Dorothy Carvello Shares: Ahmet Ertegun 'Felt Me Up,' Wu-Tang Scares Germans and More

Ahmet ErtegunAtlantic Records founderJuly 31, 1923 - December 14, 2006

This article first appeared in the June 14th issue of Billboard Magazine.

A&R executive-turned-PR maven Dorothy Carvello is shopping around "Anything for a Hit," a memoir of her often-surreal experiences in the music business during the late 1980s and ’90s. She began her career in 1987 as an assistant to Ahmet Ertegun, the legendary Atlantic Records founder, and went on to become the label’s first female A&R executive. In an interview, Carvello, 50, shares three choice tales from her manuscript.

Ahmet Ertegun

“Ahmet was at home in the White House or a crack house. He could hang out with anybody. In 1988, Atlantic and Geffen Records were both trying to sign Skid Row. Geffen was offering the better deal. So we brought in Ahmet. He arranged for the corporate helicopter to take five of us to Allentown, Pa., where the band was playing. We got picked up in two giant limos and then went to dinner at IHOP. It was the only place open. Ahmet began drinking on the helicopter and then put away a bottle of Jack Daniel’s at the show. He outdrank the band and seduced them with stories about signing Led Zeppelin and The Rolling Stones. One other thing: I was the only woman on the trip, and Ahmet felt me up like he was reading Braille. It was 4 a.m. when we headed back to New York. When we landed, the door of the helicopter opened and Ahmet fell out onto the ground. His driver scooped him up and took him home. We signed Skid Row, and their debut was the biggest seller of 1989 for [Warner Elektra Atlantic]. I got promoted to A&R after that.”

Wu-Tang Clan 

“After Atlantic I worked at RCA, and on the last night of the label’s 1993 convention, Wu-Tang Clan performed. RCA was owned by BMG then, and executives from Germany were there. We sat them up front. When Wu-Tang performed, they came out unannounced on each side of the convention center with pantyhose over their heads.  The Germans had no idea what was going on. One of them handed his wallet to one of the guys on stage and took off his watch. He thought he was being robbed. (Joe Galante, who ran RCA Records at the time, tells Billboard he never heard the wallet story, but does recall that some “non-label” senior executives “were taken back by [Wu-Tang Clan’s] attire since they hadn't seen them.” He adds, "Some left, but I believe it's because they weren't fans of the music." 

Let’s Talk About Sex

“One rock star, who will remain nameless for the time being asked me if I wanted to see some family photos. I thought I'd humor him, so I said yes. I thought he was going to show me a picture of his grandmother. The first two photos were of him and his wife. The third was of him and his wife having sex. Next was a photo of his wife’s boob job, which he’d bought for her with his advance money. What do you say when someone shows you pictures like that? ‘Wow. I didn’t know anyone could get her leg behind her head like that?’ Another time, we were recording a heavy metal group. We walk into the studio and there was an orgy going on. These were everyday occurrences, and you couldn’t show any embarrassment or discomfort. I couldn’t especially because I was one of very few women in A&R at the time. If I couldn't handle it, who would hire me again?"


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