History of LASS (Part 3)

July, 1983
From the beginning, services to songwriters had been offered free of charge, no one ever paid for auditions, showcasing, critiquing, referrals or counseling. BMI’s support and the small admission charge at the weekly showcase events were enough to cover costs. However, the increased popularity and demand for services was resulting in increasing costs and the necessity of additional staff. It was decided that a group of valuable services could be offered in a membership package that would allow them to afford to offer additional services. Among the most valuable was the opportunity to submit tapes to the weekly Cassette Roulette and Pitch-A-Thon sessions from anywhere in the world.

Professional Membership was a part of the new package. Membership in this elite category was originally granted on the basis of membership in BMI or ASCAP or recordings of their songs. Soon the requirements were revised to reflect the need to develop credibility for the group in the industry. LASS’ philosophy was to try to help outstanding writers generate cuts rather than restrict access to only those who have already achieved some success. On that basis it was then decided that Professional membership would be gained only by audition or invitation on the basis of excellent and consistent quality of craftsmanship and imagination. Over the years, many of LASS’ special in-house, private Pro pitches for producers, artists, a&r reps and film/television music supervisors paid off for writers. Among the successes were: Robin Randall and Steven Cristol’s Starship hit “Tomorrow Doesn’t Matter Tonight”; Tiffany cuts for Steve McClintock and Tim James leading to their hit “All This Time”; Janis Tunnell, George Michael Elian and Chip Halstead’s Melissa Manchester single, “Energy”; the theme for Schwarzneggers Raw Deal film for Claude Gaudette and many songs in films and television shows.

K.A. Parker produced the first Pop Luck event in Orange County in November 1980. It brought together very talented writers and industry people for an all-day informal party, pot luck lunch and showcase. Len and John were so impressed with it that LASS co-produced two more Pop Luck events with Kay featuring the best songs from LASS’ already great writing Pro Members. The first took place at a loft in downtown L.A. in July 1983 and the second in March 1986 at the beautiful home of Nello Olivo in Hidden Hills. When Parker became LASS’ Membership director, she initiated a series of live “Top 20” concerts featuring the best 20 songs of the Pro Members at At My Place and the Backlot that drew great interest from the industry and also served as a wonderful way for the writers to get familiar with each others’ work.

In addition to LASS’ major Expo events, the organization has offered a continuous flow of smaller seminars featuring professionals in all areas of the business. Among them were: The Music Video Seminar; Making and Selling Homemade Masters; lyric writing classes with Ron Miller, Sheila Davis and K.A. Parker; a series of songwriting seminars, contests and concerts sponsored by The Club Cocktails in several Southern California cities; a series on The Creative Process for Songwriters and Managing Creativity with Peggy Van Pelt of Walt Disney Imagineering. LASS’ Saturday Seminar Series throughout 1989 included: Goal Setting/Time Management; Taxes/Money Management for Songwriters and Musicians; Meet the Best Songwriting Teachers in L.A.; Publishers, What they Do and How They Do It; All About Collaboration, Business and Creative; StressManagement For Musicians and Songwriters; Doing Your First Demo, A Step by Step Approach; Publishing Administration; All About Copyright; Ask the Experts, Legal Panel; Royalties, Where the Money Comes From.

Writers and industry pros who have been associated with LASS through the years often relate to the venues where LASS’ weekly showcases were held, as eras in their lives and careers. “That was back when you guys were at …” Here’s a continuation of the venue history. After The Improv it was West L.A. Music’s Hollywood Blvd. store starting October 1, 1980. Then across the street to the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel in May, 1981 followed by the move to the upstairs auditorium space in the Black Radio Exclusive building at Hollywood and Ivar on February 17, 1982. In January 1984 they opened for a relatively short but sweet run at Carlos and Charlies on the Sunset Strip, being replaced in the affections of the owners by Joan Rivers. In June 1984 they found a club called the Metroplex in Culver City where they stayed for almost two years. On April 8, 1986, they moved to Mischa’s Restaurant on Sunset who continued to raise their guarantee until they had enough and talked to Gio across the street who had previously catered the Showcases at West L.A. Music. They made a deal and, starting August 27, 1986, they had a home until they closed to remodel and Gio got a new partner in February 1990. The next move was to the Palato Ristorante in the historical Masonic Building on Hollywood Blvd. which lasted until the building was shut down for non-payment of rent on September 12, 1990. After a couple of months at the Acapulco Restaurant they made a move to their final home on Tuesday nights at the Women’s Club of Hollywood which they also rented for several social events for NAS and LASS writers.

The LASS offices have, fortunately, been a more stable situation. After Lens house on N. Palm Ave. in West Hollywood was sold and torn down, LASS moved to 6772 Hollywood Blvd. near Highland where they shared a large suite with NAS. When they tore town that building to build a MacDonalds in November 1985, LASS’ office moved to a house at 1209 N. Orange Grove in West Hollywood until moving to the Security Pacific Bank building at 6381 Hollywood Blvd. in July 1991. LASS and NAS joined forces in 1996 and later moved together to the Motown Bldg. on Sunset.

THE LASS PUBLICATIONS Providing a schedule of showcase performances has always been an important function of the showcase. Initially, the purpose was to induce the industry to attend the showcases by writing short promotional bios for each featured writer/artist and sending the schedule to an industry list of a&r reps, producers, publishers and managers. This was originally done with Joe X. Price’s A&R Report. (See Joe’s quote.). When the showcase moved to Capitol Records, the company’s mail department took over and mailed the schedule on 5×7 cards weekly. The next version was an 11×17 triple-folded sheet containing a full months schedule , a few ads and “The Hapnins,” news about Showcase alumni and events around town. They moved next to a four page newstype tabloid format, which was later expanded to eight pages, redesigned by Victor Royer and named the Musepaper. Member News was added and that feature continued as a valuable way to promote the successes of LASS members to the industry. “Noteworthy” was also added to let writers and industry know of educational and other events.

After Cassette and Pitch-A-Thon were started, “Pickups” was added to list the writers and songs picked up at the weekly events, another way to get writers’ names to the industry in a positive way. The new format also allowed room for craft and business articles and interviews with hit writers and industry pros. The Musepaper featured some of the first articles by David “Cat” Cohen, Molly Ann Leikin and Harriet Schock.

In March, 1985, the Musepaper discontinued free mailings to all but industry and began a subscription rate. It could still be obtained free at more than a hundred drop sites around L.A. and Orange Counties. Lou and Sunday Marek redesigned the Musepaper in an an exciting new magazine format starting with the Songwriters Expo issue of September/October 1986. It added much more room for interviews and articles. The next redesign was created by Jeffrey Tennyson in October, 1990 for the Expo 14 edition adding new graphic elements and type. When LASS and NAS joined forces in 1996, Ralph Torres created the final design.

In July, 1994, John Braheny negotiated a deal with Jeannie Novak and Pete Markowitz’ Kaleidospace, (now Indiespace) an innovative, pioneering, internet site, for the Songwriters Musepaper to be the first magazine on the internet.

Here are a few of the LASS staffers you’ve talked with over the years. Phrannie Goldfarb, Marilyn “Rhada” MacGregor, Pam Martin, Crystal Zevon, Frances Nacman, Deneice “Boom Boom” Battaglia, Tim Horrigan, John Lyons, Linda Careb, Joy Wilden, Stephanie Perom, Angela Taylor and Josh Bernard. Longtime staffers include Dan Kimpel, who worked in ad sales and on LASS events for many years, and accountants Julie Bischoff and Valerie Chamberlain. Angelo Roman and Mandi Martin-Fox worked on all the Expos and Mandi handled bookkeeping, the weekly Showcase gate and was assistant editor of the Musepaper for many years. In a list too long to even begin, LASS was also assisted by many, many wonderful, enthusiastic volunteers, interns and part time staffers.

Read Stories and quotes from writers and industry pros about their LASS experiences

Also look over the illustrious list of performers from the early days of the Showcase – are you on it?