Everyone Deserves a Second Chance

If you lived in the Detroit area in the 1980s, you may remember the WJBK FOX2 branding campaign with the “It Takes Two” jingle.

The song was originally made famous by Marvin Gaye and Kim Weston. Mort Meisner hired Kim Weston and Marvin Gaye’s brother Frankie Gaye to perform the WJBK version. In doing so, he helped to revive Kim Westin’s career and give Frankie some exposure as well.

Mort has always been drawn to opportunities to answer the door when someone knocked on it for a second chance. As such, he not only succeeded in reviving some careers, but was able to apply it to his own life as well.

John Noel

John Noel

John Noel

Given his upbringing, the odds were stacked strongly against reporter John Noel. Growing up in New York, he was an addict by the time he was a teenager. He quit school and made a habit of holding people up at gunpoint. Then he decided to clean up. From Enough to Be Dangerous:

From that point forward until the day he died, he never touched an ounce of alcohol or took a single drug. He also became proficient in the martial arts. Philosophically, John and I were aligned.

When I left KSDK to come to Detroit in 1988, I was in desperate need of others who bought into my philosophy. By that time, John had made himself into a singles hitter. So I brought him on. It wasnt long before hed become a doubles hitter, and then after ten years, a triples hitter.

No stranger to a tumultuous upbringing, Mort had seen something in John that others missed. Years later when Mort was asked to leave WJBK and became an agent, John didn’t want to stay there without him. He was going to go back to New York and asked if Mort would rep him there. When Mort got him a job in New York, he didn’t ask for a contract from him. He was that special to Mort.

WLS-Chicago Reporter

When at WLS in Chicago, Mort worked with a reporter who always aimed to please the rough and tumble management team there. He had a good voice and he could write. Mort struggled with his lack of motivation, though, and couldn’t tolerate anybody just phoning it in. The fact was, Mort didn’t like him, and he didn’t like Mort. Even so, Mort was about giving second chances.

There was a heat wave in Chicago one summer and people were dying. Mort called the reporter into his office and told him he wanted him to cover the story about what people were doing to stay cool. He challenged him to come up with a strong angle – give the viewers something different. The reporter said he’d do the broadcast from the lagoon in Lincoln Park. Pretty hackneyed location, but Mort gave him the benefit of the doubt:

So the night of the broadcast, the camera panned to him.

He said, When I got to work this morning, my boss man told me to do a story on what people are doing to beat the heat.” The boss, of course, was me.

He ran through some of the things people were doing. Pretty run-of-the-mill stuff. But then at the end of the story, he looked directly in the camera and said, Mort, heres what Im going to do. This ones for you.”

Stripping down to just his boxers, he jumped into the pond.

Everyone assumed Mort would be mad. But when the reporter entered the building, Mort stood up and applauded him. The reporter’s attempt to make Mort angry had actually forced him to do a great story.

Twenty years later, the reporter called him to tell him how he had hated Mort then, and that he still didn’t like him. But he did admit to Mort that that particular story had changed him and his career for the better.

Second Chance at Love and Family

It took some time for Mort to be lucky in love.

Although he had a son he adored with his second wife, their lives were riddled with drug use and when she moved away, he rarely got to see him. He would do his best to visit Jason, but it was never enough.

Then he met Leslie and they were married in 1984. He whisked her away to a romantic wedding in Italy and they’ve been married ever since. Children did not come as easily, though.

After several attempts, they decided to adopt a child – their daughter Nicole. And as is so often the case, Leslie became pregnant with their son Mark soon after. Mort finally had the chance to be the father he wanted to be. And he loved it. Upon being let go at WJBK, he embraced the silver lining:

I now had time to coach Marks baseball team, which only further strengthened the bond I already had with my son. I would throw him batting practice 46 weeks per year. I watched him blossom into a great player and he eventually was able to realize his dream of playing Division One Baseball. Hes a Major League Baseball agent.

Meanwhile, Nicole was proving to be a gifted runner. Although I was not able to coach her in her sport, I was able to travel to see her run at meets throughout the country and even the world. She was one of the best sprinters ever at University of Detroit Mercy and broke records on both the national and international levels when she competed.

Mort has even had a second chance with his oldest son Jason, a successful restauranteur whom he visits regularly and with whom he has a strong relationship.

And with his two grandsons, Tony and Bruce, those second chances just keep on coming…

Get Your Copy Today

Enough to Be Dangerous isn’t just an action-packed memoir about working in the music and news industries. There are plenty of heart-warming stories too.

This dynamic memoir is due out October 1st from Two Sisters Writing and Publishing, but you can pre-order your autographed copy today right here.

And remember to subscribe to our blog for updates on the launch party and other book-related events. See you soon!

Email Sign Up

Join our email list to receive the newest from Mort Meisner

Enough to Be Dangerous – Mort Meisner’s Adventures in Rock and Roll

In 1969, Mort Meisner started living the rock and roll life.

KISS Alive platinum record as reward for Mort’s relationship with the group.

No, he wasn’t in a band. But his meteoric rise in the industry as a top music promoter would expose him to unparalleled superstar talent.

He would come to work with huge names such as Elton John, Sly and the Family Stone, David Bowie, Chuck Berry, KISS, and, of course, Bruce Springsteen. And that’s the short list.

Of course, the genesis of his adventures in rock and roll was not quite so glamorous.

In the Beginning…

In fact, he started out selling pop and chips at the age of 16 at a well-known and now defunct and non-existent venue in Detroit. The venue was owned by the father of a high school classmate who had aspirations of promoting music himself.

In his memoir Enough to Be Dangerous, Mort recalls how he experienced this once magical place:

The Grande Ballroom [had] three or four sets of metal doors. When you pried them open – and you had to pry them open – you were greeted with an extraordinarily wide set of stairs. At the top of the stairs, there was a once gorgeous ballroom that was a place where people came to dance in the 1930s and 1940s. Opposite the stage was a man who sold incense. At stage right, there was the pop and chips bar. It was cavernous. And every time I was there, it was special. Even at age 16, I knew who had come through those doors and had been on that stage.

Yep. Even though the Grande was already falling into disrepair by that time, Mort was in deep. And it didn’t take him long to graduate from selling soda to selling tickets there – all the time getting seriously schooled on how eccentric musicians could be:

I remember Iggy Pop getting naked, covering himself in peanut butter, then rolling around in the audience…

It was definitely a very different world from the one he’d come to know in his abusive childhood home.

Eventually, the Grande would close shop and Mort and his classmate would move onto promoting music at the Eastown, where they’d partner with another promoter and start their own production company.

And that’s where things got really bizarre.

Adventures in Rock and Roll at the Eastown

The Eastown got equally as big names as the Grande. But at The Eastown, drugs of all kinds were everywhere. Overtly so. There was nothing clandestine about it.

Mort was now in college at the University of Detroit – a student by day, and music promoter by night. And the musicians continued to provide great stories:

I remember virtually every show at the Eastown. But one that sticks with me in particular was Leslie West. What made West so memorable was that he was an obese 350-pound Jewish rock star with flowing curly hair and a black leather jacket. And he embraced the rock star persona. After the show, around 2 or 3 a.m., we went to the Clock restaurant on Harper. The locals, whod presumably never seen an obese Jewish rock star, began mocking him and making fun of him – asking him what the hell he was doing there. His response was straightforward, and far from eloquent.

He stood up on the table, pulled down his pants, and mooned the entire restaurant. I wasnt sure wed get out of there alive. But suffice it to say we did.

Just as the Grande met its demise, so too did the Eastown. But that didn’t stop Mort. The next stop? The Michigan Palace.

Rock Royalty at the Michigan Palace

When Mort speaks of the Michigan Palace during the week of October 15th – 20th in 1973, he does so with vigorous enthusiasm. For that was the week he met David Bowie, as well as the members of KISS.

Coming face to face with Bowie brought so many thoughts to mind. He was unapproachable – both figuratively and literally. On top of being told by his manager not to make direct eye contact with the rock star, I was instructed to definitely not strike up a conversation with him unless he initiated it. Hell, I didnt need to be told that! If I were ever intimidated and smitten with true rock royalty, this was the occasion.

While Bowie was at The Michigan Palace, a little-known (at the time) group called KISS was playing over in Windsor. Mort went to check them out. He was taken by their regalia.

When they found out that he was with the Michigan Palace, they asked if he could get them into the theater to see Bowie. Bowie’s management contract stated explicitly that there would be no comps and no guest list, but Mort wanted to cut these guys a break. So he snuck them up the fire escape to see Bowie.

That was their first time at The Michigan Palace. They would make their debut there six months later, and eventually perform KISS Alive! at the Cobo – where Mort would be the emcee who brought them on stage.

Want More on Mort’s Adventures in Rock and Roll?

We don’t want to give everything away here.

Fortunately, Enough to Be Dangerous is packed to the hilt with Mort’s wild adventures in rock and roll – not to mention the sometimes even stranger than fiction stories of the news industry that would follow.

So if this taste left you hungry for more, then click here to pre-order your autographed copy of Enough to Be Dangerous  – due out on October 1st from Two Sisters Writing and Publishing.

And don’t forget to keep checking back with our blog to stay up to date on all of the happenings and events around the book’s launch.

Email Sign Up

Join our email list to receive the newest from Mort Meisner