|"This is Bishop Don Magic Juan. I can't come to the phone right now. I'm out in the fields, doing God's work."|
-Answering Machine Outgoing Message for Bishop Don Magic Juan, Pimp.
That voicemail was my introduction to Bishop Don Magic Juan, a pimp (which he liked to remind you stood for 'Player Into Making Progress') who was featured on Pimps Up, Hoes Down, a film that highlighted the goings-on at The Players Ball on HBO.
Yes, that is his real name (or at least the name he uses). Regular readers know I often use pseudonyms to protect people's identity, but nothing I discuss here will surprise anyone who knows Bishop Don, and I'm sure he'd get a laugh out of it.
He was credited with founding The Players Ball in 1974, and was certainly something of a celebrity by the time we hired him and his entourage, King Boo and G.O.D. (pronounced "G" "O" "D", and not the title it spells out).
The three flew from Detroit, and again, this was in the pre-9/11 days, when I.D. was not as much of an issue, but was still required for flying. It was also required for checking into hotels, which was a problem, as none of the three of them had any of the appropriate I.D. on them. In Detroit and the other places they traveled, the nom de guerre seemed to be good enough.
The same was true of their SAG contracts - they had never signed ones - and their encounters with our payroll company. It seems reasonable to assume that checks are not the generally accepted form of payment in their usual business, and as such, they did not have bank accounts, or ID that was acceptable to either a bank or check-cashing place we used. Eventually, we came to the resolution of having them write the checks over to us, and we would give them the cash.
I have negotiated actor contracts with many agents over the years, but none of those negotiations were as colorful as the negotiations with Bishop Don Magic Juan and his crew.
In politics, many a deal has occurred in a smoke-filled room, a term that took on new meaning with these folks. Coming off the elevator on their floor, one experienced a contact high, and that experience only deepened on entering their room. They did not trust anyone who did not share a joint with them, and this became a regular part of our negotiations.
Negotiations is plural is here, because Donald Trump never enjoyed the Art of the Deal as much as these guys did. Oh, the money was important, but just as important to them was winning the negotiations, which took place over a few days.
One might wonder why these deals weren't worked out before they left Detroit, and the answer is simply that this was not the way they did business, and if we wanted them , we needed to play the their game. Lex definitely wanted them, and so, over the course of a few days, I would come to their room (always to their room) where they would treat me as their honored guest and then go to some paragraph in their contract and see if it could not be improved, in their favor, in some way.
Fortunately, I have bargained with some very good agents, and in the end, we got a good deal on the money, while they got enough perks to feel good as well.
Being around them was like a trip back to the Seventies.
With all of that, the guys were a lot of fun, and because of our "quality time" together, we got along very well, with a lot of ribbing on both sides. Of course, also like good agents, they were always on the look-out for new talent. Watching pimps procure workers in movies is one thing; watching it in person, well, that is special. Bishop Don was not a young man even then, but he and his two pals had charm to spare. While I don't think they ended up adding to their stable, it was rare for a young lady to leave their company without a smile.
As someone who has had to deal with the threat of sexual harassment suits (not against me, BTW) with a producer or two and a crew member, this was never the case here. Most of the women were quite charmed, or at least amused
As a matter of fact, when they left, my location manager (who never really got any better at her job, but it did get done - albeit with more crying) waved them off with a plaintiff "Play on, Playas" as she waved goodbye.
There wasn't a dry eye in the production office.