The death of Ahmet Ertegun (to Eric Clapton's right in the photo) last year at the age of 83 opens for competition the position of hippest geriatric on the planet. Ertegun, who founded Atlantic Records in 1947 in an office in a derelict Manhattan hotel, was a world class dandy, impeccably dressed in blue blazer, grey flannels, tasselled mocassins and silk-knit tie. He was reknowned for his taste in music as well as his Patrick Ewing lifestyle (former NBA star Ewing had 15 extra minutes of fame for his statement that "We make a lot of money but we spend a lot of money.")
Ertegun told one reporter that his reputation early in life was partly a facade. "The truth was that I lost my drivers license so I traded my Aston Martin on a Rolls Royce and hired a chauffeur and, even though I didn't have that much money in the bank, when I'd go to El Morocco the columnists would refer to me as `the Turkish millionaire.'" But it wasn't all facade all the time. Ertegun lived in a townhouse on East 81st Street in New York, had a house in the Hamptons and another in Turkey.
Friday, May 11, 2007
Early in Ertegun's career, George Frazier wrote that he bought his ready-made suits at J. Press and had them re-cut by his alterations tailor. He wore bespoke later in life and was also a clothing collector reported to have kept a suit that had been made for A. J. Drexel Biddle by E. Tautz of London in 1923 simply because he enjoyed looking at the sewing (I can relate to that). His glass fronted shoe cabinet held more than a hundred pairs of shoes. John Lobb Paris was his favorite make.
A firm believer that it is better to burn out than to fade away, Ertegun was one of a kind. "I used to drink a bottle of vodka a day, every day, for about 40 years and it never occurred to me it'd kill me," he said. It didn't. He died from a concussion suffered at a concert.