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Stiffed: A True Story of MCA, the Music Business, and the Mafia Hardcover – March, 1993


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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Though former Los Angeles Times reporter Knoedelseder has dug up much dirt, his fast-paced tale of music industry nefariousness suffers from convoluted detail. In 1984 a minor tax investigation sics Justice Department attorney Marvin Rudnick on Sal Pisello, a reputed mobster who had planted himself inside MCA Records managing sales of budget "cutout" discs. The story eventually involves strange upheavals inside MCA, a counterfeiting ring, a corrupt cutout dealer who turns on the Mafia, and a band of dishonest record promoters. As Rudnick probes deeper, he faces threats from MCA and odd pressure from his superiors. Knoedelseder suggests that a greater scandal has been missed because the Justice Department, under Attorney General Ed Meese, backed off from making a deeper inquiry into mob involvement in the record industry. Knoedelseder's effort to weave together several court cases, competing investigations and a large cast of characters makes for a confusing narrative. Photos not seen by PW.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

This fascinating look at the underbelly of the music business by a former investigative reporter for the Los Angeles Times will confirm any pessimist's worst suspicion of what lies beneath the glitter and glitz. The complicated story revolves around the ability of organized crime to get a proverbial "foot in the door" at one of the world's largest entertainment corporations during the 1980s. Presenting a large array of bad folks (and a few good ones) seemingly right out of Central Casting, plus the industry's usual copious quantities of sex, drugs, and rock'n'roll, this gripping report is fraught with twists and turns. The book combines a detective story, a plausible account of record industry business practices (in the days prior to the compact disc explosion), and vibrant, memorable characters, all of which make it more interesting than anything a talented fiction writer could devise. Highly recommended.
- David M. Tur kalo, Social Law Lib., Boston
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Harpercollins; 1st edition (March 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060167459
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060167455
  • Product Dimensions: 1.5 x 6.5 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.9 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #607,223 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

William Knoedelseder is a veteran journalist and best-selling author who honed his investigative and narrative skills during 12 years as a staff writer at The Los Angeles Times, where his ground breaking coverage of the entertainment industry produced a long string of exposes. His two-year investigation of payola and other corrupt practices in the record business sparked five federal grand jury investigations across the country, led to the arrest and conviction of a score of organized figures and formed the basis of his first best-selling book, Stiffed: A True Story of MCA, the Music Business and the Mafia (Harper Collins 1993). Stiffed was named Best Non-Fiction work of 1993 by Entertainment Weekly, which called it "the scariest book of the year...and the funniest." The two of the principal mob figures depicted in Stiffed--New Jersey crime boss Gaetano "Corky" Vastola and Roulette Records founder Morris Levy--subsequently served as the models for HBO's Tony Soprano and his music business mentor Herman "Hesh" Rabkin.
Since 2000, Knoedelseder has written three other books.
In Eddie's Name (Farrar, Straus & Giroux) chronicles the brutal murder of a Philadelphia teenager that made national headlines when Knoedelseder, as executive producer of the Knight Ridder news program Inquirer News Tonight, pressed the city to make public the content of 911 tapes recorded the night of the killing, which ultimately revealed a complete breakdown of Philadelphia's emergency response system;
I'm Dying Up Here: Heartbreak and High Times in Standup Comedy's Golden Era (Public Affairs/Perseus) recounts Knoedelseder's time as cub reporter covering the L.A. comedy club scene when David Letterman, Jay Leno, Robin Williams and Andy Kaufman were young and undiscovered. It has been optioned for film by actor Jim Carrey.
Knoedelseder's latest, Bitter Brew: the Rise and Fall of Anheuser-Busch and America's Kings of Beer, tells the riveting story of one of our nation's most colorful and longest lasting business dynasties. Called "intoxicating reading," by The Wall Street Journal, the book became a New York Times best seller and has been optioned by Lionsgate Television in association with Michael London, the Oscar-nominated producer of Sideways.
Knoedelseder is currently at work on his third book for Harper Collins, Fins, about the life and times of Harley Earl, the visionary car designer who helped engineer the phenomenal rise of General Motors.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By DJ Joe Sixpack HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on August 9, 2001
Format: Hardcover
The sordid story of how MCA Records got "mobbed up" during music biz mogul Irving Azoff's tenure as company president. Knoedelseder starts off with a powerful narrative, but as it shifts from an industry expose into a Mafia fetish, and then into a trial book, it starts to drag. Still, the first third tells you a lot about the underside of the record business economy, in particular, how "cutout" records and counterfeits get into the stores. After that, you'll learn that mafia strongmen and government prosecutors can both be bad for your health and livelihood, lessons which are always good to keep in mind, even though they're almost self-apparent.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Paul Tattaglia on April 3, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Knoedelseder's "Stiffed" is the definitive book on Record/Movie Industry politics. The book reads like a mystery novel, but is all true. The book centers around a bunch of "cutouts," these are records that did not sell due to over supply and were returned to the record company. Cutouts are usually sold to a second party at a steep discount and end up on the
shelves of Walmart for $2.99. The artist does not receive any money, no royalties
whatsoever on these items.
"Stiffed" tells the story how millions of "cutouts" were sold, by way of mafia henchmen
working out of the offices of MCA records in Universal City, California. This is a story
of "follow the money." And a story of how Reagan's Justice department interfered in the
process of trying to prosecute MCA record executives.

At one point in the book, a prosecuting attorney wonders if he is stepping on the toes
of some strange alliance of some sort of MCA/Mafia/CIA/Iran Contra connection as
Reagan's Justice department puts the kibosh on his investigation.

Every student of politics should have this book as a reference book. You will see how
"spin control" is really worked in government, and in a powerful corporation.

I recommend this book highly.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Wayne Rosso on July 11, 2012
Format: Paperback
"Stiffed" is a classic true story about the little-known underbelly of the music industry and how the mob infiltrated. The characters are real--and frightening. A real page-turner, it is mandatory reading for anyone who wants to learn about the record business. Highly reccommended.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Ronald Tutor on February 8, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I knew close to nothing regarding the record business. This book explained things about the actual business side of the industry that I had never known. Very compelling read and loaded with interesting stories about the scum behind the labels.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Charger user on September 13, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I purchased this after reading "Me, The Mob, The Music" by Tommy James. This is a very detailed review of the music industry with a background on why and how the investigation started. Lots of names to keep track of but I enjoyed it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Michael Amendola on December 28, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
If you are into researching the history of the music industry this book goes well with "Hit Men". Worth a look
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