Ahmet Ertegun 7/31/1923 – 12/14/2006


ahmet“Ahmet bey, Effendi” was how I always greeted him -- terms of affection and respect.

Ahmet passed away on the 14th of December. He was 83 years old and, after a past series of accidents and health problems, was in great shape. He should have been around quite awhile.

At the Beacon Theatre in N.Y.C., the Rolling Stones were giving a concert for Bill Clinton’s birthday. Ahmet was backstage, where he tripped, fell on his back, and hit his head. That was on the 29th of October. He never came out of a coma.

Ahmet’s father was the Turkish Ambassador in Washington. He was the dean of its diplomatic corps after a series of major postings in Europe. He had been the personal attorney of Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey.

In the rarified privileged atmosphere of diplomatic and high-society, Ahmet found time to be exposed to jazz. Becoming an aficionado, he launched a music company that became Atlantic Records. With his brother, Nesuhi, he moved in a diverse approach to music encompassing blues, jazz, Latin, swing, and rock and roll. Ahmet was also a songwriter and even sang backup on some records. Ultimately Atlantic was merged into what is now Time Warner, but Ahmet continued very much at the helm. Nesuhi passed away in 1989.

A very liberated individual Ahmet, who was a Moslem Turk, worked very much with Jews and Blacks.

My relationship with Ahmet began in the mid ’50s. He and I and Julio Mario Santo Domingo became a trio of very close friends. When I built Talisman on Fire Island, they bought one of the houses and spent summers there. Ahmet kept us rolling in laughter with his droll humor and way of presenting jokes. When Empress Soroya of Iran made her first visit to America, we took her to the Palladium (the infamous Latin dance hall), which really shook up the Secret Service. Ahmet could also be a bit cutting in some of his lampoons, which I felt more than once. Robin and I got a pug dog that we named Ahmet. Not a compliment to a Turk. He put a curse on it. We could never house break it.

Mica and Ahmet got married. Nesuhi and I were the witnesses. When I married Loyce, the mother of my son Adam, Ahmet came to Oak Brook to serve as a witness. Just after HAIR opened, Ahmet called me in Oak Brook and at his request I partnered with Robert Stigwood to present the show in London. I always accused Ahmet of creating that as a revenge for my having named the dog after him.

Enough stories, there are many more – as there would be for Julio Mario and myself in our years of knowing and loving Ahmet. RIP, my friend. - Michael Butler

mbutler.jpgImpressario and HAIR producer Mr. Butler now resides in Los Angeles, where he continues to produce film and theatrical projects.