book that starts with Ahmet’s very privileged upbringing and moves on to his decision to start a music company that began with his love of music and seeing a performance of Duke Ellington’s band in London when he was 10 years old.  This was an earth-shattering, life-changing experience.

He moved from Washington, DC to New York after the unexpected death of his father, and set up his business, with a partner, when he was 25 years old. He was so broke that he slept on a friend’s sofa in his living room. Ahmet’s opulent background left him with no survival skills – servants had always taken care of all his needs.

But he was out every night at clubs to meet musicians and make business contacts. This began a lifelong career of signing and recording some of the greatest artists of all-time, namely: Ray Charles, Bobby Darin, Sonny and Cher, Eric Clapton, Led Zeppelin, the Rolling Stones and Bette Midler. He transformed a small independent record label into a hugely profitable multinational corporation.

Their yacht, Ioana Maria, off the coast of Bodrum – on the south coast of Turkey. Photo: Courtesy of Vanity Fair, May 2017

HOW TO SPEND IT

After his marriage to Mia that he called, “the best decision of my life” they both sat down and discussed how they would spend their incredible income. Both had wealthy parents and similar backgrounds so when Mia said that she wanted to spend money on their style of life, Ahmet knew she meant “service.”

They bought a second townhouse and joined it to the first one next door. Once when a business associate dropped by, Ahmet invited him to lunch. The guest saw a cook and butler to serve so he asked, “Do you always live like this?” as if to say, “This is not right.” Living this way would never have occurred to his wealthy guest but Ahmet says, “I was very happy to get back to what I considered normal.”

The Boatman House, their estate in Southampton, New York. It features a two-story living room that is 40 ft. square. Photo: Courtesy of Vanity Fair, May 2017

Their style of living escalated to a private jet, yacht and a palatial spread in Southampton. All of this dazzled many including the New Yorker. In 1978 the magazine published a two-part profile written by George W. S. Trow who had unlimited access to the couple. The Harvard-educated writer took seven years to write this 60-page piece that appeared in two consecutive issues of the magazine and had an immediate and seismic response from its readers. CLICK HERE to read Eclectic, Reminiscent, Amused, Fickle, Perverse, Part 1.

CLICK HERE to read Part 2 of the profile.

HOW WOULD YOU KNOW THAT YOU FINALLY ARRIVED?

I have never read anything quite like this before – but here goes. When asked this question, Ahmet replied, “When you have no keys. There’s always someone there to open the door for you. When I go home in New York, Armenia opens the door. If I go home in London, Aurelia opens the door. If I get on the plane, Guy Salvador opens the door. If I go downstairs to the car, Ray opens the door. You’ve arrived when you carry very few keys.”

A SPELLBINDING MOVIE THAT YOU SHOULD SEE

On Wednesday, January 10th we saw The Post at our local AMC Loews theatre. The story of The Washington Post and its publication of the Pentagon Papers in 1971 moves with bullet speed and stellar performances by Tom Hanks as editor, Ben Bradlee, and Meryl Streep, as publisher Katharine Graham. It will keep you sitting on the edge of your seat for the entire two hours.  

Shaun Nelson-Henrick



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