Universal Is Built Like A Prison

universalUniversal Music’s Santa Monica headquarters is built like a prison.

A prison that’s really hard to break into… with superior interior decorating.

I’m here to meet Larry Oak, head of A&R for Interscope records. We’ve had a meeting set up for about a week, and I honestly have no idea what to expect.

I park in the underground garage and take the elevator to the first floor. Immediately, I’m greeted/accosted by the building’s first officiant of corporate defense – a semi-friendly, semi-attractive female receptionist. “What’s your name and who are you here for?”

“Paz, for Larry Oak”

Clickety clickety clack goes the keyboard.

I am pointed to a door behind me. I stroll through it and across a promenade to a second lobby. I am greeted by desk-bound Receptionist #2. She is slightly friendlier, and slightly more attractive.

“Hi! Your name?”





I scribble my name on a corporate memopad and slide my driver’s license across the table. A name tag is printed with FLOOR 5 and AREA B I’m allowed to visit in GIANT BOLD CAPS. I’m directed to the elevator, defended menacingly by an arms-folded, green-blazered security guard with a mustache vaguely resembling Mike Ditka.

I press 5 and the button blinks. Ditka Green Blazer saunters in, shoots me a look and swipes his card over the sensor. Doors close.

Ding. FLOOR 5. Doors open and I am face to face with another green blazer – this one behind a podium. Dick Butkus mustache.

“You’re here to see…”


At this point, I pause for reflection.  I’ve visited a few fairly secure places in my day – Google, Skywalker Ranch, The White House, that hipster club in SoHo where the doorman is like “Your jeans aren’t nearly skinny enough to get in here.” None have involved as many checkpoints packed so closely together as Universal Music.

The only reason I can guess for this bizarre level of security is that after enough demo-packing wannabe rockstars faked their way upstairs with a “Singing telegram for Mr. Iovine…” the executives said, okay, let’s put a couple more guys with green blazers and 70’s-era NFL mustaches between us and the front door.

To their credit, it worked. Because I have an appointment and still feel like a Soviet spy.

Picture this guy with an uzi and a phalynx of dobermans. Welcome to Universal.

Picture this guy with an uzi and a phalanx of dobermans. Welcome to Universal.

I turn left towards where Larry’s office may or may not be and meet Receptionist #3. I must be getting warmer, because #3 is exponentially friendlier and hotter than 1 and 2 put together. There is something logarithmic going on here.

“Hi, how are you! Who are you here to see? Would you like something to drink while you wait? Taz? Paz? What? OK. ” I’m directed to an adjacent waiting area with comfy couches and plasma screens.

An energetic little guy in a black leather jacket, white v-neck-T, and impossibly skinny jeans materializes from a behind a doorway and offers me water.

“Hey man, how are you! Larry’s wrapping up, shouldn’t be more than a minute!”

20 minutes later, I am summoned. “Taz? Larry will see you now.”

Larry emerges from his inner sanctum, I stand to meet him…


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