David Fishof could have been a Catskills comedian. Instead he decided to take on the world of rock ‘n’ roll. After a stint as a sports agent, Mr. Fishof went on to mastermind the sold-out Monkees reunion tour in 1986. He followed that with the “Dirty Dancing Live” tour and 15 years of Ringo Starr’s All Starr Band tours.
It seemed only natural that the next step would be for him to create Rock and Roll Fantasy Camp Fantasy Camp, a multiday fan experience that allows people from all walks of life to “live the dream.” Campers pay thousands of dollars to fly to Los Angeles and play with a who’s who of musicals icons from Paul Stanley to Steven Tyler and Roger Daltry. Mr. Fishof is head counselor, making sure the campers and rock icons play nice.
And loud. Real loud.
In advance of this month’s camp, Mr. Fishof discussed his long, strange trip from sports agent to dream-maker.
Question: How did you get your start in rock ‘n’ roll?
Answer: I became a sports agent. I started repping sports players including Phil Simms. It was great. I was sharing office space in New York with the great managers Shep Gordon and Gary Kurfirst, who represented The Ramones and Talking Heads. I saw these guys had gold records on their walls, had rock stars walking in. I said, “I want to do that!”
I got a call from a guy, and he asked if I would be interested in representing The Association. I said, “The association of what?” I didn’t know who they were. I flew out to California to meet the band. They played the old hits and sounded great! I started representing them.
Everyone said, “You’re nuts. Why you doing this?” I said, “I wanna be in rock ‘n’ roll!” Then I came up with the idea of packaging bands together on tour.
Q: What was your first package tour?
A: I created the “Happy Together” tour with The Turtles and The Grass Roots. Then I was going to do the third year and put The Monkees on it until The Monkees got so big.
I was working at 1775 Broadway on the 7th floor. On the 8th and 9th floors was this young new network called MTV. I’m was riding the elevator with [MTV founder] Bob Pittman. I heard MTV was broadcasting a 24-hour marathon of The Monkees. I approached him and said, “Mr. Pittman, I’m doing The Monkees tour.” He said, “I’ll help you promote your tour if you promote my new network in all of your ads.”
We go on sale and sell 25,000 seats in Chicago, 35,000 in Detroit. At that moment, I knew this was the right business. I came up with the “Dirty Dancing Live Tour.” Then the president of Pepsi came to me and said, “We love what you did with ‘Dirty Dancing.’ We’ll give you a million dollars. Do whatever you want to do.”
Q: What did you do?
A: I rang up Ringo Starr and said, “Hey, how about going on tour?” I went over, got to meet him, came up with the idea of Ringo’s All Starr Band. He loved it. We did it for 15 years.
People said, “You’re crazy. You can’t put all these superstars together.” I took the chance. It was a hit.
Q: How did you know that the egos of these rock stars wouldn’t clash?
A: That was hardest thing. Ringo and I had disagreements over the years because I wanted certain musicians. “Work with good people.” That was his whole philosophy.
Q: How did you come up with the idea for Rock and Roll Fantasy Camp?
A: Ringo called me backstage to break up a “fake fight” between Joe Walsh and Levon Helm. That’s when I came up with the idea to do the camp.
I did my first ever camp and I lost my ass on it. No one knew what it was. I planned to never do it again, but I kept getting calls. “When are you doing the camp again?” So I called Bret Michaels [of Poison] and asked people to come. Then I got Roger Daltry. Once Roger started doing camps, that really helped.
Q: How did you get Roger Daltry?
A: I went over to England to see him, explained what I was doing. After three hours at dinner, I had to convince him. I asked, “Roger, who is your fantasy that you want to meet?” He said, “You introduce me to Levon Helm [of The Band], I’ll do your camp.” I called Levon. Roger flew over, and they spent the day together.
Q: How do you get the rock stars to do this?
A: It’s based on relationships. I’m always meeting new people. One star introduces me to another. I met Slash at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Met Steven Tyler because he wanted my jukebox that I got from Ringo. I said, “Do my camp, you get my jukebox.”
The rock stars love the teaching. Jeff Beck said to me, “I did this because I wanna give back.” Roger Daltry gives his money to charity.
Q: Which rock star is on your wish list?
A: Jimmy Page would be a great one.
Q: What’s next?
A: I’m doing it about five times a year in Los Angeles. We have a TV series coming. It’s a scripted show I’m working on with a big network.
And a partnership with Fortune magazine. The people are amazing. This is a life-changing experience. It’s so fulfilling.
For more info check out RockCamp.com. This weekend’s guest include Judas Priest.
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