In Joan Kerr’s efforts to help find a new home for a massive L.A. record collection, she’s seen the best and worst of business/celebrity culture.
Count British tycoon Richard Branson and rocker Jack White of the White Stripes among the gentlemen. Others, well, not so much.
Kerr is a publicist working for Murray Gershenz, 88, the owner of the Music Man Murray store in Baldwin Village. He’s amassed 300,000 recordings, ranging from the earliest discs in the 1890s to Edison wax cylinders to towering stacks of vinyl LPs. Gershenz is trying to sell his collection to a benefactor who could donate it to museum or university. Asking price: $500,000.
In 2009, Kerr, president of Kerr Communications in Torrance, encouraged local TV stations to air and newspapers to publish stories about the quest to find a home for the collection, but the publicity didn’t draw any buyers. So she took the next step: She started making direct contact.
After reaching out to AEG Live President Randy Phillips, she received a letter from Shawn Trell, AEG Live general counsel, curtly informing her the company does not accept “unsolicited ideas.”
Kerr was shocked the company wouldn’t grant her and Gershenz the courtesy of a polite denial. “I offered them this opportunity, and they acted like I insulted them,” she said. “We sent Mrs. Kerr a standard legal response,” an AEG spokesman said.
Among other disappointments was the Herb Alpert Foundation, where Kerr said she “couldn’t get to square one.” Trying to make contact with the Michael Jackson family’s PR firm “was like hitting a stone wall.” The person she spoke with at Dolly Parton’s foundation was “a hillbilly, barely literate.” And Willie Nelson couldn’t be reached. “Maybe he was ‘On the Road Again,’” Kerr joked.
Branson was the most gracious. Kerr met him at an Los Angeles International Airport event for his Virgin America airline. She later followed up with letters and calls.
Eventually an assistant wrote that “Richard is not looking to buy any such collection at this time. … I am sorry to disappoint you, but wish you and Murray all the best in finding a buyer.”
“Talk about a class act. He is one,” Kerr said of Branson.
Rock musician Jack White actually picked up the phone and called her from Nashville, Tenn., but couldn’t follow up due to the recent flooding in his city. Other gracious decliners include Paul Allen, the Microsoft co-founder who founded a music museum in Seattle, and John Branca, executor of Michael Jackson’s estate.
Kerr is determined to keep looking.
“I’m not discouraged and neither is Murray,” Kerr said. “Someday this collection will be such a great legacy for Los Angeles, the entertainment capital of the world.”