Well, it started when I realized that after being kicked out of high school at the age of 14, spending the next 5 years in 2 rehabs, 1 wilderness program, running away from a bootcamp in North Georgia after 23 months, and spending 2 years of homelessness and beatnik hitchhiking, that the ONLY way for me to earn an income was performing on the street and keeping people entertained with all my many stories of childhood chaos. Turned out I was pretty good at it.
That led to show business.
I started promoting concerts, curating festivals, acting in plays, and producing theatre. That led to Alan. Alan had just retired from the William Morris Agency after more than twenty years, serving as COO, and decided to start a music management company. He and his partner offered me a job as their exclusive booking agent. I told them I had never done that before, they said they had faith I could learn, I said okay, they told me to come up with a name, I said a name? –and boom… Black Apple International, LLC was filed on April 17th of 2006.
I took the subway to Brooklyn to have my first meeting with my first client. I walked in the door, they said hi, I said hello, they took out a map, I stared at the map, they pointed to all the countries they’d like to tour, my confidence grew shaky, they continued reciting absurd demands, my heart dripped another droplet of fear, they asked if I was sure I could do it… OF COOOUUURSSEEEEEEE I can do it, said I.
I woke up the next morning at 5AM and googled “how to put a band on tour”.
Three weeks later I had a $100K international tour booked and ready to go.
I took it up a notch, bookings, shows, ideas, proposals, phone calls, sales pitches, I hired four employees and brought my roster up to forty bands. Things were going great but something was missing, I wasn’t happy. A wanderer by nature stuck in a world of Hollywood infidelity, I wasn’t sure what my next move was, but I knew continuing on that route didn’t sit right in the pit of my soul. Alongside showbiz I had dabbled in just about every business known to mankind, from slanging items on eBay to tending bar to flipping cars to door-to-door sales to marketing time shares to tea houses and coffee shops to making pizzas to delivering Indian food all the way over the rainbow to the mysterious underworld of the black market (of course that was years ago).
Then one day my brother Keith, among the most fashionable in Manhattan, came home from his art college, SVA, with an idea for an advertising campaign for a medicinal marijuana dispensary (way to keep incognito Keith—Hi Mom). The campaign was only one of the many projects his demanding art professors assigned as homework, and like always, he poured his heart and soul into every stroke of the Adobe Illustrator pen.
Finally, after having tried to outclass the five boroughs with his immaculate attire and casual perspective on life for so many years, he arrived at the ONLY brand that could persuade any hippie to burn their bandana and put on a suit… He arrived at Tweed.
The medical marijuana dispensary was Tweed. The uniforms were Tweed. The grinders were Tweed. The merchandise was Tweed. Lastly, the custom-designed rolling papers were Tweed. It did not take long before we realized he had something special.
Every person that came over his apartment in Kips Bay Manhattan raved about how amazing the concept was. NICE! But what do we do with it? We were left with a logo and a whimsical idea.
Fast-forward one year later.
I was working on a huge music festival, bigger than any of the festivals I had produced before, when it hit me: I SHOULD PROMOTE THE FESTIVAL WITH ROLLING PAPERS! I began showing the Tweed logo and rolling paper prototype to a friend of mine explaining where the festival logo would be positioned and where all the info would be scribed.
That’s when everything came to a turn… My friend said to me… ”you know, i don’t know about a festival, but if you wanna talk to someone about rolling papers, I know ######## #########. She’s a good friend of mine. Maybe I could put you in contact with her? She’s the CEO of ########### Rolling Papers.” said my friend.
“Hmm… well, what’s her email?” I courteously replied.
The day finally arrived when I got in touch with ######## and learned of the substantial profit margins in the business of manufacturing, importing and selling rolling papers. It clicked. It all made sense. I called up my brother immediately and said,
“KEITH! Fuck the music festival! LET’S JUST SELL ROLLING PAPERS! TWEED ROLLING PAPERS!!”
One month later… Keith and I sunk every dollar to our names into launching a brand of Tweed rolling papers (SmokeTweed.com). It was not long before 35,000 Tweed booklets were on a cargo ship sailing across the Pacific to arrive in Long Beach, California.
My original plan was to travel to music festivals all over the country selling them one by one out of my backpack while simultaneously filming a movie about it.
That didn’t work, so I traveled from local head shop to local head shop selling them out of the trunk of my business partner’s car—that worked!
The brand was built, our inventory was gone and I decided to move to Los Angeles to set up shop and continue our distribution. Life was crazy and I noticed I was drinking more and more and more and more. Then another epiphany! I was drinking wayyyyyy too much! Maybe I should stop! So I went to a meeting, asked for help, admitted I was willing to do whatever it took to get my life back on track, found a sponsor, did the work and have not had a drink since.
Enter Black Apple part Deux.
After producing a movie (The Black Moses), keeping the Tweed wheel spinning, getting a few more tattoos and promoting a brunch party in Hollywood, I was hired at a PR firm in Beverly Hills as a publicist.
Did I say hired?
I meant I was brought on board as an INTERN. A twenty-eight year-old INTERN!!! It was humbling, but I knew there was an education in that firm that could not be garnered in any school or on my own, so I stuck it out, learned the business and finally, rebranded Black Apple as a public relations company.
Here I am and life has never been better.
Los Angeles is my home. Black Apple is my bed. Helping others are my PJs.
But all the while I was thinkin, man…
I should REALLY write a book.
Anyway, enjoy the stories.