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Can I have an Ahmet?
Zappa Story #10
(Written by TBN & the Zappa-List; submitted by SOFA)
Remember Zappa Story #4 and my quest to uncover the "BFZQQE" (Best Frank Zappa Quiz Question Ever)? This massive debate began as a harmless zTrivia® question - and morphed into an esoteric enigma. Gail, if you ever read this (hopefully not due to some kind of litigation!), please settle the issue once and for all… You're our only hope of settling this unsettling argument!
zTrivia® POLL QUESTION:
Who was Ahmet named after (aside from Rodan and Zappa; first name only, please)?
CHOICES AND RESULTS:
a) The mysterious Hindu benefactor from Little Orphan Annie, 0 votes;
b) Ahmet Ertegun, then president of Atlantic records, who helped FZ break with Herb Cohen, 6 votes;
c) A character from a Captain Beefheart short-story "Ticks are People Too", 1 vote;
d) Gail's childhood pet Fox Terrier, 1 vote;
e) An imaginary servant in the Zappa home, 2 votes.
Congratulations to Phydeaux III who was the ONLY correct respondent in the latest zTrivia® poll. I apologize that I do not have the book at hand, but the info is found in "Electric Don Quixote", by Neil Slaven. Gail stated that in the early days of the MOI, they'd often snap their fingers at an imaginary servant and say things like, "Ahmet, more tea, please".
Way to go, Phydeaux, way to go! I also need to thank TIGEROACH for voting for the "Captain Beefheart" answer (true to form); I thought it worthy of the Capt. when I wrote it and I still chuckle when I read it... Thanks to all who voted. The next quiz question may be delayed, but will be posted soon ("I'm not quite dead yet!" "Oh stop being such a baby...")
I have to disagree with this quiz answer, SOFA. It is not that it is wrong, but my research showed two of your choices to be correct. As the poll setup allows for only one answer, I had to choose one over the other. I submit the possibility that Ahmet may well have been named after the imaginary servant, but that the imaginary servant may have been named after Ahmet Ertegun, thereby creating a situation where Ahmet Zappa was actually named after both.
Here are two references I found, preceded by their URL's:
From: Greg Russo's book "Cosmik Debris" "(Ahmet) was named after Atlantic Records head Ahmet Ertegun and (my emphasis, P.) an imaginary person Gail and Frank dreamed up before Zappa created his first record companies. The name Rodan came from the popular Japanese movie monster."
From: email@example.com (Stan Ivester)
[Ahmet Ertegun is] One of the Ertegun brothers, who founded Atlantic Records, which put out some great jazz and R&B in the '50s & '60s. The other brother's name is Nesushi. I believe they are of Arab descent. Ahmet Zappa was named for Ahmet Ertegun.
Looks like the question should be thrown out then. No multiple answer questions unless one of the choices is multiple (ex: a & c).
No, sorry, the question does not get thrown out... It is a great question, the validity of which has yet to be disproved. You all just got it wrong, that's all.
I had always thought the Ertegun thing was right - tho' I can't say as I ever read it anywhere. That's why it became a quiz question. I read it in Electric Don Quixote, and said, "That's not what I would've guessed". The section may be cross-referenced (Slaven's bibliography is great) to an interview or something. I will see what I can find out.
I have Russo's book. I will look up the quoted passage. I found it a bit ironic that Russo would be cited on Splat's page after the way the AFFZ skewered him regarding his research… Here is my take on it on the "debate", however. In the dusty, dank past of TBN, when we first started puzzling each other with FZ trivialities, it was agreed that the "quizmeister" had the final say. As I created the question with Slaven's book sitting in front of me, and fabricated all of the other answers (even the one about Ertegun, which I intentionally spelled wrong in the original post), I have to say that the answer stands as stated. Since this has created such a stir, I will continue to research the question, in the hope of finding references to direct quotes from either FZ or Gail. If the situation warrants changing the ANSWERS to exclude Ahmet Ertegun, that I will do. Fair enough?
Why not call 818-PUMPKIN and ask them.
Have you ever tried to talk to a human at that number? Very difficult indeed. No, were we to take that direct a route, I would suggest the ZFT website, and e-mailing Gail - or Ahmet may know...
For those that have Neil Slaven's "Electric Don Quixote", the reference I used is on page 171. It only mentions the imaginary servant. The Bibliography shows that the direct quote comes from an interview with Gail in "Rock Wives" by Victoria Balfour. The quote from "Cosmik Debris" to which Poodle refers is found on page 78. Now I really like Russo's book, but I have found some of his comments suspect…
For example, a couple of pages prior to the above, Russo states that Sal Marquez "tired" of the band and "quit"; whereas, he was actually fired because he questioned how Zappa paid the band. I've found no e-mail listed for Russo, only a snail mail on the cover of the book - by which, it can't be judged.
I intend to check further for "Rock Wives"; it sounds like it should be in my library anyway. In a last ditch effort to corroborate/debunk the issue, I turned to Ben Watson for wisdom (okay, I admit it; I was drunk), and I found this passage - I think it says it all:
"One of Zappa's concerns has always been the documentation of trivia, finding in the accurate delineation of mass-produced banality a surrealism more pungent than heroic self-expression."
Ask not what the quizmeister can do for you, ask where the love he gets off telling you that you are incorrect on a question so obvious that it just might be incorrect...
There is a raging dispute going on right now at thebignote eGroup as to the origins of Ahmet's name. I am hoping you can provide some clarification.
Some people are arguing that Ahmet was named after Ahmet Ertegun, and others are arguing that Ahmet was named after an imaginary servant. We've found evidence to support both theories. Can you clear this up for us?
Thanks a bunch,
Frank said he named him after Ertegun. Since Frank did the naming in the family, I think that's about the end of the story.
(Please note that this name also appeared as the author of FAQ 12 from AFFZ cited above. I publicly apologize for my tone in the next post, but no response, no credibility.)
Hey everybody, Stan says that Frank said he named him after Ertegun. I guess we can quit arguing about it now...
No offense, Stan, but did FZ tell you this personally? And is there some sort of documentation of this meeting? If not, what is the source of your info? I'd like to take you at your word, Stan, but... The best source I've found on the topic is Neil Slaven's book "Electric Don Quixote" - and there is NO MENTION of an Ertegun connection. (Hang on kids; this could get ugly)
To: Stan Ivester, Managing Editor
The University of Tennessee Press Conference Center Bld., Suite 110
Knoxville, TN 37996-4108
Hey Stan! Before I take the argument further, and risk insulting you even more than my last post may have, I'd like to know if you are a faculty member/advisor in your position at the U of T's Press or a student?
Your answer will temper all future response from me...
Now I'm curious as hell why this would matter?
Walk in beauty (a suggestion, not an order),
Hola, mis Amigo!
My first response was made under the assumption that Mr. Ivester was a lot like me - a second generation boomer who has absorbed his Zappa "knowledge" (maybe better to say interest?) over a couple of decades. I became a fan in 71 so I have 30 years worth of poot running around in my head regarding our favorite curmudgeon. Then I discovered Stan's "title" a few posts back.
My opinion immediately changed regarding the post I'd made. I first assumed that he was some sort of Prof.; possibly, an expert in the newspaper field. Of course, then I got rankled that someone with those credentials would make such a statement in a post without backing his words up somehow (are ya with me so far?). I didn't intend to insult anyone.
Then I considered that he might be a student. Though youth is no excuse for making a spurious statement, I would accept it quicker than from a "grizzled professional". I guess that's why it matters to me... I took exception to the way Stan handled the Ahmet's name question. It initially struck me as some sort of pronouncement that I had to accept - because he said so. My response was rather catty; I felt a little guilty about that. So, I thought it best to ascertain to whom I was speaking. Did that make any sense?
Actually it did. I'm just not sure why I asked anymore…
Thanks for being so forthcoming though.
Stan is right. Frank WROTE this in his book that came out in '88
Great! I own "The Real Frank Zappa Book" so it will be a snap to double-check. On what page might that be?
(An unrelated post)
>The Rhymin' Man at his best. I always thought this was one of Frank's most trivial songs. Are you aware, by the way, that Frank also cheated on Gail more-or-less continuously throughout their marriage?
Stan Ivester <
Yes. And Gail discusses her feelings quite candidly in the "Rock Wives" interview with Victoria Balfour. That's the same interview where Gail stated that Ahmet was named after an imaginary servant. I have noted your commentary on the Ahmet name question at a couple of different sites, Stan, but you never bothered to answer the question I posed to you a while ago: where did FZ "say" (as you claim) that Ahmet was named after Ahmet Ertegun? Or, are you having second thoughts regarding your assertion?
I'd like Stan to answer my Ahmet question, please. I've only been waiting 3 weeks for his reply...
Where does FZ say that Ahmet was named after Ahmet Ertegun? Aside from Gregg Russo's Cosmik Debris - where Russo states thus - where can I find that quoted? On the other question, the best documentation comes from Nigey Lennon's book "Being Frank", or from the previously mentioned "Rock Wives" article.
(I never did receive a response from Stan in this confrontation, which probably explains how he came to become such an expert - dodge any controversy and you're never wrong)
Rather than consider throwing the question out, why not declare two winners: the first voter on both potentially correct answers? Not that I'm biased or anything... ;-)
More important than who wins or loses is what actually happened. The true student of Zappa trivia seeks only the truth…
One point I ask you to consider: Making up the name Ahmet (as an imaginary servant) while either being simultaneously acquainted with a person named Ahmet, or meeting a person having the name Ahmet not long after making up the same name, would be a very statistically improbable event. Not, however, impossible.
Now one for you: a journalist "looking" for an answer to the name might choose the more apparent connection - both men in the record business, though NO evidence that they were close or even friendly - and print it. Once done, that info gets regurgitated in other articles (FZ commented on this practice in his own book) until it is accepted as fact.
And now, as a Public Service to those TBN members who may have trouble with their vision, trouble comprehending English, or trouble accepting the fact that the last zTrivia® question was right-on the money no matter how much they think it wasn't, let us recap a recent, most enlightening post (thanks BHJ for coming thru with this):
"I have actually had this conversation pretty recently with Ahmet and he says that he was named after the imaginary servant."
But, I love a good controversy and that was a great one. Thanks to all concerned who voiced their opinions either way. I personally can't wait for the present poll to close!
I hated to have to share that but I felt it was my TBN duty to share even if I wasn't happy with the answer.
BALD HEADED JOHN (KING OF THE PLOOKERS)
I would like to preface this message by stating that, regarding the recent quiz in question, I completely and fully accept the decision of the Quizmaster, regardless of what facts may or may not later be uncovered.
Having said that, I would like to make a couple of points. First, the evidence offered is indeed "consistent" with the "correct" answer of the quiz. However, it is not conclusive, as there was no statement indicating that Ahmet was not also named for Ahmet Ertegun. (You may recall that my source claimed he was named for BOTH the imaginary servant and Ahmet Ertegun)
Second, the statement offered is anecdotal, "hearsay" evidence, being of the friend-of-a-friend variety. What is needed to really settle the question is a direct quote from either Ahmet (Zappa), or Gail, stating that Ahmet was named only for the imaginary servant - preferably either by direct statement (hard to come by), or from a journalistic source.
In fact, Gail would probably be the preferred source, as she would have been directly involved in the naming process. Ahmet's knowledge of the source, although he is the subject in question, would be limited to what he was told.
I must certainly acknowledge SOFA's point that Zappa trivia is all too often based on unwarranted assumptions and premature conclusions drawn from circumstantial evidence. This is certainly a case where the facts would support such a possibility. However, the fact that the Ahmet Ertegun hypothesis is so prevalent (though it certainly is not conclusive) would seem to make its outright rejection premature.
Another bit of evidence that would tend to support one view over the other would be the exact when's where's and how's of the Zappa/Ertegun relationship. Did they know each other? When did they meet? What was their relationship? Yet, another possible source would be Ahmet Ertegun himself (still living?). I look forward to further investigation from any and all Zappa Truth Seekers.
Should more conclusive evidence be discovered in the course of our investigations, I suggest that efforts be made to contact sites where conflicting views have been posted, so that the dissemination of incorrect information through these normally reliable sources can be curtailed.
Even tho' my arrogance may makes it appear otherwise, I don't have answers to every FZ conundrum. All I know is what I read. I admit that I held the same impression of AZ's namesake. Did I read this somewhere? I don't know - or, certainly, can't recall. And that's the problem I have with the connection. In the last 18 months I have read (cover to cover) no less than 12 books on, or by, Frank Zappa. You would think that a person, important enough in your life to name your son after, would get a mention in that morass somewhere. But, no...
I'm sure the men met, probably more than once, over the years; they were ultimately in the same industry. Somehow I feel that a significant relationship between the two would have garnered a mention (let's forget the brief mention in Russo's book for now) in one of these works. No? I mean, what kind of relationship is requisite to name your child in respect?
My point in the "printed proof" argument comes from TRFZB, where Frank admits that HE didn't know his actual birthname until he got a copy of his birth certificate for a passport, and where he cites the databank entry under his name as a bio which is used as researched fact.
Some interviewer, at some point around Ahmet's birth could well have asked a band member (a roadie, for chrissake) the origin of Ahmet's name and the band member/associate could have mumbled the Ertegun connection. Once in the database, "it's researched fact". Sure there's a lot of "couldas" here, but the whole argument is an extrapolation...
I don't think Frank held the kind of sentimentality required to name his son after someone (if Ahmet were Edgard, this argument wouldn't stand up). Secondly, what Poodle requires is not Gail saying that Ahmet was named after the imaginary servant (which already exists), but Gail saying that Ahmet was not named after Ahmet Ertegun. If you were Gail, would you bother? I mean, how insignificant is this, anyway?
The question has stimulated some good discourse, and, in that, has achieved its goal.
The plot thickens:
I don't know how I missed this before, but here's another tidbit:
From "200 Motels" (1971), "Dental Hygiene Dilemma"
JEFF: "Cough, cough. Ahmet Ertegun used this towel as a bathmat six weeks ago at a rancid motel in Orlando, Florida, with the highest MILDEW rating of any commercial lodging facility within the territorial limits of the United States (naturally excluding tropical possessions). It's still damp. What an aroma! This is the best I ever got off! What can I say about this elixir? Try it on steaks! Cleans nylons! Small craft warnings! It's made for the home! The office! On fruits!"
And a brief excerpt from an Ahmet Ertegun bio, showing a possible (perhaps even likely?) connection between Ertegun & FZ: "By this point, however, his company's autonomy had been effected. In 1967 Ertegun and Wexler allowed Warner Brothers (my emphasis) to purchase Atlantic stock in return for an executive position in a conglomerate known as WEA with the acquisition of Elektra. Although Ertegun has remained at his label's helm, it has subsequently lost its distinctive qualities."
Ultimately, Ertegun may have been one of the people FZ had a falling out with at Warner Brothers. He may have known him quite well indeed. Ahmet Rodan Zappa: born May 15, 1974.
I seem to remember a TV interview where Ahmet stated that he was named after Ahmet Ertegun. Then again, he also liked to point out that it rhymed with Vomit...
Also, someone asked what kind of sentimentality it would take for FZ to name a child after someone... Sentimentality? Frank? All it takes is a cool name.... I really doubt he was that into Rodan, or ever knew anyone named Moon Unit.
On reflection, I found the info that I posted earlier to be the best evidence of Ahmet Ertegun as the source of Ahmet Zappa's name so far. Doesn't it seem unlikely that the name-conscious FZ, already familiar enough with Ahmet Ertegun to include his name in the lyrics/dialog of 200 Motels, would use the same name for his son three years later with absolutely no connection?
And this isn't anecdotal, and doesn't rely on the judgment of some journalist. This usage of Ertegun's name came straight from Frank. No, it's not absolutely conclusive, but it is a rather compelling bit of evidence. I'd say, taken with the other evidence we've seen so far, that it swings the odds strongly in favor of the "named after both" theory. What say ye, fellow fen?
I have to agree that the snippet from 200 motels IS the best evidence that "your side" has come up with so far... (I'd better be careful with this response.)
Ahem, yes it is unlikely that FZ would use Ertegun's name with absolutely no connection. It is also unlikely that the lyric in question provides a connection to Ertegun... other than a spoof of E's power in the industry - which is what the lyric is.
The response from the young lady that knows Ahmet, and had the question come up in conversation with him, is anecdotal? People have been convicted of murder and sentenced to death on less evidence! Only in Texas, of course, but I digress.
I'd say that the evidence we've seen so far show's just how many straws one can grasp at without getting any nearer to the truth. I will remove AE's name from the question for any future use until that time when the connection is proved satisfactorily.
Frank once said, "Most people wouldn't know good music if it bit them in the ass". I apply this to the "evidence" we've seen so far - and the "truth" we've derived from it.
I thought the debate was pretty lively and entertaining actually! That's what makes TBN what it is! I suppose the truth lies somewhat in the middle: FZ knew Ertegun, the Zappa's subsequently thought of that name for the imaginary servant, and so both answers have a claim to being the right answer. Two questions though: what was Dweezil named after? And did FZ ever attend a Superbowl?
Dweezil is named after one of Gail's toes. It was misshapen, or something like that, and FZ said "it's not a toe, it's a Dweezil". And considering the way FZ felt about sports - football in particular, I seriously doubt whether he ever attended a Superbowl.
A Superbowl? I doubt it, but a friend of mine saw him shopping for men's clothing at Barney's Department Store in New York in the late 80s. Does that help?
(P.S. My friend didn't stick around to see what he bought… I asked. No matter what it was, I'm sure it was nice, but overpriced.)
And nicely displayed, I'm sure.
I got a response from somebody at the Zappa compound and he claims he will check with Gail and advise. I found his name because the ZFT has stuff on eBay they are selling - including Ahmet's Volvo.
I will keep all posted. Maybe we can finally put some closure on this?
Bald Headed John (King of the Plookers)
Your dedication in this is inspirational, BHJ. One word of caution, though: any and all evidence presented on this issue via your method will be categorized as anecdotal and unworthy of consideration - unless it supports the majority position. I wouldn't want you to "hurt your throat".
All my fuck,
Looks like I got some 'splainin' to do!
Technically, you are correct SOFA (except for the part about "unless it supports the majority position". Speaking at least for myself, I don't work that way). Remember TBN's unwritten "rule" that what members say must be taken in the best possible light - as that is most likely how it was intended. However, in this case, even anecdotal evidence would be fairly compelling, as the trail is much "hotter" than it was in the one previous instance I commented on.
Also, my main objection to the "friendly conversation" post was not the anecdotal aspect (though I felt it was a factor), but rather the fact that Ahmet - saying he was named after the invisible servant - didn't really seem to answer my question.
What I was considering was the distinct possibility that he was named after BOTH Ertegun & the servant, or after Ertegun via the servant (with the servant being the one named directly after Ertegun). Ahmet's statement could be absolutely true, and still not settle that question.
Consider this example from my own experience: I had been telling doctors for years that I was allergic to penicillin. I found out a couple of years ago, in reading through my now-deceased father's old diaries, that it was briefly thought that I was possibly allergic to it, but turned out not to be. I made the statements that I was allergic based on what my mother had told me! I said it, about me, and it turned out not to be true, yet no one ever doubted it.
That's why I have tried to research the Zappa/Ertegun connection: did they know of him, or actually know him; when did they know, or know of, him? If the names are coincidence, and they actually "knew" Ertegun, it seems possible - and even likely - that his name was "coincidentally" the same as their imaginary servant.
My view remains that, though all the evidence we have found is consistent with theories A, B or AB (my personal favorite, I admit), it is not conclusive, particularly in proving or disproving theory AB. The question I wish had been asked of Gail is, "Was the imaginary servant named for Ahmet Ertegun?" or even "Were Frank and/or yourself even familiar with, or acquainted with, Ahmet Ertegun at the time the imaginary servant was created/named?"
Though a coincidence of names with no other connection seems statistically unlikely, that is not reasoning enough to eliminate it from consideration.
> Remember TBN's unwritten "rule" that what members say be taken in the best possible light, as that is most likely how it was intended <
I always do! Honest!
Let's not forget TBN's second unwritten rule (Pooh, you may as well dig up the musty copy of TBN's unwritten rules. I know GoD will be inquiring about it soon): SOFA will be allowed to whine, needle, and more-or-less bust the chops of any and all group members because he is fat, floating, and maroon.
> anecdotal evidence would be fairly compelling, as the trail is much "hotter" than it was in the one previous instance <
Anecdotal evidence is the part that gets me the hottest!
I guess I took exception with the way BHJ's diligence was being "tossed aside", when he certainly dug up more evidence than either of us...
"Bust a chop, now"
I have uncovered evidence, from a "reliable source," that Ahmet Ertegun was,
at one time, an imaginary servant. I am only quoting my imaginary "reliable" source. I refuse to give up my imaginary "reliable" source, as it would be a breach of my imaginary integrity.
Yes, I imagine it would be.
He has realized at last, that imaginary sources, and imaginary integrity, exist only in the IMAGINATION of the IMAGINOR. And ultimately, who gives a fuck ANYWAY? Now, to have Watermelon in Easter Hay stuck in my head for awhile...
I was reading through "FZ - In His Own Words," by Miles tonight, which lead me eventually to pick up a related volume entitled "FZ - A Visual Documentary." I invite you to check out the photo and caption at the top of page 53. I await your delighted comments. ;-)
I've been aware; I own the book. I never said they'd never had contact.
I've seen Michael and Janet Jackson photographed together too. Doesn't mean they're not the same person...
SOFA, You've been holding out on me! I believe there was some discussion as to whether or not FZ and Ertegun had met, but that no evidence had yet been uncovered to document the fact. Once again, however, the evidence is consistent rather than conclusive, as far as the naming question goes. Let it simply be a small inspiration for those who did not know to search onward for new evidence. ;-)
The photo makes it look as if they are attending a luau. Does this give anyone a clue as to the when and where of this meeting?
The photo was taken at a "10 Year Anniversary" party thrown for Zappa by Warner Bros. in 1974. The Blow up with Herbie had recently occurred and the blow up with Warner Bros. was right around the corner…