"We dealt with the crowded market, we dealt with contracts, we dealt with negotiations," Lamont said. "Basically the Russians have always felt that we in the United States are there to cheat them out of money . . . just a suspicion that exists that 'you're trying to take advantage of us,' that 'you're really making all of this money and it should be coming to us' without understanding or ever having had to deal with expenses."
And Sheldon explained that "it's almost impossible to find someone who speaks with real authority. Previously if you spoke to Gosconcert, if you made a deal, that was it"--though he also pointed out that there have been times when an artist was promised and failed to show when the plane landed at Kennedy Airport. "Now they're in an era where they can't be authoritative. They have to go and get the artist's consent just like we've had to do for decades . . . .
"They don't trust the West," Sheldon continued, "so they always think if somebody offers them something, there's a reason they didn't offer them more . . . . And when you say, 'Do we have an agreement?' and they say, 'Yes,' you really have to find out if that means anything.
"What's hard is that their need and their drive for hard currency make the negotiations a little difficult," he added. "And they have had 70 years, maybe more, of distrust. Of \o7 themselves \f7 as well . . . . You never know who is the informer, you never knew who was your friend, so there is a psychology of mistrust."
With the street-smart scrappiness of someone who rose from a secretary to the head of her company, ICM's Lamont laces her conversation with little needles at her major agency rivals. She's hardly alone. Going from one agency to the other, you hear bits of sniping on all sides.
Puffing away at a cigarillo, talking about her tour with Yevgeny Svetlanov and the U.S.S.R. State Symphony (billed then as the Moscow State Symphony), she whispered: "He's now with CAMI (Columbia Artists). For a long time, Gosconcert would not work with Columbia, and then they started to work with them." And she said the "logical thing" for Gosconcert to say to Columbia was, " 'Moscow State, you can have \o7 that \f7 . . . .' "
"I didn't bid for the Bolshoi or the Kirov," she said, "although it was put up on the block. 'You can have it if you pay X dollars.' . . . (The amount) I'm not going to quote. I can tell you it was above the logical market value. . . ."
Of the Bolshoi, she adds: "There aren't the big stars there used to be . . . ."
Over at Columbia, using a cigarette for emphasis, Sheldon had already raised the matter of the Svetlanov acquisition. "Svetlanov, who had toured with ICM, wouldn't do it anymore for reasons I don't know. He just wouldn't do it," he said with lawyerly deliberation. "He wanted to be in Columbia. He made his decision before I ever went to Moscow. . . . So it was \o7 incumbent \f7 on Gosconcert to get him with another tour manager for the future, so literally that was the first thing they presented . . . ."
The same applied to violinist Vladimir Spivakov and his 28-ensemble Moscow Virtuosi chamber orchestra, which had been with Entertainment Corp. "Once the Soviets would deal with Columbia," noted Sheldon, "he wanted to be back. His mind had never been different."
Sheldon quickly moves onto a tour in early 1989 handled by Entertainment Corp. "The Osipov Balalaika Orchestra should have been a success. We brought it a couple of times in the '70s with a lot of success . . . . I have been told by different people, including some from Classical Artists, that the tour lost $300,000."
Dillingham says that the Osipov tour happened before he went to the company last summer. On the Bolshoi he dismisses the notion that the company went to the highest bidder as well as the devaluation of its company. "Look at the those (star) names on our press release."
"We're going to be very professional," he says. "We're not going to run down other people's tours or tell you that this company or that company's been doing lousy business. . . . It's an insult to the artist and may not have been his fault . . . . You're not going to get ICM to tell you, 'Oh yeah, we took a bath on that.' "
And about their "active" competition, Dillingham laughed. "Competition is competition. That's what \o7 perestroika \f7 is all about. We're an embodiment of Western capitalistic competition."