L.A.’s last honest man-Al Bowman by Oscar Benjamin (The Examiner)

http://www.examiner.com/article/l-a-s-last-honest-man-al-bowman

Honesty is usually not a value that is synonymous with the entertainment industry. Promises are made and broken within the same sentence of a possible contract that is being ironed out between parties on a regular basis. In light of this statement, it always feels like a refreshing splash on one’s face when encountering an individual of merit who refuses to fear speaking the honest truth-despite possible blow-back from his contemporaries in the industry. Self-made businessman and creator of the Los Angeles Music Awards- Al Bowman is such an individual.

Al Bowman’s name and face is very recognizable in the entertainment business in and around the industry whose heart is still in Los Angeles. Bowman immediately establishes the tempo of the interview with his candid introduction, “at eighteen I joined the United States Army to get the discipline and to learn the art of killing so I could survive in Hollywood-which has worked. The United States Army ​taught me how to literally kill with weaponry and explosives and I applied that theoretically in Hollywood to survive in this jungle!”

Al Bowman was the owner of a very prolific and well known limousine business that catered to well known heavy hitters such as Ozzy Osbourne, Michael Jackson and the late Whitney Houston. Fun Time Limousine was in existence for ten years and helped Mr. Bowman secure contacts which eventually led him to becoming an industry insider. Bowman reveals, “in late ’91 towards the end of my limo career, the first L.A. Music Awards was held following the wishes of a dying old man named Bill Gazzarri-owner of Gazzarri’s on The Strip. It was one of the longest running night clubs in the history of nightclubs and lasted about 30 years.” Bowman continues, “he died in ’91 and just before his death, he requested that someone should start an awards show and make it about the music. He told me, ‘just because people buy it, don’t make it good.'”

It was an infamous incident in riot torn Los Angeles following the Rodney King verdict that contributed to his decision to shake up his own career path. Al details, “in 1992, my limo career ended abruptly on the night of the Los Angeles riots when I lost half my inventory and almost got killed!” Al continues, “again the military training paid off in escaping from that mayhem!”

It is Al Bowman’s “take no prisoners” attitude, his innate business sense and his ability to separate the wheat from the chaff that has made him a major player in the industry. His sincerity and fearless leadership abilities are very rare qualities in an industry that seems to thrive on obfuscation. An example of his sometimes raw, but welcome comments can be found during his thoughts on some musicians. Al speaks, “there is nothing worse than a great record done by an asshole artist! Let’s say I love the record and think God, these songs are amazing and oh, these guys are great looking! I will get them on the phone and see how they act and then they are just the most terrible people you could ever talk to!” Bowman continues, “self-indulgent, self-serving, self-aggrandizing and self-obsessed! They are egotistical, they haven’t achieved anything.” It is part of Bowman’s process for picking artists for his awards ceremony. Al Bowman details, “what we look for is an artist with humility and a humbleness in their character. If I have that, I have an artist that is a nominee, but if I’ve got the guy that is an egotistical maniac-they are not going to be nominee and it doesn’t matter how good their music is.” Al concludes, “if they can’t work within the confines of our thing, then they won’t survive in this industry! When an artist tells me we don’t kiss anybody’s ass, I tell them you better find another business to go into! This is built on brown-nosing, guys.” He punctuates that statement with a hearty laugh that is contagious.

The Los Angeles Music Awards is distinctly different from other shows both known and not so well known. Al Bowman peels back the curtain of the process and explains, “we use these different systems like Reverbnation, Sonicbids, MusicSubmit.com, Broadjam and the one we used this year, Musicxray. They pay a small fee which this year was about nine bucks. We are very competitive with our fee because our product is the oldest and the best.” Bowman continues, “we are competing against newer awards shows which are charging thirty, forty or fifty bucks! The Global Music Awards for example-you go their site and you can’t see who these people are! You go to our site and what do you see on there? Our advisory board of Grammy Award winning producers, myself and the co-founder of the Hollywood F.A.M.E. Awards and the Phoenix Music Awards. People can put a face to us! People research and see there are genuine credentialed individuals.” Al continues unveiling, “they submit through that system-I listen! I reject about ninety percent of what comes in. We had about ten thousand songs submitted this year. We only have 95 finalists in 150 nomination slots, so some people got two or three nominations.” The fascinating reveal continues, “only one guy got four and he’s playing the voting event. He’s playing the event because he got a sponsor, a company to do business with the L.A. Music Awards. We are showcasing him in exchange for that! It gives us another logo to put on our red carpet press wall. That’s the way our program works. We put it on the artist’s back because they are the ones to get the benefits from it. We’ll do the event, you want to play the event? Bring us a company whose logo we could put on our press wall, whose logo is on our event day program, whose logo is next to your name on our site! That is our business model and it has worked for twenty-two years.”

Throughout the interview, this Examiner.com columnist was thoroughly impressed with Al Bowman’s ability to clarify even the most byzantine practices that the industry seems to frequently participate in. The subject of making it big in Hollywood entered the conversation. Bowman relished the opportunity to state his views, “how do you make it big in Hollywood? My answer would be-get on as many red carpets as you possibly can! Attend charity events. Cameron Diaz is hosting Foundation for the Junior Blind benefit at the Beverly Wilshire. 350 a ticket. Go online on the day of the show, pick them up for half off and get assigned a seat at a table. You don’t know who’s going to be seated at the table-now do you? Lo and behold, Brad and Angelina are sitting next to you and all you paid was 175, plus when you were on the red carpet, Jennifer Aniston walked by and when she heard you were a supporter of that charity-she takes a picture with you!” Al Bowman continues the blow-by-blow, “now you gave that picture to Oscar and he leaked it to T.M.Z. and now everybody thinks you are dating Jennifer Aniston! Guess what? Interscope just called and they want to sign you, but don’t ask if they like your music because they haven’t even listened to it! The just think you are Jennifer Aniston’s new boy toy!” Bowman concludes, “does that explain to you how the business operates?”

There are few businessman like Al Bowman in the world of business, let alone the business of entertainment. After talking to Mr. Bowman, one can clearly understand and no longer be mystified by many of the practices in the industry. It is to Al Bowman’s discipline and sharp mental state that he creates excitement at each and every one of his events that he produces. Bowman is larger than life not only because of his principles gained from his service to the country, but also because of his adherence to face the truth in a business that will often recoil at the thought of following this enlightened notion.

The Los Angeles Music Awards will enter its 22nd year this upcoming November 15th and there can be no doubt that Al Bowman will once again keep the ship steady in the turbulent seas of one of the most unusual businesses ever created-entertainment!

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