Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Ripp Off: Billy Joel’s Early Career to Be Exploited on Screen by Sons of First Manager and Greedy Label Owner


Exploitation of musicians is an old song, one that never ends.

Now a kid named Adam Ripp is going to write and direct a movie about Billy Joel. He has no rights to anything valuable and won’t get the hit music.

But Ripp’s father, Artie Ripp, was the guy who signed Billy to a record contract pre-“Piano Man.” The Ripp -off is that these people seem to feel they should get something out of that discovery. So they’re attempting to make a movie about Billy’s early career with his group, The Hassles, right up to the point when Clive Davis hears “Piano Man” and Joel’s world changes forever.

What a crappy idea. What a nasty thing to do. We’ve seen this before and it doesn’t work. Years ago, some people tried to make a Marvin Gaye movie without his music. It piffled out. This will, too.

Artie Ripp was a bad guy, a typical villain in the music biz. He signed Billy’s first record, “Cold Spring Harbor.” But it was mastered wrong and sounded like the Chipmunks. It’s a wonder Joel didn’t give up then. Ripp had signed him, at 22 years old, to a ten record deal. Billy got out of the deal by letting Ripp hold on to Joel’s song publishing until the mid 80s.

Now Artie Ripp says in a press release: “Billy Joel has been a part of my life since my father signed him to his record label when I was 4 years old; his music is ingrained in my DNA and it’s been a dream of mine as a filmmaker to explore and celebrate the untold story of how Billy Joel became the Piano Man.”

The Ripps have picked rights to the “life story” of Irwin Mazur, whose father managed the band The Hassles that Joel joined as a teenager. But the senior Mazur’s involvement stops before Billy becomes a star so really who cares? This is the worst kind of exploitation. Collaborating with the Ripps and Mazur is a so called “studio” in New Haven, Connecticut owned by B actor Michael Jai White. If someone did this to him, he’d be squawking like a chicken on every talk show.

Let’s hope everyone shuns this project and it doesn’t get made. And if by some chance it is made, it disappears into oblivion. (Or Lifetime.) Really– no one is afraid of karma anymore.

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
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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