Funnily enough, this happened at one of the lowest points in my life. When we are young, the world lies before us – the great unknown, all the mysteries of life and with it, all its possibilities. In the beginning there are no standards to fall short of, no burdens or boundaries, except our own hesitancy. My early career, and coming to America, was like that. From a halfway decent musician I moved on to find my myself and my real calling. I suppose that, truth be known, I’m still looking, and that’s what makes life so interesting.
During the very late sixties, through the late seventies I worked for a Hollywood production company/record label. We had such artists as War, Eric Burden, Robben Ford, Jimmy Witherspoon, Tanya Tucker and Blood, Sweat & Tears. I eventually became V.P. in charge of Production. A lofty title that only seemed to increase the number of hours that I worked every day. I was already working every night in the studio with the various acts mentioned above and developing others. With a wife and two very young children, this was really hard.
In 1981, things got real weird at the company. Money, for some unexplained reason, got extremely tight and I was, at the end, more than ten months behind in my salary. I was being given hand-outs – Just enough for gas and food, but usually barely enough to cover my monthly mortgage. Even this changed towards the end and I ended up losing my beautiful, Hollywood Hills home, having to move back into another, much smaller home that I owned. At the time, my production assistant and her husband were living there and trying to buy it from me. Problem was, she wasn’t getting paid either. It was so hard, trying to keep my department working, passing on to my people the empty promises of a better tomorrow as they were given me. They were only hanging on out of loyalty to me and because I had asked them. I felt really bad.
It all came to a head one evening when I was in the studio with War. At home, we were out of food. Totally. Earlier that evening, I had boiled the last four eggs we had and made two egg salad sandwiches for my wife, our two children and myself. Upon arriving at the studio The producer, who also happened to be the President of the company asked if anyone was hungry and proceeded to order $78.00 of Chinese food for everybody. I was both angry and hurt by this. Here was my family sharing two sandwiches as an evening meal and this man, who was constantly pleading poverty, was ordering $78.00 worth of take-out Chinese food. That was a lot of money back then and seemed even more when I had nothing. I kept my thoughts to myself and worked, as I always had with War (and every other act, I’ve ever worked with) to create music. But all the time my mind was in turmoil, knowing that I couldn’t go on like this.
The next morning, I went into the office around 11:00am and asked the executive secretary if I could see the President of the company, and his partner. I told them straight out how angry and hurt I was with the whole situation: Working almost ten months without salary and with only the barest of subsistence. Not only that, but having all my people hanging on, all in the same situation. I had hung in there because of their continuing promises that these hardships were only temporary. I also had to admit that I’d hung in there because I didn’t want to lose the chance of getting the money that was owed me. I told them that what had finally broken me was the ordering of so much expensive food, while my family suffered. I told them I was leaving and started to walk out. The President pulled a $100.00 bill out of his pocket, thrust it at me asking, if I had could do anything I wanted – my “druthers” as so aptly he put it – what would I do?
I did it – I took the money and walked out…
I cannot really explain the depths of how I felt. Angry. Betrayed. Disappointed. Lost and scared. I’d believed in something, and somebody, and been let down. I was owed almost $50,000. I was angry at them for being so uncaring, and I was also at myself for being gullible. After all, they still had their beach houses and their huge penthouse apartment in the Playboy Building, just off Sunset Strip. They still had money! There was a basic dishonesty about everything. I had two beautiful young children and a beautiful wife who were counting on me. I truly didn’t know what was going to become of us.
The next day, I got up early and told my wife that I wanted to be alone, a chance to think things out. I drove out to the beach and ended up just above the Malibu Colony. After parking the car on Pacific Coast Highway, I made my way down to the beach and started to walk. An incredible peace came over me as I walked along the waterline and suddenly, I wasn’t afraid. I sat on the sand at the waters edge and, looking out across the Pacific Ocean towards the horizon, I knew in my heart that everything was going to be all right. I don’t know where that peace of mind or the feeling of utter calmness came from – Somehow, I just knew.
Early the next morning, around 10:30am, I received a call from my good friend, Rick Perrotta. He said that a friend of his from Mexico was going to build a studio in Hollywood, that he was going to be a partner in it and they wanted me to design it. He said that he wanted me to start right away and gave $5,000.00, two days later.
This experience sticks in my mind as one of the most profound experiences in my life. Almost everything else pales by comparison. But having said that, I’ve noticed that whenever things have seemed their bleakest in my life, something positive has always happened. I can only consider myself blessed and humbled when these things, these miracles happen. For sure they serve to remind me of just who and what I am.
© Copyright 2002 Christopher Huston