Walter Yetnikoff, who ruled Columbia/CBS/Sony Records during its peak years of 1975-1990, explains exactly how expanded his power base to the kingdom of heaven, courtesy of Bishop Moore of St. John the Divine. He’s speaking from his home in Manhattan, with his wife audibly urging him to get back on track, for chrissakes. “This is NOT a book about Walter!” she wailed. He didn’t care.
Remember a guy named James Taylor? Well, he was an ultimate WASP. A very gentlemanly kind of guy. And he married Carly Simon, and they had their reception at St. John the Divine, which is uptown. It was run by a guy named Bishop Moore. And he was good guy, helped a lot of people. Helped the Belushi people, and a lot of music people over the years. So I’m at St. John the Divine. Which is high Episcopal. When Elizabeth the Queen comes to New York, that’s where she goes to do whatever queens do. I’m talking about female queens.
In any event, this is a big party, and James’s manager, Peter Asher is there. And I’m drunk, so I tell him, Listen! I wanna meet Bishop Moore! I’ve heard about him, and I’m working with all these fucking WASPS over at Columbia. Guys with names like Bushing Farrell, or Farrell Bushing, first and last names the same. So I wanna meet this guy. So Peter goes, Fine! I know him!
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So I went to Moore, and said I’d heard a lot about you, it’s nice to meet you, would you like a bump? In those days that meant ‘would you like some coke?’ He knew what I was talking about, but he said, ‘Oh no, I’m fine. What can I do for you?’ I said I’m working for this company, CBS, and it’s full of WASPS. Episcopalians, Presbyterians, and they’re making me crazy. So if you would be so kind, can you make me Church of England so I can outrank all of them? And he said, all right, and then he does the whole thing — bippity-boppity, you’re CV.” I said, ‘Don’t I get a certificate?’ and he said, ‘come to my office later and I’ll give you a certificate.’
So I go to his office later, and at the next corporate meeting I’m sitting with all those lock-jaw types. This isn’t just music guys, it’s the whole CBS corporate mess. So I said, ‘I now outrank the whole fucking bunch of you. I’m now CV.” And this guy who was then the head of CBS, one of the real lockjaw guys, says, “Nawwwh, what are you going to do about the Jewish holidays?” And I said, ‘when I was in the military I learned that you always have two sets of dogtags.” Then there was silence.”