Allen Klein: The Man Who Bailed Out the Beatles, Made the Stones, and Transformed Rock & Roll

Allen Klein: The Man Who Bailed Out the Beatles, Made the Stones, and Transformed Rock & Roll

by Fred Goodman


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780547896861
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date: 06/23/2015
Pages: 320
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.40(d)

About the Author

FRED GOODMAN is a former Rolling Stone editor and the author of the books Fortune's Fool,The Secret City, and The Mansion on the Hill, which was a New York Times Notable Book and received the Ralph J. Gleason Award for Best Music Book.

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IT MAY HAVE BEEN the dramatic grounds; he may have been impressed that George C. Scott and Colleen Dewhurst were renting it. Whatever the reason, Allen Klein wanted the house.

Practically, buying it made more sense than moving back to New Jersey; if he wasn't in London, Allen was either in his midtown office or out with clients late into the night, and he was unlikely to ever find his way home if it meant crossing the George Washington Bridge. He could certainly afford it now — although his not having money rarely kept him from getting what he wanted. The year was 1966 and the price was a stratospheric one hundred and fifty thousand dollars.

It was a regal house — a rich man's house — on a wooded, meandering estate road in the exclusive and surprisingly bucolic Riverdale section of the Bronx. Set back from a cliff, stone walls rose behind tall, weathered stockade fences hiding a front lawn as long and green as a fairway and a view from the property's western edge that is more than picturesque; it is violent and indomitable as only nature can be, and to a degree one rarely associates with New York City: two hundred feet below, the wide and seething Hudson River floods in and out with the tides, while a mile across, on the Jersey side, the towering red wall of the Palisades climbs forbiddingly skyward.

To the surprise of everyone, not least the in-laws who had been propping him up financially, Allen has become wildly successful. Allen Klein and Associates, his small accounting and business-management firm, rocketed into profitability two years earlier, first with Sam Cooke and Bobby Vinton and then with a string of British rock acts that included the Dave Clark Five, the Animals, Herman's Hermits, Donovan, Lulu, and the Kinks and culminated in the Rolling Stones. Later, when Allen manages the Beatles, the front doorbell will chime the chorus of "All You Need Is Love." But if Klein is feeling mischievous, as he often is, he will call his home "the house that Jagger built."

And build it they did. Allen and his wife, Betty, immediately made many improvements: terraced garden, back patio, swimming pool. And, of course, the bathrooms. There had been three when they bought the house; now there were eleven, including two in the new pool cabana and one for each of the six bedrooms. It was a subject of some ribbing from friends and guests — "Jesus, Allen, what the hell have you been eating?" — yet the bathrooms and their privacy were the most important part of the house for Allen.

The earliest homes Allen could remember were with his grandparents. When Allen was born, in December 1931 — the youngest of four children and the only son — his mother, Rose, brought him home to the Newark apartment of her in-laws on Springfield Avenue. The Jewish Newark of the thirties revolved around two south-side neighborhoods: Weequahic and the working-class Clinton Hill, where the Kleins lived. "Weequahic was mainly the upper-class Jews," said Allen's sister Naomi Henkle. "Weequahic High was the Jew school. If you were Jewish and had fifty cents in your pocket, you went there. It was upper crust." The Kleins weren't upper crust. Allen's father, Philip, was a butcher.

Taciturn and distant, Philip Klein was a perplexing man whose most lasting impact on Allen was to make him feel unloved. Family legend had it that Philip was playing cards when Allen was born. "You have a king to go with your three queens," the doctor dryly informed him. It was Allen's paternal grandfather, Sam, a rabbi and mashgiach, or kosherer, who took an interest in him and became a substitute father figure.

"I really loved my grandfather," Klein recalled. "He was a different sort of a guy. He didn't speak much — and only Hungarian and Yiddish. But he was so good. He worked six and a half days a week, dressed in a black suit with a top hat, and would bless the meat and check to see the way that they killed the animals. He worked until he was eighty-one. That was one thing he taught me: he gave me a work ethic. He walked home one day, said he wasn't feeling well, and went to lie down. He never got up again. He was also learned and he took no shit from my grandmother. She was a farbissineh" — Yiddish for an embittered, sullen person — "and never smiled." Allen remembered his grandparents' apartment. It was around the corner from a cemetery and next door to a four-lane bowling alley operated by the Moose Lodge. What he didn't remember was his mother.

Allen's parents, Philip and Rose, lived a hard and precarious life. Sent to America at the age of thirteen, Philip had risen to the occasion, earning enough money to bring over his sisters and his parents. He gained his American citizenship by serving as an MP during the First World War. But it was Rose, who'd arrived in America as an infant, who taught Philip to read and write English. She bore him four children and was his partner and coworker in a butcher shop. "I think she really carried her weight," Allen said. Ill during her final pregnancy, Rose died of cancer at thirty-two, when Allen was nine months old. Her passing was a blow to the family and sent Allen's life careening in unforeseen directions. When the butcher shop succumbed to the one-two punch of the Depression and the loss of Rose's help, the Kleins could no longer afford their own apartment. After her death, Philip worked at Reinfeld's, a market in Spring Valley, New York, owned by a cousin. But a fulltime job and four children was more than he could handle. He relied on his two older teenage daughters, Esther and Anna, to keep an eye on three-year-old Naomi, but Allen was problematic. Barely a year old, he was sent to live with his maternal grandparents, Joe and Anita Brown, and their daughter, Helen, in their apartment onNewark's South Nineteenth Street. Delighted to care for Rose's baby, they doted on Allen.

That didn't please his paternal grandparents, who, unlike Joe and Anita, were deeply religious. They knew the Browns loved Allen, but they abhorred the thought of having their grandson brought up by nonobservant Jews. The woman can't go to shul or The mikvah — the ritual bath used by Orthodox Jews — but she can play cards? It wasn't right.

Everything changed in the summer of 1935 when Philip received an urgent phone call at work. It was the hospital. Seven-year-old Naomi had fallen from a moving car.

"My sister Esther was working and Anna was supposed to be the watchdog," Naomi said. "She took me on one of her safari rides one day with a bunch of wild Indians. I fell out of a rumble seat and my father had to come get me in the hospital. Anna was always a wild child. She had, what, five husbands?" Clearly, the girls needed more supervision — and Philip's parents were still carping about their grandson being raised like a goy at the Browns'. That August, Philip solved all his problems by having Anna, Naomi, and four-year-old Allen placed in Newark's Hebrew Orphanage and Sheltering Home.

Though he didn't know what was happening, Allen remembered the day vividly. "It was very strange," he recalled. "My grandmother was dressing me and crying. I was standing on a chair and crying because she was crying. And I got put into a station wagon with two of my sisters."

The home, a looming stone Victorian with a circular driveway, was across town on Lincoln Avenue in Newark's north side. It was a quiet residential area and a world away from the bustling Jewish south side. Virtually none of the thirty-odd children living there at any given moment were actually orphans; in almost every case they, like the Kleins, were Jewish children from Depression-battered families that couldn't care for them. The home took children only up until the age of sixteen, and Allen's eldest sister, Anna, aged out after just a few weeks. But the four-year-old Allen was the youngest child they had ever accepted.

"We were dropped off at this three-story house and when I turned around, everybody was gone," said Allen. "I needed to go to the bathroom and I walked around this house but I couldn't find it. I went back outside; they had a big backyard with swings and stuff. I was upset because I really had to use the bathroom. There were bushes and I went in and I took a crap in the bushes. And I remember, you know, later, walking around there and seeing the flies ... the horseflies. And being embarrassed and saying, 'It's not mine. That's not mine.'"

Allen and Naomi slept in separate dormitory rooms but were otherwise together every day and attended the nearby Bergen Street public school. Small, Allen was friendly but shy and felt apart from the other kids, who nicknamed him Weasel. (The name stuck. Thirty years later, his nephews and nieces knew him as Uncle Weasel.) "We walked to school every day in line," he said. "We were the home kids; 'Those are the kids from the home.' I tried to straggle behind. I think I just ignored everything."

Life at the institution was far from cruel. There were chores but there was also time to be a child. "There was a playground," said Naomi. "Allen fell off a swing and broke his arm, and you had to learn how to climb over the fence if you wanted to get out to get candy and stuff. This wasn't a jail. It wasn't great, but it wasn't jail." During the summer there were two weeks at the YMHA camp in Milford, Pennsylvania, and day trips to a beach on Staten Island.

Weekends were the worst. On Sundays, families could take their children out for the day. Worried that Allen looked frail, his grandmother brought groceries to the home on Sundays and convinced the nurse that he needed a special breakfast of soft-boiled eggs, butter, and bread. But as his grandmother's health failed, her visits became less and less frequent.

Philip came to the home just once, to take the children on a brief summer trip to visit relatives in Wheeling, West Virginia. The driver from Reinfeld's, where Philip worked, picked up Naomi and Allen one or two Saturdays a year so they could spend a night at the apartment Philip shared with Anna and Esther or at the one their aunt Helen lived in with her husband, Lenny. Another aunt, Bell, occasionally visited and once even drove them to a Howard Johnson's for ice cream. But those were rare occasions. Almost every Sunday, Allen and Naomi hung on the orphanage's gate watching as other children boarded the number 27 bus with their families and headed downtown for Chinese food. "Sundays were bad," Naomi said. "We used to weep a lot."

And that was how they passed five years. With a new Hebrew orphanage under construction nearby, Allen looked forward to a time when he wouldn't have to sleep in a bunk bed and had his own clothes closet. Now, when clothes came back from the laundry, everything was dumped in the middle of the room and it was a mad scrum to dig for what was yours. He hated retrieving his clothes almost as much as he hated the way his old socks, darned at the heels, chafed his feet. Life would be better at the new orphanage.

October 5, 1941, was a legendary day in New York sports. In the bottom of the ninth of Game 4 of the World Series, a game-ending third strike was called on Yankee batter Tommy Henrich. That should have given the Brooklyn Dodgers a victory and tied the series at two games each, but the ball skipped past Brooklyn catcher Mickey Owen, allowing Henrich to reach base and the Yankees to rally to win the game (and, ultimately, the series). Ten-year-old Allen, listening raptly to the radio at the orphanage, didn't realize it was a big day in his life too. All he knew was that George, his sister Esther's husband, was coming to get Naomi and him and that the blue wool suit with knickers that he had to wear was itching like crazy.

After a stop at George and Esther's apartment on Stuyvesant Avenue, the children were driven to a three-story, six-apartment building on Tillinghast Street in Weequahic.

"We walked upstairs and opened the door and there on the left was a brown Philco radio and a color picture of my father sitting on it," said Allen. "So something lit up in my head." Indeed, his father was there — as were his grandmother, his aunt Helen, and a woman he didn't know.

"This is your new home," Philip announced. "You'll never have to go back to the Hebrew orphanage home." The stranger was introduced to Allen and Naomi as Lillian Drucks, their new mother.

Allen was thrilled. "Somebody wants to be my mother?" he recalled years later. "Anybody! You want to be my mother? I'm ready!"

Several years older than Philip, she had been married with grown children when she met and became smitten with the butcher. "He was the man about town and Lilly followed him all around," said Naomi. When Philip said he'd marry her if she'd make a home for his children, she divorced her husband. Though Philip didn't explain it to the kids then, he and Lillian had married that morning.

Allen and Naomi were ecstatic as they ran through the apartment, hugging each other when they reached their new bedroom at the other end. "We couldn't believe this was happening," said Naomi. Allen was most stunned by what he saw in the kitchen. "There's no lock on the refrigerator!" he whispered to Naomi. "Do you think we could get a drink?"

Allen now had the run of the neighborhood, and it was liberating. The schoolyard and ball fields around the corner at the Hawthorne Avenue School were the center of his new world — "Allen was Mr. Playground," said Naomi — and he came to love his stepmother. "I really had no relationship with my father," he said, "but Lillian was great."

Saturdays and summers he spent working with Lillian's two grown sons, who operated a small painting and wallpapering business. Allen was their dollar-a-day helper, cleaning the paintbrushes, wrapping them in newspaper, and folding the tarps. "Then I graduated to painting behind the radiators and in the closets." Sundays and Jewish holidays were reserved for trips to the Hebrew cemetery on South Orange Avenue. Allen loathed them. Confused and frightened, he wasn't even sure what death was, and the passing of his maternal grandmother just six months after he came home from the orphanage did nothing to lessen the mystery and fear. Allen told an aunt that he wanted to become a doctor and bring his mother back to life; he listened to the weekly show Mr. Keen, Tracer of Lost Persons with a mixture of terror and hope that the popular radio detective would find her. "I hated going to the cemetery," he said. "I was afraid to go. I was afraid of dead people."

An indifferent student, Allen coasted through school on the strengths of a quick mind and an exceptional memory. At Weequahic High School he was the loud ringleader of a small group of neighborhood boys who shuttled between the movie theaters and the playgrounds. Still, he wasn't otherwise popular or socially successful and he craved companionship. "I'll tell you what I got from my father and from being in the home," he said. "I knew what it was like to be on my own." His high-school yearbook was signed by just one classmate: Philip Roth, the neighborhood's future chronicler and literary light. They were not friends, and Roth has no recollection of Klein. Perhaps Allen simply envied or longed to know the gifted classmate who, even then, seemed most likely to succeed.

Work was a different story than school; he embraced it completely. At fourteen Allen began working for a next-door neighbor, Melvin Stein, who was a few years older. Already out of school, Stein had purchased a newspaper route in nearby Short Hills, and he hired Allen to help. "He was a hard-working guy," Klein said, "and I looked up to him. He was like an older brother I never had."

At first Allen hoped his new friend and mentor would help him figure out a way to win his father's affection. "I would talk about my father and he would say, 'Your father will just keep breaking your heart. Don't think about it.'" Indeed, Philip Klein seemed incapable of seeing good in his son or taking his part in any argument.

"I got into a fight in front of our house and this guy was bigger than me and I finally got on top of him," Allen recalled. "My father came and held my hands while this guy hit me. Because I had to be wrong." In high school, Allen got into a spat with a girlfriend who threw a glass at him, necessitating stitches. "I didn't say anything — I told them it was an accident — but the girl's mother found out and she called my father and Lillian." When the mother blamed Allen and threatened to take action, Philip was apologetic. It was Lillian who stood up for him. "She said, 'You people talk too much. It takes two to tango.'"

His friend Melvin encouraged Allen to focus on work. Within the year, the two were also employees of a Newark newspaper and magazine distribution company, Essex County News, which dealt with eight hundred accounts, largely candy stores and newsstands. Every month, shipments to each account had to be tallied and billed, after which Essex paid publishers for what had been sold and returned the banners and covers of unsold newspapers and magazines for credit. Allen, who was already demonstrating an affinity for numbers, could add up a bill in his head as rapidly as the boss or the billing clerk could figure it out on an adding machine. He was a quick success at Essex.


Excerpted from "Allen Klein"
by .
Copyright © 2015 Fred Goodman.
Excerpted by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents

Prologue: London, August 1969 xi

1 A Foundling's Tale 1

2 Allen Klein and Company 15

3 Sam Cooke 33

4 The Yiddish Invasion 61

5 "People Keep Asking Me If They're Morons" 77

6 The King of America 103

7 ABKCO 123

8 Rock 'n' Roll Circus 137

9 The Prize 153

10 With the Beatles 177

11 Mr. Popularity 197

12 Some Time in New York City 217

13 A Sport and a Pastime 235

14 No Sympathy for the Devil 257

Acknowledgments 277

Notes 280

Index 290

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