There are a lot of famous anecdotes about our 36th president, and a strange number of them involve the bathroom. In one, a female reporter is trying to get Johnson to answer some questions, and Johnson agrees on the condition that she hold his pecker while he pee; in another, he goes to relieve himself in the middle of a meeting and has the other person follow him, continuing to talk whilst emptying his bowels. So when Wall Street Journal scribe Ethan Smith starts off a profile of artist manager and Ticketmaster CEO Irving Azoff with a scene of him and a subordinate working in “his spacious Beverly Hills bathroom,” you can guess what he’s trying to do.
Which is not to say that he shouldn’t be doing it. Certainly America’s fascination with pop music beyond its simple products had to do with its vague aura of danger and its status as a quasi-legal business: its mob ties, its use of drugs and prostitutes as promotional items, its fortunes lost and won, its ruthless negotiations. We enjoyed hearing about it for the same reason we enjoyed watching Dallas, a show that had not a little to do with the architect of the Great Society programs. But now, the fortunes are mostly being lost, drugs are unhealthy, and everything’s gone all corporate. The thrill is gone, as it were. So certainly one can sympathize with Smith’s clear desire to develop Azoff as a heel, a kind of evil overlord who bends the biz to his whim.
But while Azoff’s earlier exploits may deserve their place in the rock ‘n’ roll anecdote hall of fame, it’s hard to see negotiating a deal between the Eagles and Wal-Mart as chutzpah. And it’s increasingly hard to see the proposed merger between Ticketmaster and Live Nation as anything but an act of desperation, an assessment with which, as the article notes, investors seem to agree. Maybe expecting the WSJ to take a critical stance toward its subjects is an exercise in futility, but it might be nice to assign a music-biz story once in a while to a writer who doesn’t let the subject opine in the bathroom.