I was sad to see the news item that Eliot Tiegel, former Billboard managing editor, died on Tuesday (April 7) at age 84.
Eliot hired me in my first go-round at Billboard in the ’70s. He changed the course of my life one day in 1977 when he came by my desk — back when Billboard was based in the landmark 9000 Building on Sunset Blvd. in West Hollywood — with a question about The Doobie Brothers.
I had written “The Doobie Bros.” in a story. Eliot wanted to know if that was how the group’s name was properly rendered, or if it was supposed to be “The Doobie Brothers.”
I’m sure I thought, “Who cares? Everyone will know who I’m talking about.” But I didn’t want to get fired in my first few months on the job, so I placed the call to Warner Bros., the group’s record label, to check.
Eliot’s sense that something was amiss was right. The group’s name is properly rendered as “The Doobie Brothers.”
I didn’t want Eliot to have to come back to my desk again, so I redoubled my efforts to always be accurate. Is it “Captain & Tennille” or “Captain and Tennille” or “The Captain and Tennille” — or, God forbid, “Captain and Tenille?” (It is “Captain & Tennille.”)
I have taken this perfectionist, OK, persnickety, trait with me throughout my career. It has served me well. I think I have a reputation for accuracy — and probably for being a bit of a pain in the neck. That’s OK. Details matter. That was drilled into me by my first boss.
I stayed in touch with Eliot over the years. I sent him a card when his wife, Bonnie Tiegel, died in 2017. She was a talented photographer who did a lot of photo shoots for Billboard — and went on to an impressive career in television. She won four Emmys in her long stint as an Entertainment Tonight producer.
One day a few years ago, I recalled my Doobie Brothers story in an email exchange with Eliot. I thanked him for setting me on my course. I don’t think he remembered the moment — it changed my life, not his — but he was gracious in accepting my thanks.
Because of Eliot, I will always double-check if I’m not 100% certain that I have my facts straight. I have even coined an expression, “Whatever you don’t look up will bite you in the a–.” I never had a chance to share that expression with Eliot. He would have gotten a kick out of that. Thanks, boss.