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Discs Are Recycled Into Novel Gifts : 'Gold Records' Strike Profitable Chord

February 11, 1986|JAMES BATES | Times Staff Writer

Bob Spickard wants something to remember his first and last hit record by.

As a member of the Chantays in the early 1960s, Spickard co-wrote the twangy guitar instrumental "Pipeline," which reached the fourth spot on Billboard magazine's national sales chart in April, 1963. Although they qualified for one, the Chantays never got their gold record because their label went out of business shortly after the song became a hit.

So Spickard, now a Santa Ana businessman, recently contacted Jacques Hay, a Woodland Hills marketing man who makes gold records as gifts. Spickard said he's planning to order records for all the members of his group.

"You can impress your friends if you have one," he said.

Gifts, Awards

Hay makes a living selling "Golden Grooves," or gold records that resemble the ones music companies award to their artists for a hit album or single. He sells them to people who want gifts for friends, to companies for awards to employees, to people who fantasize about careers as famous singers and to former performers who want to remember their hits.

Michael Ilnicki, a construction superintendent in Palo Alto, said he is ordering two gold records now because he never bothered to get them when he played drums for the 1910 Fruitgum Co., a bubble-gum rock group that had such hits as "Simon Says" and "Indian-Giver."

"I was young and foolish," Ilnicki said of his earlier omission. "It's a piece of the past I missed out on."

The real gold records are ordered by record companies through the Record Industry Assn. of America when an artist sells at least 500,000 copies of a single or album. (A platinum record is awarded for sales exceeding 1 million.) The association checks with auditors to verify the sales figures.

Hay's only criterion is that his customers pay $75 for an album and $60 for a single. Platinum records run $2.50 more.

Grossed $150,000

He also sells gold-painted floppy disks for $50 to computer companies that want to award them to employees. Hay, who has been making the records since 1979, said he grossed about $150,000 last year. Hay uses direct mail, magazine advertising and trade shows to sell his product.

The manufacturing process is simple. Hay buys old records, spray paints them gold, prints custom messages on the labels and then frames them. The records, which contain no real gold, cost about $22.50 to make for the LP-size gold records and from $16 to $17 for singles.

Hay was born in Iran and raised in Washington. He majored in black history at the University of Maryland in College Park and has been involved in unusual projects for some time. He said he and his fraternity brothers once stood in a shower for 200 hours to raise money for charity. Later, Hay organized dance marathons at colleges to raise money to fight muscular dystrophy.

Hay uses a touch of hyperbole in talking about his gold-record business. "This really should replace the greeting card," he said. But, after a brief pause, he conceded: "That's probably wishful thinking on my part."

Small Office

His company, J. Hay Enterprises, operates out of an office on Ventura Boulevard that can barely house a desk, couch, chair and personal computer. On one wall of his office is an autographed picture of Freddie Blassie, a professional wrestler. Blassie ordered a gold record for his song "Pencil-Neck Geek."

Hay said he is occasionally privy to gossip. Stars have bought records from him as surprise engagement gifts. Friends of a famous actress who was dying ordered a record for her as a gift. But first they wanted Hay to sign a form promising to keep the information confidential so it would stay out of the supermarket tabloids, he said.

For the most part, the messages that people order are mundane, greeting card-type phrases that often play off the record's theme.

"Congratulations, You Hit the Top 40" is a popular one for those celebrating their 40th birthday. Other popular phrases include, "You're One in a Million" and "You're an Outstanding Man With an Impeccable Record."

Unusual Messages

But sometimes the messages are more interesting. Al Goldstein, editor of Screw magazine, once ordered a record with the message, "You Always Hurt the Ones You Love," Hay said.

One customer insisted on having the record on a specific date, Hay recalled. Hay was told it was for a prisoner who could only be visited on certain days.

Hay said another man sent eight records to a woman who repeatedly spurned his advances. Weary of the unwanted attention, the woman asked Hay to make a record she could send back to the would-be suitor. The message: "I'd Rather Spend the Rest of My Life Alone Than With You."

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