On August 1, 2011, Bob Pittman, the original programming boss, visionary, and yes, soul of MTV (and one of my mentors), generously threw the party of reunion parties for MTV’s 30th Anniversary at his compound in Mexico. (Yes, it was John Lack’s idea for WASEC to launch a 24 hour music channel, but it Bob who completely realized its execution.) I had couldn’t make it, but a couple dozen of our original colleagues showed up (including my long time creative partner, Alan Goodman) made the trek to Bob’s town, location of the tequila company he owns, for 48 hours of memories of rock’n’roll, media revolution, and debauchery.
Bob put together this reunion booklet (that’s my oldest friend, Frank Olinsky, one of the MTV logo designers, on the front cover), and to my delight, not only did it have a lot of my great friends, but a picture of my wife-to-be (we didn’t meet until 11 years later), Robin Sloane, who put on a party at her employer, Epic Records, for the first Gold Record (yes, it was Adam Ant) spawned by an MTV video.
In the immortal words of John Lack: Ladies and Gentlemen…rock and roll! The people here are the ones who remember what the first hour really looked like after those words, vs. the doctored tape we quickly put together. I can still feel the panic all these years later, and I’m sure you can too. That said, it was 30 years ago — and some of you are older now, so your memories may not be that good. (Sykes and Garland, I’m looking at you.)
30 years ago, we launched something that did what very few have ever done — we created the most powerful cable network in history, and a brand that’s become a familiar part of popular culture around the world. We didn’t set out to do that, of course, but it’s amazing what you can accomplish when you connect with a group of people who share a belief and a vision in the strength and promise of an idea. Our historical legacy was this shared creative vision, one that set the course for the wildly inventive MTV brand and set the culture for its decade of success.
There aren’t many people who can honestly say they had a profound impact on everything from the music industry to popular culture, embedded with a slogan — “I Want My MTV!”— into the public consciousness, created a cultural and media icon, changed graphic design and video production and reinvented the idea of what television could be.
Indeed, we even changed ad sales and marketing — we broke every rule of that time and usher in a whole new way for advertisers to use television. We’d love to claim that yeah, that’s exactly how we planned it! But all we knew was that we were part of a unique culture, working with people we loved, and combining our fresh approach to entertainment with a dedication to our mission. That combination enabled MTV to push the boundaries of what television could be, and reinvented youth culture while we were at it. We had no respect for experience and most of us had never done the jobs we were given. And remember how often we said, only half-jokingly, no one over thirty has any good ideas? Ahhh, the confidence of youth!
What an incredible moment in time. And even today, with so much time having passed and so many more work experiences under our collective belt, I can honestly say that our team and what we accomplished was (and still is) amazing. We are bound together forever as “the MTV family.”
Although we’ll definitely have a lot of fun this weekend —driven at least in part with what I promise you is the smoothest tequila in the world— I hope we’ll also take a minute to reflect on the memory of a few who were essential to our success. Steve Ross, the CEO of Warner Communications, believed in us every minute from the moment we first showed him the idea. For me personally, he guided an important part of my career, at MTV and after, that I can only repay him by showing that same kind of attention to others on the front side of their career curve. David Horowitz, Co-COO of WCI and then CEO of MTV Networks was our rabbi. Patiently listening, counseling and supporting us all along the way, he seemed to know everything — except how to push the correct button on his phone to pick up calls! And finally, there JJ. One of the 5 faces of MTV to the world — how many people connected to MTV thru him? And how many people in the music industry instantly respected us because of his strong and long background in the business? I know we’ll raise a glass —or two, or three— this weekend to all of these men, critical parts of our MTV family, whom we think of often and miss sincerely.
I’m also delight that my “MTV soul mates,” the two other former CEO’s of MTV Networks still hanging around, are here with us this weekend. Tom and Judy took the original idea we built and brought it to heights none of us could have imagined. Finally, I have to thanks John Lack, my first boss at WASEC and the man who found me in radio, fought his boss to get me to the company, and consistently support me with faith and confidence. Without him, I might still be in radio. Hmmm, wait a minute…
Thanks for joining us in Mexico to celebrate MTV’s 30th — and to celebrate all of you. You are the team that made it all happen, and I am forever grateful and honored to have been part of it. It certainly changed my life — and I suspect yours as well.
Enjoy the weekend — and please promise me that, for 48 hours, you’ll listen to nothing but Stray Cats, Flock of Seagulls, Duran Duran, Tears for Fears, Michael Jackson, Madonna, Tina Turner, Howard Jones, ABC, Thompson Twins, Specials, Madness, Pretenders and all those other artists burned into our memories!
To everyone who, in the spirit of our 30th reunion celebration, has contributed to this book. Many thanks to Leslie Leventman, who volunteered her time and talent to work on this project as a labor of love. And a special thanks to my lifelong business partner, Mayo Stunty, who I met at MTV.
Editor-in-Chief/Class Historia: Leslie Leventman Art Direction/Design: Darlene Cordero; MTV Class of 1993-1998 Editorial/Photo Coordinator: Jackie Tigue Production Resources: Leslye Schaefer, Leigh Valesquez Contributor: Wendy Goldberg Administrative Assistant: Laurie Scollar0 comments Tagged: MTV 30th, MTV, MTVposts,.