Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Grammy Scandal: NARAS President Neil Portnow Under Fire as MusiCares Longtime Dedicated Chief Removed


Variety just broke a part of this story, but it’s a whopper: MusiCares, the very important philanthropic part of the Grammy Awards, is suddenly thrown into a massive scandal involving money lost during the 2018 Grammys in New York.

First of all, in April MusiCares fired its director of 25 years, Dana Tomarken, who’s devoted her life to the charity and is clean as a whistle. Dana is the widow of famed late game show host Peter Tomarken. She’s run MusiCares beautifully, so news that she was fired over a trumped up charge is sending shockwaves through the music industry right now.

But this all has to do with Neil Portnow, head of NARAS (National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences) who apparently clashed with Tomarken booking the MusiCares Person of the Year dinner (honoring Fleetwood Mac) at Radio City Music Hall instead of the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. Barclays gave a better price, but according to the Variety story (based on a long memo sent by Tomarken) she was forced to take Radio City, which is owned by Madison Square Garden.

And that’s what this boils down to, because a lot of deals and sponsorships for the 2018 Grammys in New York, giving NARAS a six to eight million dollar shortfall. The Grammys are usually– and more wisely–produced by AEG Live in Los Angeles. But the music business is a lot like the Mafia. There are warring factions spread among different cities. Push came to shove and the show was forced to New York.

This is just the beginning of what will be a bigger scandal unfolding. A lot of questions are going to be asked now, and the answers won’t be pretty. Tomarken (whom I’ve known a long time but it’s not like we’re friends) is above reproach. Yet she was accused of mishandling a $2,500 auction item. How utterly ridiculous when millions are at stake.

MusiCares does a great job with indigent or sick musicians, needing insurance and health care, etc. But they’ve always been a target of scandal. When Portnow’s predecessor was there, it was like the Wild Wild West.

to be continued…

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedmanhttps://www.showbiz411.com
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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