The music industry is long overdue for its #MeToo explosion, and this memoir seems ready to light the fuse.
As the first female executive for Atlantic Records in A&R—artists and repertoire, the talent scouts who sign the recording acts—Carvello describes in dirty detail a “culture of toxic masculinity” that pervaded the company in particular and the industry as a whole. She was initiated into the industry as an assistant and secretary to the legendary Ahmet Ertegun, who hired her as something of a political favor, though she didn’t really know how to type or take dictation. Though the label’s founder enjoyed a reputation as something of a cosmopolitan sophisticate, she exposes him as “the guy who played with himself under his desk while dictating letters to his secretary” and “who verbally, physically, and sexually mistreated me.” Yet he was also her lifelong mentor, and she claims that she revered him even as he disgusted her—even after his violence toward her resulted in “a hairline fracture in my forearm.” By today’s standards, Ertegun would have been found guilty of sexual harassment and criminal assault, yet at the time, a lawyer told her “that if I sued for harassment, I’d lose my job. Worse than that, I knew I’d be blackballed from the entire business.” So Carvello went along to get along, swearing as much as the man-eating sharks that surrounded her, sleeping with some of them, and marrying one who physically abused her (and to whom she gave a black eye). She dishes unsavory details about industry giants such as Doug Morris, Irving Azoff, and Tommy Mottola (though not with the sexual accusations she levels at Ertegun), and she shows how she suffered from a reputation as “a troublemaker.” Yet her own attempts at revenge and her mixing of business with sexual pleasure suggest that she was willing to play the game by the same rules as the rest of them.
No matter how sleazy you might have heard the music industry is, this memoir suggests that it was worse.