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Death of a Salesman : Party animal Charlie Minor was a star in the shadowy world of record promotion, pushing many artists to the top. He was shot to death in March, just as he was trying to slow his hectic lifestyle.

September 24, 1995|Hugo Martin | Hugo Martin is a staff writer for The Times' Valley Edition.

Every Saturday night for years, rock 'n' roll blared from the outdoor speakers on the balcony of Charlie Minor's rented Malibu beach house.

Until the frosty hours of the next morning, scores of beautiful bikini-clad women, music executives and celebrities checked in to enjoy Minor's food, drinks and hospitality, their limos swallowing up dozens of parking spots along Pacific Coast Highway.

And when an angry neighbor complained, Minor, the flamboyant and gregarious record promoter, responded, "What's the problem?" as if everybody had the perpetual party attitude of "Good Time" Charlie Minor.

Suave, extravagant and fun-loving, Minor was the king of the record industry's night life, and his beachfront retreat was his castle. He would party all night--usually with an attractive woman on each arm--and get up fresh the next morning to schmooze another record onto the Top 40 list.

But the good life ended for Minor on the second floor of that Malibu home, where he was shot to death March 19, allegedly by a spurned lover, one of the many young, attractive girlfriends with whom he shared his fast-paced lifestyle.

Suzette McClure, a 27-year-old stripper who friends said was deeply infatuated with Minor, was arrested. Investigators believe it was a classic crime of passion: By their account, she showed up at the Malibu home unannounced, found Minor with another woman and killed him after he made it clear that he didn't want to see her again.

McClure's preliminary hearing is scheduled for Thursday in Los Angeles Superior Court. If found guilty, she could face the death penalty. She has pleaded not guilty and has been held without bail since her arrest on the day of the killing. Her lawyer, public defender Vera A. Brown, would not say what strategy she planned to use to mount McClure's defense.

Minor may not have been a household name, but many top artists credited him for helping put their music at the top of the charts: Janet Jackson, Sting, Amy Grant and Bryan Adams, to name a few.

His success came from being one of the best players in the sometimes shadowy game of record promotion. In the 1980s it truly was a game, according to record industry insiders, that often meant plying radio programmers with money, drugs and prostitutes in exchange for airplay of a label's newest record.

What is clear about Minor is that he was a smooth talker, a man who was often seen charming radio programmers with an expensive meal, some fine wine and a slap on the back. The classic Minor story told by record industry associates goes like this:

Minor called a radio programmer back in 1975 to talk up "Love Hurts," the single by the rock group Nazareth. The programmer sounded depressed. His fiancee, he explained, died only hours earlier in a plane crash.

"Don't you see, it's true, love hurts," Minor responded. "That is why you've got to play this song."

As shameless as the pitch was, it worked. Weeks later the song was on the station's playlist.

"To say that he was the best at what he did was not enough to describe his brilliance," said Jerry Moss, co-founder of A&M Records and chairman and president of Almo Sounds.

But toward the end of his life, Minor had begun to re-evaluate his nonstop lifestyle. In the past five years, he had quit the drugs that are so common in the industry, cut down on drinking and put the brakes on the late-night partying.

At 47, handsome but graying at the temples, Minor had many reasons to re-examine his ways. His seven-year marriage had failed, and his position in the industry had dropped from promotion chief at A&M Records to a promotions executive at Hits, a music industry magazine.

And although he had quit most of his vices, Minor still seemed addicted to women.

"Charlie was a womanizer, no doubt about it," one friend said. "But you could also say he was a 'personizer' because he did it to everybody."

Minor was a playboy and a socialite who flaunted his Rolls-Royce, Armani suits and lunches at Le Dome as symbols of his success in an industry notorious for its extremes and extravagances.

"I'm not going to defend Charlie, because he wasn't a saint," said his longtime friend John Fagot, senior vice president of promotions for Hollywood Records. "But he enjoyed life better than anyone I've ever known."

But Minor was also a skilled and hard-working promoter who put in long hours entertaining radio programmers in expensive restaurants and trendy nightclubs.

"Charles was a natural PR guy," said Harold Childs, who hired Minor for A&M in 1970 from an Atlanta music publishing business. "He had that people thing. I'm not sure if I hired him or he hired me."

Those who worked with Minor describe the intense, get-it-done attitude he brought to an office. He would work three or four phone lines at once, bouncing from one call to the other without missing a beat. A&M co-founder Herb Albert nicknamed him "Jaws" for such talents.

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