Hudlin Entertainment


I don’t have problems. I have friends.

Clarence Avant, The Black Godfather

My mom used to watch the OLYMPICS religiously. It wasn’t the YANKEES. Or the LAKERS. Or the NY GIANTS. Many of the sports were ones I was unfamiliar with. Mom too. Track. Gymnastics. Fencing. We didn’t really know the athletes. I asked her why she was drawn to it. “It’s not about sports. It’s about the stories. The sacrifice. The commitment. The ups and downs that got them there. The journey.” That’s what she was watching. And as I grew up, I was less interested in watching sports in general, but I gravitated to the stories on HBO’s REAL SPORTS, SHOWTIME’s 60 MINUTES SPORTS and ESPN’s 30 FOR 30. I’m a rabid music fan. And while it was about the music to me, when I loved an artist or wanted to get to know one, the stories meant a lot to me. I watch a ton of music documentaries on NETFLIX, PRIME, HBO, SHOWTIME, and STINGRAY QELLO. Some really stood out during my time off. NETFLIX’s “THE BLACK GODFATHER,” tells the story of legendary executive and entrepreneur CLARENCE AVANT. He may not be widely known in popular culture but his influence is felt all through music, movies, good works, and politics. There are a few people in any industry that are a thread of relationships. You hear their name everywhere. That’s Clarence. Born in humble beginnings in CLIMAX, NORTH CAROLINA. He found his way into the music business when he moved North. His mentor was LOUIS ARMSTRONG’s manager JOE GLASER (look for a great story on the call Clarence gets after Glaser dies from “fixer” SIDNEY KORSHAK). Glaser was a legendary agent that was, as many were at the time, “connected.” But not a mobster. Glaser saw something in him. And thought a black man should manage black artists. Geniuses like LITTLE WILLIE JOHN and great jazz organist JIMMY SMITH. When QUINCY JONES wanted JIMMY to record, they became fast friends even though Quincy didn’t get the deal. Right away, AVANT had a talent for deals and great taste. At Glaser’s directive, he moved out to LOS ANGELES and that’s where his ascent to mogul began as he continued to build the network that would thread itself through many industries. He found and signed BILL WITHERS. Helped LALO SCHIFRIN transition to film scores. He made the first major endorsement deal for a black athlete with HANK AARON. Signed RODRIGUEZ who later became famous in “SEARCHING FOR SUGAR MAN.” He introduced producers JIMMY JAM and TERRY LEWIS to JANET JACKSON. MICHAEL JACKSON asked him to run the BAD tour. BILL CLINTON and BARAK OBAMA sought his help. Called the king of HOLLYWOOD and friend, LEW WASSERMAN, a “mofo.” When artists were in trouble, they called him. He’s “The Black Godfather” because he was fiercely loyal and a hard negotiator. “If you don’t ask you don’t get. Life is about numbers” he used to say. “He has no B.S. in him,” said Quincy. When in LA, he started record labels (SUSSEX, TABU), bought radio stations, and found himself in financial trouble. And in a town that is cut-throat, even with those problems, he had friends. And they helped him. Because for all the gangster, for all the hard-nosed negotiating. Clarence is something he would never admit. A softie. Hard shell, soft inside. Heart of gold. I mean that in the best sense. Director REGINALD HUDLIN does a great job weaving dozens of interviews together with Clarence, friends, family, and associates to present a great retrospective of his achievements, but more importantly what kind of person he is. It’s Clarence’s network of relationships that tell the story. Very fitting. Just a few names like HANK AARON, IRVING AZOFF, JIM BROWN, CHERRELLE, BILL CLINTON, SEAN ‘DIDDY’ COMBS (“he kept my ass out of jail one or two times”), CLIVE DAVIS, SUZANNE DE PASSE, KENNETH ‘BABYFACE’ EDMONDS, HAROLD FORD, JAMIE FOXX, DAVID GEFFEN, NELSON GEORGE, BERRY GORDY, LUCIAN GRAINGE, ANDRE HARRELL, KAMALA HARRIS, ZACH HOROWITZ, JESSE JACKSON, JIMMY JAM, QUINCY JONES, TERRY LEWIS, LUDACRIS, BENNY MEDINA, ELVIS MITCHELL, JERRY MOSS, BARACK OBAMA, JON PLATT, L.A. REID, LIONEL RICHIE, TED SARANDOS (his son-in-law), LALO SCHIFRIN, AL SHARPTON, SID SHEINBERG, SNOOP DOGG, CICELY TYSON, BILL WITHERS and more. I knew about Avant. But I didn’t know the stories. I love stories, it’s about the stories and now I want to know all of them. And the relationships he built is something very familiar to me. That’s a guy I want to meet. Loved it. Go watch…