Off-Ramp

Off-Ramp host John Rabe and contributors share thoughts on arts, culture, and life in L.A.

Entertainment Legend Lou Adler Q&A with Alex Ben Block on Off-Ramp

I've just posted a 40-minute interview with entertainment industry legend Lou Adler as a special Off-Ramp podcast. Like Jack and Lou, for this one, I sat on the sidelines, and let Alex Ben Block, senior editor at The Hollywood Reporter, conduct the interview. Alex also sent in this story on how the interview came about...

Courtside, 2008

He's the guy with the white beard and mustache who sits next to Jack Nicholson at the Laker games, often with a beret or white suit and rose colored glasses on. He may not be as famous as Jack, but Lou Adler is renowned in his own way, and a legend to those in the know, especially in music.

So recently when John Rabe asked me who we were going to feature next in our occasional series for Off-Ramp about the stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, I suggested Adler, the now retired record producer (Tapestry), personal talent manager (The Mamas & The Papas), movie director (Up in Smoke), and empresario (Rocky Horror Picture Show). Up until now all of those we featured had been dead, which makes for a dull interview.
 
So I set out to contact Lou Adler and see if he would meet with us. You can't just look him up in the phone book, and he no longer has an agent or manager that I could locate. I left a message for him at the Roxy, the club in Hollywood he owns, which is now run by one of his seven sons – yes he really has seven sons, and some of them are also quite accomplished.
 
I Googled Adler as well, and found a charity, The Painted Turtle, that he and his wife helped found and have long supported. He has quietly through the years become a major supporter of children’s charities.
 
Through a kind person at The Painted Turtle, the message was relayed, and I was finally contacted with a number for his assistant, who I was to call to set up  an in-person interview.
 
It took a few weeks but on a bright afternoon, John and I met at McDonald's, then headed up the Pacific Coast Highway. It turned out we were going to a home high on a cliff overlooking Malibu, which is one of two houses Adler owns. This one he uses as his office. Another nearby is his home. Both have spectacular ocean views.
 
Alex and Lou
 
John and I found the house and weaved our way up a hillside and down his winding driveway. There was what seemed to be a podium near the broad driveway and a basketball court nearby. The house was a sprawling one story that hung on the edge of a cliff, close enough to the ocean to hear the waves breaking on the beach.
 
We rang the bell and Adler answered the door himself. He was a slightly built man with a white beard and shock of white hair. He was dressed casually and smiled easily. He gave us a brief tour of his office/house, which is filled with mementoes from his long and interesting career, and finally led us into a recording studio at one end which is used by his son Cisco Adler, former front man for the band Whitestarr, and now frequent collaborator with the hip hop artist Schwayze, with whom he was seen working on an album in the MTV series “Buzzin’.”
 
First some basic bio for those who think he is just that guy with  Jack. He was born in Chicago but raised in a Jewish/Mexican family in east L.A. He came to fame first with Dunhill Records and later founded Ode Records. Artists he helped launch, managed or recorded included Jan & Dean when the surf sound really was young, the great soul singer Sam Cooke, the Mamas and the Papas who he helped form, Johnny Rivers, The Grass Roots, Carole King (including producing Grammy winning album “It’s Too Late” and one of the great albums of all time, “Tapestry”) and beginning in 1968 Cheech and Chong, who made pioneering comedy albums before movies. Adler directed the classic stoner pic for them “Up In Smoke” and the little seen but amazing “Ladies and Gentlemen, The Fabulous Stains.”
 
 On a trip to England, Adler saw a stage version of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” which he helped bring to America. One venue it played was his The Roxy Theater in West Hollywood.
  
Alder was married at one time to actress Shelley Fabares and currently is wed to Page Hannah, younger sister of actress Daryl Hannah. She is mom to four of his sons – Manny, Ike, Pablo and Oscar. 
  
Adler does very few interviews and made it clear he only agreed to talk to us because we were from a National Public Radio affiliate. He was a bit tense at first, but soon relaxed and the conversation flowed easily from one subject to another. He is mostly retired now but his life has been full, and his contributions to the art and music of our time truly makes him a legend.
  
So listen to the interviews and the next time you see the guy with the white beard in the court side seats at a Laker game, remember that he is more than just the guy next to Jack.
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