The Zoltie Talk
Here very briefly is the Zoltie talk. Michael made this talk famous after he and I had a heart to heart, and then he asked me to do the same thing to other people that we met along the way who’d similar problems to him. He loved to boast to his friends who were having issues in their personal lives that they “should talk to my cousin and he’ll give you the Zoltie talk”. This talk comprised of a 10-minute lecture based on the premise that your marriage was in trouble and you wanted to leave but didn’t quite know how or when. (Sometimes I wish I’d listen to my own talk, but that’s another story in itself!) You had no desire to upset other parties involved and you’d been procrastinating for weeks and perhaps months on how to enact the dirty deed.
Imagine the scene. 2 of us are sitting in a bar. I’m ready to begin speaking, having listened for hours to all Michaels personal problems. It goes something like this, and I’ll put the whole speech in parenthesis to emphasize my raising my voice as the conversation escalates.
“What the fuck are you doing you stupid arsehole. You are as unhappy as I’ve ever seen you and you look like shit. You’ve let this get to you and that was your biggest mistake. You need to make a decision right now. Whose life is this? What are you doing here? How long have you got on this planet? Are you ever coming back? You think this is a dress rehearsal for your next life? You have one chance here on earth and one chance only. Why be as unhappy as you are? What’s your ultimate goal here? Do you love your wife? If not then why are you still with her? Get the fuck out of there before it kills you. You don’t need the shit that comes with a bad marriage each day. It’s doing you in so go take a long look at your wrinkles in the mirror and let me know where you really and truly want to be right now. Do you want to stay with your wife and son and very little bad sex or move in with your girlfriend and great sex? Don’t bullshit me. Tell me the honest truth then get off your backside and do something about it. NOW! I’m fed up with your continual moaning and complaining that your life sucks. Stop feeling sorry for yourself and get off your arse and sort it out. You are an intelligent person so there should be none of these stupid excuses that you cannot find the right time or the right place to do this. Got it? Right lets move on. Call her now and go round and fix this problem. Don’t wait any longer, as you’ll just do your head in.
So that is the Zoltie talk. It is not patented or anything so feel free to use it on all of your miserable friends and relatives and then see if it works. Anyway this was the talk that Michael and I had when I got off the plane in LA that following week. Only he didn’t know how brutal I was going to be. You know it now! I could go home and sleep knowing that within a week I could possibly be set up to launch Superstar Soccer Pins in the UK and then leave to sort out my cousin in the US. I needed one more thing before I went to sleep that night. I picked up the phone and dialed my girlfriends’ home. She was at my place within 30 minutes. That made the day just perfect.
I felt that the next 7 days in London could really break Superstar Soccer Pins and if it did, then the future certainly looked bright. The buzz was already circulating amongst all the agents and contracts were being returned fast and furiously. All signed of course. It was now a race for Trevillion to get the drawings finished and approved along with our new collector cards. I called Mervyn, my accountant, and registered the name Soccer Skill Collector Cards and then I called Trevillion and told him I needed everything within 4 weeks of us completing the deal with the Sun and Martins. He promised faithfully it would be done.
“Alan I said I’d do it if you got your act together, and you did. You’re the TOP MAN and I won’t let you down. Now fax me (there was no email in these days) our schedule for the next 7 days and we’ll get this all tied up and put to bed. Give me times dates and places”
I have to give full credit to Paul during this, a period of complete chaos. He hardly knew me but he believed in me. We seemed to have an understanding all be it shaky. You just never knew what type of mood he’d be in when he woke up in the morning but inside I had a belief that he trusted me, and he liked the speed that I put things together. I loved his craziness. He had a way of winding me up and letting me know that I was a useless piece of shit and that only he knew best, but in the end and over many years that changed and he’ll freely admit to you now that I’m the one that he always turns to for help and advice and that my relationship with him is as strong a bond as any two human beings could possibly have.
This was our suggested timeline. We had to get to Martins, and that was already arranged. I needed to get a contract for Venables and to make sure that was taken care of. I had to arrange this within 5 days. We had to call the Sun to arrange our next meeting on the premise that Martins would sign up with us. We needed finished art for players and cards and we also had to design the box for our retail display. Production was the easiest part believe it or not and I had the utmost faith in Marie in Taiwan to take care of this.
I booked my tickets to go to LA the following week and hoped that all my tasks would be complete by the time I got on the plane. Hoped was the right terminology. Read on….
That very next day I met with David Gottler, my lawyer. He was amazed that I’d met Venables. He and I were both Spurs fans, but he’d adored the man, both as a player and coach and I detected mild jealousy.
“What do you want in this contract?”
“No idea David. What do you suggest?”
“How much did you discuss in the way of royalties and what percentage of the company did you say you’d give Mr. Venables?”
“What do you mean you didn’t?”
I was beginning to feel like a complete moron. In all the excitement I’d experienced during my meeting with Venables at Scribes and then with Ashby taking the reigns on his behalf, we’d never discussed percentages.
What an idiot I was!
‘Fuck, what do I tell Gottler now?’, I thought.
“David what would you say was reasonable?”
“Well what’s he going to do for you and how much time is he going to put in?”
“I don’t know”, I needed to wrangle my way out of this one. I was being charged 200 pounds an hour by Gottler and I didn’t have the fucking answers! Shit Shit Shit!!!
“ I’d like you to draw up a bog standard contract stating that he’ll get 5 % of Superstar Soccer Pins and a royalty of 2 pence per pin providing he promotes the product across Europe and gives me reasonable access to use his name and contacts.”
Gosh that sounded professional. Or so I thought!
“Alan,” David began to slouch back in his chair and I knew then I was in for an ear bashing. That’s why I loved this man. He fired bullets not blanks. He continued,
“You’re here spending your money asking me to make up a contract that you don’t even know if Venables will sign. You don’t have any idea on the amount of compensation that you’ll pay him and you want me to do it today?!”
“You have a problem with that David?” I said tongue in cheek.
“OK I always knew you were trouble,” he said, laughing.
I spent another 30 minutes with Gottler and then left. We agreed that we’d give Venables a contract with no set figure and that if he accepted the terms in the contract when I met him for lunch the following week, at that point we could fill in the blanks. When I left Gottler’s office, quite by chance I passed a ‘London Evening Standard’ newspaper stand. The headlines on the advertising hoarding came shooting off the page right into my, obviously shocked face .
“Trouble at Spurs”
I wondered immediately what that was all about? I didn’t have time or indeed the inclination to buy a paper so I just ignored it and walked on. It wasn’t so much that there was trouble brewing at Tottenham Hotspur FC (Spurs), more like a riot! It would take another 2 weeks for the whole story to come out but that day was the start of a boardroom battle that would lead to the eventual termination of Mr. Venables from the club he’d loved so much.
After returning to my office I was in the middle of lunch when I received two phone calls that brought me back down to earth with a bump. Both Mars and ESSO had called to let me know that they’d not be moving forward with the pins. Both cited a lack of interest from higher authority inside their respective organizations. I believed that this was bollocks! Didn’t they see they were looking at a gift horse right in its mouth? You always think that your idea is great because you thought it up in the first place and when someone turns you down it’s hard not to take it personally. You know that feeling when your heart sinks inside your tummy. Horrible! I wasn’t to be deterred though as we were all confident that with the Sun on board we’d succeed eventually.
And so a well-deserved weekend of golf and playing with my son Paul was at hand and boy did I look forward to that knowing well enough that the following week would be very difficult.
Meanwhile back in LA, Mike was becoming intolerable. He was miserable, counting down the days until I arrived so we could talk. Business was still good but now he’d really pissed me off by bringing in his mother part-time even though I was dead against that idea and had told him so on many occasions. He’d me on the phone that it was just to help out on a temporary basis but I knew that once she was entrenched there would be no moving the woman. I hated the way that she spoke to her son and her husband. She was a real busy body and made it her business to know everyone else’s business. I must admit though that if it wasn’t for her we would’ve had major problems she saved the day on several occasions with her “gift of the gab” “we are only late on delivery because” stories. I don’t want to character bash too much because some of her actions were very worthwhile from a personal and business standpoint. But I cannot let that detract from the fact I was pissed off she was now involved in our company. I was annoyed, really annoyed and I let Michael know that, in no uncertain terms. He kept telling me that when I came we could discuss it but he needed help at the time so he just did it, thinking it was the best way to proceed. It was certainly cheaper than employing an outsider but in the long run it proved more costly.
Monday morning came all too quickly and I was off round that infamous M25 motorway to meet up with Trevillion at Martins the Newsagents in Essex. I arrived early, as I always did! His nibs arrived chauffeur driven by Lorraine as per usual, and they were also on time. We marched sprightly into the offices of a man who I believe was called Bill Johnson although I’m too certain that’s correct. He was a football fanatic and supported Everton. He and Trevillion got on like a house on fire and within minutes they were great friends, with Paul promising to fix him up with some memorabilia that he’d kept from days gone by. We got down to business and within half an hour we had the outline of a deal.
The deal was as follows. Providing the Sun used the pins as a free gift to their readership for one week, giving one pin to everyone who collected 5 tokens, said tokens to be printed daily in the newspaper, then Martins would put our display boxes containing the remaining 20 pins at their checkout, enabling the public to purchase them and complete their sets. Here was the catch. They wouldn’t pay me for the free pins that we were going to give away, even though they were making huge profits (over 1 pound and 20 pence per piece) on each sale. They wouldn’t even split the cost with me and I was giving them all this free publicity in a newspaper that sold more copies in one day than any other newspaper in Europe! ‘Mean bastards’ I thought to myself. However on the plus side they were willing to do the deal. We calculated how many pins they’d need and discussed the packaging and how they’d manage the distribution, and then we agreed that 750,000 pieces would be ample for the first order. 750.000 pieces !!!!!
I’d just won the lottery. I couldn’t believe it and neither could Paul. We literally ran out of there but not before agreeing that the deal would not be formalized until the Sun agreed to all of the terms outlined in that meeting. Paul told Mr. Johnson he’d come back the following week but that I’d unfortunately be in the States so Tony would accompany him. No problem there said Mr. J “just make sure the Sun do what they say they are going to do.”
“That was easy Paul”
“Alan it just became more difficult. Keep your head screwed on until we get back with the Sun”
“At least MY head is straight Paul!’ I said with a wry smile.
He never laughed and got in his car and drove off like royalty. “Fucking Trevillion”, I thought, “spoilt the moment of glory we just had in there” “Bloody typical of the man”
It was a long drive back to London and when I got to the office I had to call Ellis Watson at the Sun and arrange to see him the next day.
“I have good news Ellis”
“Excellent. Make sure Trevillion is with you. The boss wants to talk to him”
”Who is the boss” I asked
“Kelvin, Kelvin McKenzie”
Tracey Venables called me that afternoon and told me that her dad was really keen to get involved. She asked me if I was all set for my lunch with him in a couple of days,
“Who is this Eddie bloke?” I asked
“Eddie Ashby has been with dad for some time. He’s OK but I don’t really know him that well. Did you meet my step mum?”
“I did and I liked her”
“She is a witch! I never get any respect from her.”
Well that was a little tidbit I didn’t need to know.
“What’s this breaking news I saw in the Standard tonight Tracey?”
“No idea what’s going on but things here at the club don’t feel right. I’m worried”
“Well let me know if you hear anything and I’ll chat with you after I meet your dad on Wednesday”
Tony came over and he and Andrew and I put together several concepts for our retail pack. We would go over these with Paul and the Sun the following day. We were nearly there. Just a few more days of ducking and diving, as they say in the east end of London, and we’d have hit a home run straight down the middle.
It was an early night for me and an early start the following day. I was wound up like a spring all night and nothing could get me to sleep. If we actually got into the Sun for a couple of days it would be more than I’d ever dreamed of. What happened though exceeded even my wildest dreams. It was to change the course of the whole project and it goes something like this.