My next meeting was with another agent/lawyer called Mel Stein, the day after the meeting with Jeff. Paul was setting a blistering pace and we were scheduled to meet with all of the English agents by the end of this first week. We were also due to meet with Tony again. Tony had decided to help us market the product and design the packaging and even though I’d turned down the chance to use the artist that he’d found some weeks earlier. He still wanted to have an involvement in this project. He loved Paul’s work and he believed we could do well with the pins He was now part of the team. The team that I formed was great. There was Paul and Tony of course, and Andrew. Then in the US I’d called Paul’s buddy Gary (James Bond) to try to help make sales through his, already well established, soccer magazine. We were all confident of success and every one of us gave our all to make it happen.
Mel Stein came to fame when he signed the most gifted football player that England had produced in many years, Paul Gasgoine. Gazza, as millions intimately knew him, was and still is a complete nutcase. His antics on and off the field have been documented many times in newspapers, in books and on TV. Gazza lived next door to Trevillion for many years when he moved to London to play for Tottenham Hotspur football club. Gazza then moved to Italy to play for Lazio but when Mel signed him early on in his playing career Gazza broke the trend by not signing with a recognized football agent. Mel was a lawyer. After Gazza signed with Mel, Alan Shearer and Chris Waddle, two other fantastic players signed with him as well. We wanted all three players in our collection. Paul and I walked into very nice offices situated in London’s West End, and were guided to a room downstairs where a very nice young man named Gary Bloomberg met us. It turned out that Gary was also a sports lawyer and was Mel’s assistant and right hand man. Gary was South African by birth, but knew a lot about English football. We chatted for a few minutes and then Mel appeared. He was a small balding gentleman and in my opinion he was very unimposing. I wondered what Gazza had seen in this man? After all, Gazza was a documented buffoon, even though his genius on the field often compensated for his antics off it. It just didn’t seem possible that this small, kind of insignificant man, Mel Stein, would have had the balls or persuasion required to sign Gazza. I was flummoxed.
“Hello Paul” Mel opened the conversation. ‘Christ’ I thought to myself. Paul knows everyone.
“This is Alan Zoltie, Mel. He’s from Scotland and he’s Jewish, and he also has a great idea to show you”
“A Scottish Jew. Not too many of them around.”
“No there are not. Maybe 6000 at the most and it gets less by the day” I said.
“So what do you have to show me and why do you need Gazza?” asked Mel.
I began, in what had now become my usual verbiage, describing the pins and the players contract and why we needed 20 top players to make it work and that Gazza, Shearer and Waddle were at the top of our shopping list to lead this first collection.
“How much will they get?” said Bloomberg.
“250 pounds at signing and the next 250 pounds when the pins are delivered”
“Not enough!” shouted Mel.
“We can’t offer any more that this” I said apologetically, and I explained to Mel and Garry, just as I’d done to Weston, that the players all talk and we had to keep the playing field even.
“Well I don’t think we can do business Alan” stated Mel, without any sign of compromise on his face.
This was when the fun started. I rose up from my chair and put my hand out to offer him handshake, and said,
“Mel it’s been a pleasure to meet you but you’re wasting my time and I’m certainly wasting yours”
Paul’s face went immediately white and Bloomberg’s went beetroot red. Mel Stein didn’t know what to do and I began to walk right out the front door! Now remember this man is one of the most powerful men in English football and there I sat/stood telling him, very nicely of course, to go Fuck himself!
“Thanks Mel but we don’t need Gazza” The words just spewed out of my mouth. I had no fear.
“Alan you do, so sit down please and show me the contract.” replied Mel, taking me completely by surprise.
It was the first time I’d ever seen Trevillion speechless. His face, once I’d decided to get up and walk out, was a peach! And now that Mel had asked me to sit down again, Paul had no idea what to think.
Mel looked over the contract and then gave it to Bloomberg
“Seems OK to me” said Stein. “Come back in a week and it will be signed”
Signed?? Signed!!!! ‘Well fuck me’ I thought! Done deal. Time to move on. We got up and left. Outside, Trevillion, who was still in dreamland, said to me,
“ I don’t believe what you just did. I really do not believe it” and then continued, “He’s the biggest man in British football and you walked out on him and then to top it all off he pulled you back in and did the deal” “You are the TOP MAN Alan. You really are the TOP MAN.”
We went to KFC for a change, and celebrated! It was a great feeling to have Gazza on board, but it was an even greater feeling to see Trevillion so excited and so amazed with what had happened 20 minutes prior. That meeting with Mel Stein really launched us to the next level. With Gasgoine, Shearer and Waddle in the bank we knew that everyone else had to follow. We really believed we had a hot property and we also believed that it could only get easier. How wrong can one be??
Paul and I spent the next 2 weeks signing up the rest of out 20 man squad. I went to Scotland to visit some agents there and Paul with his contacts managed to introduce me to the others in England. They were all really enthusiastic about our concept and not one of them had anything other than praise for the direction we were headed. In actual fact once we’d signed all 20 players I began to receive calls from other agents who had heard through the football grape-vine about our deal, and they would call me with a sales pitch for each particular player they represented, begging me to include that player in our collection. One story that comes to mind is a gentleman, who’s name escapes me now, from a company in Edinburgh, I believe he worked for a firm of accountants, called me up to let me know, he’d heard we were launching a lapel pin collection and that his player Dave McPherson of Glasgow Rangers just had to be in it. Now I realize that most of you out there who are reading this would never have heard of Dave McPherson alias “Slim”, but I have to tell you that not only was he one of THE most average players that ever played the game of football, he was also completely unknown to anyone outside of South West Scotland! But there I was, on the phone to this man, this accountant come agent, who was trying so hard to get his client on board, that I had the phone positioned at least 12 inches from my ear laughing like mad as he told me, time and time again, me what a classy, charismatic addition Dave would be for the collection and how well-known and well liked he was. Dave was an unknown and a nobody at the level I was trying to achieve. What a joke! There were several more calls just like that one. The other thing that sticks vividly in my mind was the number of times agents called me looking for their second payment of 250 pounds, remembering that this wasn’t due until our pins were in the country and then in the stores. Day after day they would call, often in a panic,pretending 250 pounds was going to make a huge difference to their clients’ life when they were all earning 20,000 pounds or more per week! They’d forgotten that although we’d started the signing process at the beginning of 1993 and although it had taken us 3 to 4 months to complete all the paper work, our aim was to launch at the beginning of the 93/94 season, which started in August. They were so impatient or perhaps just too greedy.
I’d had to form a separate new company to run this business, segregating it from my main core business at Alan Salter UK Ltd. We tried like crazy to come up with a name for the pins and in the end we all settled for Superstar Soccer Pins. I trademarked this name and then went to my accountant Mervyn to set the company up properly, professionally and efficiently. The new company was up and running fairly quickly and then Paul called me one morning and hit me with the bombshell of all bombshells.
“Alan its Paul here”
“I know who it is”
“I am not drawing your players anymore!”
“What are you talking about?”
“I am not doing it”
“You need to find a newspaper who will back this idea and you haven’t got one yet, not only that, you don’t know which retailer will accept this deal and you can’t sell just the pin on its own and you can’t get a newspaper to back you unless you have a retailer and to be honest Alan you are unorganized and a complete unknown and I won’t draw for you until you get your Fucking Act together” He was really shouting at me now. I was getting annoyed and upset.
“Paul you promised to do these drawings”
“I know I did but not until I see that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel”
“Paul if I don’t get the drawings, which by the way you said you would do in 2 weeks, I can’t get the players approval for these drawings and I can’t therefore find a paper or a retailer to back me!” I was trying to remain calm and by now had summoned Andrew into my office to bear witness to Paul’s anger.
“Talk to Lorraine” he said abruptly, and at that point I heard the phone switching hands. Lorraine was Paul’s girlfriend at the time and she came on the phone and tried to explain to me what he meant with this decision not to draw for me. She told me that he’d worked for all the UK’s major newspapers in his past, and things had to be managed in a certain way, and that WE, (Trevillion not included, even tjought he was part of this team) were not proceeding it the right manner. What was the right way for goodness sake??? By the time this call ended, I was inconsolable putting the phone down and looking at Andrew with a blank stare .
What could do I do now?
I decided to call Tony and tell him what had happened.
Tony’s reaction was simple, “Lets get a newspaper then” he said, quite matter of factly.
“How are we going to do that?” I asked
“I know someone at News International and I’ll call them to see what they can do for us”
“OK Tony go for it.” I had nothing to lose now.
What I’ve omitted from this story so far is that on top of trying to get this project started with Paul and Tony, I was also traveling every 2 weeks to the USA attempting to get the business off the ground in LA with my cousin Mike. We weren’t selling only pins at the time but Ad Specialty items or promotional items, which really duplicated my core business in the UK. This wasn’t an easy task. There were many issues, and setting aside Michael’s personal problems, we had the un-envious task of finding out that most of the clients we wanted to get to were in New York. We were in LA and although it’s always easy to say, ”Lets get on a plane and go visit them” you have to remember that I was already traveling 6000 miles just to get to his office in LA! I’d then have to go all the way back across the country to New York and then all the way back again to LA just to catch yet another flight back to London! Crazy times indeed.
I know this may sound like unorganized chaos, but believe me it was unavoidable. I was in LA with Mike for a few days and we would sit and try to organize the meetings we felt would be successful, then we would have to get off our backsides and go and actually see these prospective clients in person. It just so happens that in the US it’s who you know not what you know that’s the deciding factor in helping you get in the door. All of the “who you know “ people I found or he found were at the opposite end of the fucking country! I had to make around 130 flights per year at one point and this stupidity lasted for many years. Not a great thing to do when neither of you particularly like to fly. But more on that subject a little later. I really do have some great flying stories. I promise!
With everything going on in my life, I was being flung from the UK to the US and back several times a month. It was stupidity at the highest level. I still don’t know to this day how I managed to do it. In the 10 years or so of doing this, I amassed some 2 million air miles! And there I was, with the greatest idea that I have ever invented and Trevillion wouldn’t draw! Tony was doing his best to find a national newspaper to back us and Andrew and I were running around like crazy trying to find a retail chain to sell our pins and I was also running back and forth to the USA! It was a joke. I was an idiot. But you know when you’re in the middle of building something you believe in, you take the chance and go for it. I should have concentrated my efforts on one thing, but I didn’t. And so the story rolls on…..