Don't forget the knife
I think the last story I told you was about the band manager who tried to trick me into fighting him when we were in New York City. As I wrote in my previous post, I knew it was a trap because if I had thrown a punch, I would have surely been fired and he would have been rid of me. The leader of the band noticed his behavior and sent him back to Tokyo. Later I found out that I wasn't the manager’s only target. He had been abusive to several of the other staff members. I don't know if it was the stress of the job, the delusion of power, or simply his personality but something was wrong with this dude. Since I am an optimist, I'd like to think that in the years since I last saw him he has grown as a human being and as a father. This recollection of mine happened a little over 20 years ago. People do change and they often learn from their mistakes. Maybe he's a kinder gentler person now. It's also possible that the cynics are right and people never change.
What I do know is that back then he was a supreme asshole. Eventually he was removed from the team altogether because his negative energy was having an adverse effect on the band's publicity and career. This guy had pissed off too many people who the band relied on for everything from television appearances to sponsorship deals. The number of people who had complaints about the poor attitude of this manager started to increase to the point where he could no longer be ignored.
After he had left New York City, I spoke with our Brazilian driver, Edgar. He noticed how the manager was treating me and felt empathy. He looked me in the eyes and said, “I see that guy is giving you shit too.” I was surprised to hear Edgar was also having a hard time. He was about six foot four or five, a former special forces guy from the Brazilian military. I don't know if this was true or just an urban legend, but we were told he had a license to kill in his home country. I turned to Edgar and asked , “You had a problem with him too?” he laughed and said, “HAD is the keyword. I don't have a problem with him anymore. Shall I tell you my secret?” Of course, I said yes. I wanted to get any advice I could to make the situation better or at least to be able to avoid any future power harassment.
Edgar looked at me and explained how he had known guys like the manager his whole life. He said , “Marcellus, it's all about how you talk to them. I knew there was only one way to get my message across.” He then went on to explain how, after he had dropped all of the artists off to their respective apartments for the night, he doubled back to the manager's hotel and knocked on his door. He told me that the manager was surprised to see him at such a late hour. Edgar pushed himself into the room and began to confront him.
“I am working hard to do my job well am I not?” he told me that the manager had agreed with him. At which point Edgar went on to say , “Then why are you treating me so terribly every day? Have I done something to offend you? Have I done something to offend the artists?” The manager was at a loss for words but Edgar could see in his face that he was not happy with him being there. Before the manager could conjure another mean comment Edgar pulled out a very large military issued survival knife and plunged it into the table. “I am serious about my work. If you believe that I have been slacking in any way, take this knife and cut my pinky finger off. TAKE IT!” Edgar told me about how the manager's eyes grew wide with surprise and how he shook with fear. He apologized to Edgar and asked him to put away the knife. At which point Edgar said,“ I will always have this knife with me. If you think my job is shit then I want you to use it to cut off my finger.” Edgar never had a problem with the manager after that. He was always respectful an extra careful about saying a harsh word.
After he told me the story, Edgar laughed a big belly roll guffaw then he pulled his guitar from behind the seat of the limousine and started to play a song. He sang,“you gotta look him in the eye my friend and show him what you mean, you gotta look em in the eye my friend, look em in the eye. And don’t forget the knife.”
(I took the photo a few years after this story, when I accompanied the band on their US tour.)