When Elvis met Jerry Weintraub for the first time, his words were “It’s a honor, sir. I appreciate it. There is only one thing I ask when we’re on the road: Please make sure, when I perform, that every seat is filled. And please make sure my fans are in the front rows, not the big shots.”
Jerry Weintraub, 26 at the time was at the start of a life-long career in Entertainment. He didn’t know it then but he went on to produce movies such as The karate kid, Ocean’s Eleven and Twelve, represent talents such as Brad Pitt, Frank Sinatra and many more.
The year is 1965, Jerry was about to organise his first tour. He had no clue what he was doing. He just got the job from Elvis’s manager ‘The General’ – after a year long pursuit of persistent daily phone calls, heckling The General and a stressful one week fundraiser in order to deliver Elvis’s manager the 1 million dollars cash he asked for in return for Jerry’s privilege to take the artist on tour. (8,2 million USD in 2019 when adjusted for inflation)
Along the tour, Jerry booked a Fourth of July show at the Convention Center in Miami Beach, it had ten thousand seats.
Two weeks before the performance was due, Jerry called ahead and asked how the ticket sales were doing. “Great! We’re sold out.” said the manager of the venue. Demand was so high, that they decide to do a matinee on the same day.
The day before the concert, Jerry lands and heads straight towards the Convention Center to scout the venue out. There he finds the person he’d been talking to on the phone. He finds him holding about five thousand unsold matinee tickets in his hand, the matinee was only sold for half. Jerry was furious and instantly thought back to what Elvis told him first time they met. “I just don’t want to sing to any empty seats.” Distressed, Jerry walks out to the beach, passing a county jail. He sits down and starts to think of what the consequences will be like. This is the first show Jerry has put together for Elvis and the Colonel and Jerry could not fulfil Elvis’ only wish. He for sure was going to get chewed out by both, fearing Elvis’ reaction most. When he goes back to the center for rehearsals, he confesses his problem to the Colonel.
” It seems I was misled before I booked the matinee and now I’m stuck with five thousand unsold seats.”
-“Well, son, as far as I can tell, we don’t have a problem. You have a problem.”
” Yeah, well, what should I do?”
-“I’ll tell you what you should do, you should fix your problem.”
The night before the concert Jerry could barely sleep, he had nightmares and was stressed out. He woke up early and went back to the arena. As he stood in the aisles he noticed something, the seats had bolts that secured each of them to the floor. So they could be removed or replaced if they had to.
“How long would it take to unscrew five thousand seats, how many men would it take?”
Jerry walks towards the jailhouse, asks to speak with the sheriff and gave that man a handful of cash.
“What can I do for you?” the sheriff asked.
-“I want five thousand seats out of the convention center, hide them for a few hours, then, before the nighttime show, put them right back in. Can you help me,”
A few hours later the sheriff showed up with dozens of prisoners who unscrewed and carried away the seats, which they piled in the parking lot and covered up. When the matinee show was done, they took the seats back into the stadium and bolted them back down.
After the evening show, Elvis said to Jerry “You know, Jerry, it’s amazing. The crowd was good in the afternoon, but it’s always so much better at night.”
Elvis never noticed the first show had only half the audience.