Guest Post: Miley and Britney's Manager Larry Rudolph on Van Toffler, MTV's 'Real Visionary'

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Larry Rudolph photographed on April 3, 2008 in Studio City, California. 

On Feb. 19, Viacom announced that Doug Herzog would succeed outgoing Head of Music Van Toffler as chief of the newly formed Music and Entertainment Group, which will include MTV, MTV2, CMT, VH1, Comedy Central, Spike and other networks. Toffler, a 28-year veteran of the company, was a key architect of many music-programming moments at Viacom, including the MTV Video Music Awards, CMT Awards and music-based MTV reality series like The Osbournes and Newlyweds. Maverick's Larry Rudolph, who manages artists Britney Spears and Miley Cyrus and produced Newlyweds for the network, reflects in his own words on some of Toffler's most memorable accomplishments. -- Andrew Hampp

I'm very sad to see Van go. Not only is he a close friend, he's been an amazing partner with me for so many years. When I think back on the things that Van and I were able to do together, it's mind-blowing. He really was more than just a guy who sat in a chair at the top of a hill. He was very involved. In fact, the entire Madonna-Britney kiss performance and moment [in 2002] happened as a result of Van and I digging in together to make that happen. There were 20 different times when that performance went flat, but Van and I were on the phone all day, every day for weeks straight, constantly putting it back together, picking up the pieces to make it happen because we both had the vision to make it what it could be. 

That's just one example, but there were many others under his watch. Britney Spears' MTV performance in 2000, where she did The Rolling Stones' "Satisfaction" with "Oops I Did It Again," which was one of MTV's top moments in the history of the network, and the "I'm A Slave 4 U" performance a few years later. Then I produced Newlyweds with him, the Nick [Lachey] and Jessica [Simpson] show, and most recently the Miley Cyrus VMA performance, which was very much orchestrated between Van and I in terms of getting Miley that slot on the show. 

Miley was not necessarily on everybody's radar at that moment, and that VMA performance was what blew it wide open for her. People loved her music that was out at the time, but it wasn't until that moment where things went from zero to 60. Everything exploded, and Van made that happen. She wasn't supposed to be on the show, and Van sort of kissed her into the show based upon some conversations he and I had, and him and Miley. He's a real visionary. A lot of amazing moments in the history of that network would have not have happened if not for Van. 

I can't imagine that commitment to the VMAs will change. It's such a cornerstone event for the MTV brand, I'd be shocked if they changed that in any way, shape or form. And hearing that Van is going to stay on as an executive producer makes me very happy because he really gets the vision for it. I know Doug also, and I'm happy that it's him coming in after Van. Doug's not the kind of guy who's gonna come in and try to fix something that isn't broken. I'm sure that there's a plan there, and whatever it is Doug will see it through. There'll be a bright future for the network. I'm interested to see what changes do come and what the intentions are, and I'll reach out to Doug soon and have that conversation with him myself, so I can understand what his philosophy is going forwards.

I think MTV will always, always have an identity as a music-based network, even though the "M" in MTV has sort of faded a bit in terms of its definition from the early days. But that's OK -- reality television didn't exist when MTV started, and now it's what basically funds cable TV. So it's understandable that Viacom would need to program the network in a way that gives the public what they're looking for and maximizes its revenues. At the same time, I hope they will continue to try and find those moments where they can integrate music into the programming, like the Nicki Minaj docs, or the Miley moments, whatever it may be. 


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