Fast Confession - Tomáš Gottlieb, manager of the famous: I can't be happy anymore, but I am content!
He spent over fifty years among the famous. For fifty years, he's been taking care of business and giving advice on how to swim in the Czech show business pond without drowning.The media as the manager describe him as the manager of the late Iveta Bartošová. Tomas Gottlieb recently celebrated his 70th birthday, and although he's experienced a great number of lively parties in his life, he says he'll never forget this one. Why? Find out in his interview for LP-Life.cz.
Tom, how did you enjoy your 70th birthday party?
It was amazing, I hadn't expected it at all. I'd originally planned it for just a couple of people, and I had no idea it would end up being so huge. I'm very grateful for that, because at least I saw that not everything I've done in my life sucked. I've been living from it for a week now and it gives me a lot of joy.
Who surprised you by making an appearance, even though you hadn't let them know?
To tell you the truth, I didn't actually ask anyone to come. I just created an event, or rather a friend of mine did, I didn't know anything about it at first. I didn't personally invite anybody. That's why I was all the more surprised that my friend, singer Leona Gyöngyösi, who I love, showed up. Petr Pecha came too, that made me very happy. Andrea Pomeje, who I also love. And then a lot of other people arrived with whom I hadn't counted at all.
What gifts did you get?
Well, there were a few funny gifts, regarding me being in my seventies now. There were things like an orbituary, but written in a witty manner. Then I got a beautiful bouquet full of cigarettes. And in addition to that an awful lot of alcohol, I definitely won't be able to drink it all by the time I die.
How so? You like to drink, don't you?
I do like to drink, I have no problem with it, but not at home. I don't know what it is - taking a drink at home. Actually, until my seventieth, I never even had a bottle of alcohol at home, because I don't drink at home.
Have you taken a trip down the memory lane, too?
Of course, there was a lot of reminiscing. You know what, I don't know how it's possible, but the entire 50 years of my career in show business passed in front of my eyes that day. I had that happen without wanting to. It came in sequences, like the celebration of my fortieth or fiftieth birthday. That's why I was so happy about the whole thing, I used to think no one would be interested in me anymore when I'm seventy. That only the people closest to me would come, and they came too, of course, such as Marie Maribel and young Petr "Sepéši".
Oh yeah, and when I woke up the following morning, I thought it was because of the celebration, but suddenly, having turned seventy, I started to breathe more slowly. I don't mean health-wise, but already in the morning, I began to calm down a little, thinking, "Alright, old boy, let's take it a bit easy from now on."
How did you become a manager of Czech celebrities?
I was already taught the ropes at 22, when I built my own ballet and started looking for some kind of engagement. I've passed playback tests, at Pragokoncert back then. We started working on it, I found four good dancers and got a permanent engagement in Lucerna, and there I had to take care of everything. Then I went abroad, to Italy, Switzerland, West Germany, where I danced so much that I ended up producing the whole ballet.
When I returned, I got an offer from Jirka Korn to join the ensemble of Singing in the Rain. I was glad to accept it, because it was a great chance for me to show my talent somewhere else than in a bar. As we'd been friends for life since the age of 20, we're the same age, Jirka and I, and so on, I saw it as an amazing opportunity.
Did you study together as well?
No, we didn't study together, neither I nor Jirka studied. I just danced, I danced in the rain. (laughs) But I've always admired Jirka, even when he was young, he matures like wine. And he's built his career so well that he sells out an entire arena at 70.
When our cooperation ended, I went back to the Lucerna bar as program director and started producing. And one day a young girl with a young boy appeared there - Iveta Bartošová and Petr Sepéši. They had a recommendation on me, said that Dalibor Janda was singing there and that they'd like to sing there too. At that time I didn't know them at all, I'd seen her singing Knoflíky lásky (Love Buttons) on TV in Karlovy Vary once. They came for an audition in the afternoon and sang three songs for me. And they were really sweet and amazing, so I signed them in. But it was problematic, Iveta came from Frenštát with nothing but a sleeping bag, so she was staying with us.
You were already married at that time?
I was already married, of course.
So she lived with you and your wife?
Yes, my wife was looking after her as if she were our second child. It turned against her later, but that's how it was, Iveta lived with us. It's one a chapter of our lives, a well known one - I wrote my feelings out in a book when I was upset about possibly being the one to blame for Iveta's life, which took a completely different turn afterwards. I wrote a book then, called The Dark Face of Princess Iveta. With that, I was able to move on.
Iveta was kind of my first project. I was employed at the Havana Club, where I worked behind the bar, through which I was keeping Iveta fed, while robbing my own child. Because I was enthusiastic about Iveta and I knew she was the new Simonová and that I would help that girl get places. I'm proud of it because in my era, she won the Zlatý slavík award before Láďa Štaidl and Karel Svoboda even came into the picture… When I handed her over to Láďa, she was already a golden nightingale. For me it feels like a victory, because when I managed this, I was just an ordinary young guy, working behind the bar, but the show business had rubbed off on me, and so I simply succeeded.
After that I cooperated, you could say, with almost all the singers, but I never called myself their manager, because I wasn't really a manager. I was trying to find work for them, but I never dictated them what they should be doing. From today's perspective, I would I was more of a consultant, and that stayed with me till now. I'm happy about that and it makes me feel good when they come to me for a piece of advise or just to have a chat. On the other hand, I'm glad that I don't have to carry the burden of being a manager on my shoulders anymore, because I probably couldn't pull it off anymore these days.
Who else did you help?
Certainly Dalibor Janda, who'd originally worked at the airport, and when I gave him an engagement and he worked for me half or three quarters of a year, it helped him a lot. Felix Slováček and many producers saw him there. And it makes me feel good too. And I can also mention Eva Olmerová, she was already out of breath, no one was interested in her anymore, and I took a huge risk, when she hit rock bottom and didn't have anything to eat, and I went for it. I was figting for her, trying to get her on the stage, on TV. Eva actually had her comeback in the Lucerna bar, because everyone came to see her. And when she opened her mouth and sang Čekej tiše (Wait quietly)... Her voice was out of this world.
Then there were Judita Čeřovská, Pavla Břínková, Marcela Holanová and many others, but I was always more like a springboard for them. Either they needed a comeback, because they weren't famous anymore, but they had a name, and I tried to give them the chance to become popular again, or they needed to kickstart their career.
Were they grateful? Because people like to forget…
They certainly forget. It's like if we were talking about the difference in show business fifty years ago and now. In the past, there was more humility, there were stars who'd experienced downfalls and comebacks, and that can't be forgotten. So the gratitude was there, it's much worse today. That's why I don't want to do this job anymore. What exists here today is awful, terrible anger, fights over roles in musicals and things like that. Artists are competing for their spot in the sun and they don't really like each other. I don't have to be there for that.
But it was how you made living back then...
Not really, I had a good salary thanks to Lucerna ball, but that was about enough to sustain my family. But even though I released a record with Iveta, and I even released an LP 02 with Jirka Korn as a producer, I didn't have money from it. At that time it wasn't like that, you had to be Karel Svoboda and have a name and have at least one song on the record, then you are counted into royalties and you take royalties as a singer.
But that wasn't my case. I recorded it, but the record belonged to Supraphon, the company put its money into it, I put together a selection of songs and made sure the concept made sense. That's what I was doing with Iveta, and before her with Jirka Korn on LP 02, where I was the producer and I was in charge of the selection of songs. But you really need to be the author to get some money.
I remember you had Sámer Issa under your wing too...
You may have come across the right name, he actually wants to thank me on his upcoming birthday. Sámer is simply Sámer, I keep telling him he's a rebel without a cause. I like him, but of course we've had terrible fights because we are both the same. I enjoyed working with him very much, but again I wasn't his producer, I was his associate. It worked like this: I found something for Sámer and he only did it if he liked it. The same with Peter Pecha, while nowadays Peter doesn't concern himself with these things, he's humble, grateful and we have nothing set, no percentages, no commissions. But if he likes my offer, he does appreciate it.
How did you look after stars before and how do you do it today, in the age of Internet? A time when it's no longer about records, but Youtube videos…
It has changed in the regard that a singer, performer, actor, if he's successful, actually doesn't need a manager. Let's not lie to each other, many examples prove that, all they have is perhaps a road managers, that probably still works. But needing a manager who would get them jobs, like me? That's a thing of the past.
Now this might come off wrong, but I've never worked with the second league here, I've always worked with the first. If the first league was successful, it's about the second question you've asked. Some forget, and some stay as friends and I we see each other, I consult their work even today, and that's okay.
Many of the stars you took under your wing are already gone. How did you take it when they died or something happened to them?
Not well at all. I still haven't come to terms with what happened to Petr Sepéši. Peter was going to Aš to pick up a suit for my birthday and he was driving at night. He wanted to make it in time for my birthday – and then it happened, at a railroad crossing. It was only half a kilometer away from his home! They found my business card in his shirt. So the police called me, I had a land line back then, my wife picked up and called the Lucerna bar, where my party was being held, to give me the bad news. Initially I thought I had dreamt the whole thing up, that it was some kind of joke or a surprise, so I told her it was a really stupid joke, that she should finally come, that Petr was going to be there in an hour. I put the phone down and unfortunately it was true.
It's something I won't be able to get over for as long as I live. To make things worse, he was driving a car that I'd bought for him, a Škoda for 10,000, in which he had learned how to drive, and it died on him on the crossing. His friends were even waving at him from behind the bars, behind the crossing. We were trying to reconstructe it, the whole story, and I couldn't piece it all together with his girlfriend Maria. When his car wouldn't start, instead of running because the train was getting closer, he kept trying to start it over and over. Until the last moment, he thought he make it work and get across. These are the things you get to experience in show business, and they don't belong to the pleasant moments. They'll stay in your head. And you begin to value humility even more.
How about Karel Svoboda?
That was terrible for me too, because Karel was my friend. I would come over for consultations, I learned from him. A week before it happened, we were sitting together in the Vinohrady pavilion, and he was completely fine.
I've seen so much in show business. Marie Formáčková says that I have to write a book about it one day, but today's generation isn't interested in it at all, it won't tell them anything. Everything is too rushed. And as you said, they forget, but I don't. I can't forget these things. I am from four brothers and I stayed here alone and have all the more respect for life. I miss my brothers terribly, we were all in this business.
What about your family?
My first wife has been through the most with me, we were together for 15. It was difficult, because the more I was giving this line of work, the less I was giving to my own child, who grew up in total chaos. It was working for him at school, though, because he was collecting pulp magazines at that time and could trade an Iveta for two of those. He was showing Iveta off because everyone wanted to see her.
At that time I was cooperating with František Janeček, I was working for him in Goya, and he once said a memorable sentence: “Tomáš, when I write a book about stupid Jews, you will be on the first page!”
It was also a good school for me, because Franta is a professor in business. And when he saw how soft I was, he told me I wouldn't get far, and I agreed with him. Because when they stole my stars, he said, "Well, since you allowed them to get stolen, it's your fault." And he was right.
So you're not mad at anyone?
Not at all – not even Láďa Štaidl, because he's a famous womanizer and always has been. Back then, he kept telling me, when I was driving Iveta to the recording studio, that he'd get her one day. And he was right! But he never stole her from me in the true sense of the word because they fell in love, and so it was probably meant to be. That put me on the sidelines because I've never been in love with Iveta, we've never had a thing, but it still damaged my marriage. My wife was dressing her up, taking her to the mountains and the like, and Iveta repaid her terribly.
The story that shook the world of show business when Marie, Peter Sepéši's partner came to us, pregnant... I knew about her relationship with Petr. Petr lived in my place, too, and we were friends for life, so I knew his relationship with Iveta had ended a long time ago. At one point, there had been something between them, but then he didn't want to have anything in common with her anymore, he met Marie and they were dating, it was a wonderful relationship. She was beautiful, still is today. Back then, she came asking for help, saying she needed DNA, and that was not possible to do with Peter at the time. And my wife and I proudly confirmed it. Iveta was standing in the hallway, heard what we were talking about, and began to yell at Marie that it wasn't true, that Peter loved her and that she must have invented it all and God knew who'd knocked her up. My wife turned to her and said, "Pack up your stuff and get out of our apartment!" That ended my cooperation with Iveta once and for all.
You're seventy, what plans do you still have?
This is the most interesting question! I plan to be healthy for as long I can. I won't stop having fun and I won't stop having a social life, because I'm alive. I like to have fun, I like to smile and it makes me feel great when people around me are having a good time. I would like to continue doing that. As long as I can entertain people, things will be fine.
You're retired. Do you take pension?
I do take pension, but since we are independent artists, I have such a terribly low pension that I obviously have to do something.
And that's what interests me. What do you do?
Recently I've been working in the business center on Charles Square at the reception. But I can't work all that much because then I'd lose social benefits and all that stuff. It is such a paradox of life, when you need to earn some extra money, you're not allowed to, because they would take away your benefits. I make a living by consultating, every now and then I do something else, now I've shot a few ads…
Are you happy?
I'm content. No happy, because if you lose all your loved ones, by which I mean family, and it all happens within three or four years, when your three brothers are gone... Then you can't be happy anymore, it's not an option, because I loved them. But as I said, I'm content.