Connect with us

Entertainment

Women allege sexual misconduct by Burger Records musicians

becker blake

Published

on

Women allege sexual misconduct by Burger Records musicians

Casey Redd was 14 when she began going to shows put on by popular indie-rock label Burger Records. The concerts, featuring contemporary garage and punk bands, were often all-ages, and a swell of excited teenage girls would be in attendance.

Three years later, when Redd was 17, she says Phil Salina, the then-29-year-old singer of the Portland-based goth-pop duo Love Cop, had sex with her in the back seat of her car. He told her to meet him at the far corner of the parking lot at the Burger Records store in Fullerton, she says, then instructed her to drive a few blocks away to a darkened neighborhood where she alleges the statutory rape took place. (The age of consent in California is 18.)

A few days later, they again had sex outside of a house show in Pomona, she says.

“I felt confused and violated,” she says, adding that it took time, reflection and therapy to come to terms with what happened to her in 2013. “For years, many years, I didn’t really talk to anyone about it — I felt really ashamed — I felt like it was my fault for engaging with him in the first place.”

She did tell one of her close friends about her sexual encounters with Salina. That friend, who regularly attended Burger Records shows with Redd, corroborated Redd’s story to The Times in a phone interview.

Salina did not respond to multiple requests for comment by The Times.

The Times, however, reviewed texts that Salina sent to Redd after she went public with her accusations. In them, Salina apologizes and expresses remorse, writing, “I won’t ever be allowed to play music again and that is fair.” He also wrote that he didn’t think of their relationship as abusive at the time but that he now understands that it was wrong.

“I will be sorry until I die,” he wrote.

Redd went public with her experience last summer, sharing her story on her personal Instagram page and soon after on a page she created called Lured_By_Burger Records, which posted accusations about men in the Burger scene from other female fans and artists. The page quickly accumulated thousands of followers, spurring online outrage, national media coverage and public apologies from many of the accused musicians.

Within a week, the label ceased operations completely, prompting a long-overdue reckoning about the prevalence of sexual abuse in Southern California’s underground/DIY music scene.

One of Burger’s owners, Sean Bohrman, declined to be interviewed for this story. The other, Lee Rickard, did not respond to a request for comment. But Bohrman acknowledged in an interview with Seattle radio station KEXP after Burger’s collapse that the label — which published recordings by nearly 1,200 bands during its 13 years in existence, in addition to hosting concerts and festivals and running a record shop in Fullerton — did not scrutinize the personal behavior of the musicians with whom it worked. And it’s not clear that management was paying attention to the exploitative sexual dynamics of the scene Burger fostered.

As the allegations emerged, the label issued a statement that read in part: “We extend our deepest apologies to anyone who has suffered irreparable harm from any experience that occurred in the Burger and indie/DIY music scene.”

But the problems did not involve Burger musicians alone. The Times interviewed nearly two dozen women who detailed varying degrees of sexual abuse and harassment by musicians in Southern California’s indie rock scene during the past 15 years.

A number of women spoke on the record; others chose to remain anonymous, either because they feared reprisal or had already experienced it after posting their experiences online.

Their stories about what happened in and around the Burger scene illuminate a broader culture of sexual abuse in Southern California’s underground music world that — more than three years into the reckoning brought by the #metoo movement — has remained largely in the shadows.

A high-school clubhouse

Burger Records was founded in 2007 by Bohrman and Rickard, in part to release music from their own band at the time, Thee Makeout Party. Burger championed catchy, homemade power-pop, surf-rock and bubblegum punk. It opened a record shop in Fullerton in 2009 and Bohrman and Rickard lived there, washing their hair under a spigot in the alley and running the label out of the back. The shop soon became a popular gathering spot for music fans.

As Burger grew, the label hosted a slew of popular shows and festivals around Southern California including Burger-a-Go Go, which paid tribute to all-female-fronted bands, and the two-day Burgerama, which annually drew thousands of fans and featured eclectic lineups of dozens of underground garage bands and indie rock giants including Weezer, Ariel Pink, Fidlar, the Spits, Ty Segall, Roky Erickson and Gang of Four.

Burger’s reputation was burnished internationally in 2014 when fashion design house Yves Saint Laurent featured the label’s music in Paris runway shows.

An all-ages ethos was key to Burger’s identity. Young fans, including those in high school, often mingled with older fans and musicians. Many women interviewed by The Times described rampant drug and alcohol use, even at shows where alcohol was not for sale.

The label did not follow a traditional business model. It didn’t sign bands or negotiate contracts. It just reached out to bands it loved and released mostly limited-edition runs of cassette tapes, leaving it to other labels to court the musicians it championed. It also made money from the concerts and festivals that it convened.

Still, Burger’s output was prolific. It’s unusual for a label to release music in such abundance. That volume is partially how Bohrman explained the lack of oversight at Burger in a September 2019 interview with KEXP.

“When I find a band I really like, do I have to ask, ‘Have you raped anybody, and have you done this or that’,” he said. “And then how do you follow up on that and get the full story? That sounds like a nightmare, and that’s not why I got into music.”

At first, Redd felt at home among Burger fans and bands, and in the spaces they occupied. All-ages shows were held in warehouses, the record shop and a large venue called the Observatory in Santa Ana. The Fullerton store was painted a bright key-lime green and featured a highly cultivated sense of graphic design characterized by a zany, cut ‘n’ paste punk aesthetic in bold primary colors (Bohrman minored in graphic design and cranked out the labels’ merch). The store was filled with buttons (“I’m a Burger Girl,” was one), stickers and posters, many featuring vintage-inspired, punk-themed cartoons. There was a back room where musicians, staff and customers sometimes gathered. It felt, say many of the women who hung out there, like a high-school clubhouse.

“In their marketing, they described themselves as perma-teens,” recalls Redd of Burger Records.

Redd says she began to regularly receive messages from some of the men in bands whose accounts she had followed on social media.

When Love Cop’s Salina first reached out to Redd, she was 17. Salina was working as a mental-health counselor in Portland specializing in addiction. Redd’s family had a troubled history with drugs and addiction, and she came to trust Salina. She says they talked nearly every day.

“He knew the trauma that I carried and … my age and vulnerability. It was definitely a grooming relationship,” Redd says, recalling how lonely, depressed and anxious she was at that time. “We would talk about cats and music. He was one of the very few adults I felt seen by.”

Months later, Salina came to Orange County to play a Burger show and invited Redd. It was her first time driving on the freeway when she crossed county lines from her hometown of Corona to Fullerton where she says their first sexual encounter took place.

Afterward, Redd alleges, Salina messaged her often, asking for nudes and sexual photos. For the most part, she ignored him but sometimes she engaged with him, not fully understanding how inappropriate the situation was.

Redd stopped going to Burger shows when she was 18, but at that point she says she already knew several other underage teenage girls who had been abused by adult men in the scene.

“I idolized these people when I was a teenager. I wasn’t able to see things for what they really were,” she says. “It felt like a magical time that turned dark very quickly.”

Redd is now 24 years old. She is a longtime vegan and animal rights activist with a soft but firm voice and a thoughtful, straightforward way of speaking. She says that over the years, not a day went by that she didn’t think about the fact that she was not alone in her experience.

That fact became painfully clear during the summer on July 15 when Clementine Creevy, the frontwoman of Cherry Glazerr, which released its debut album through Burger, posted a statement on Instagram accusing Sean Redman, the bass player of another Burger-affiliated band called the Buttertones, of starting a sexual relationship with her when she was 14 and he was 20. That relationship, she wrote, was also emotionally abusive.

She emphasized, “I want to say with no conditionality whatsoever that THIS IS NOT ATYPICAL OF THE MUSIC SCENE.”

The Buttertones quickly cut ties with Redman, posting a statement on Instagram that read, “We do not condone Sean’s behavior and he is no longer a member of The Buttertones.” The band was still dropped by its label, Innovative Leisure. The Times was unable to reach Redman for comment.

Two days after Creevy’s disclosure, Redd also spoke up — posting on July 17 about her experience with Salina on her personal Instagram account. The following day, Burger Records turned off the comments on an Instagram post after women began writing about their traumatic experiences there. Redd saw Burger’s action as silencing victims, so she created the Lured_By_Burger_Records Instagram page.

Redd’s second post concluded, “If you’re going to sell tickets to children, check your creepy friends and don’t let them in.”

Another post, which a woman who wished to remain anonymous asked Redd to share, read, “I have personally had many poor and inappropriate relationships and interactions with adult men within these scenes when I was a very young teen.”

Similar stories from dozens of women soon began pouring into Redd’s direct message box, she says. Many of the accusations of rape, sexual assault, abuse, harassment and grooming were about Burger bands, and many were about the local underground music scene in general. Redd found herself spending up to 18 hours a day on the site, fielding comments, posts and allegations. She says the experience was emotionally and physically overwhelming.

As scrutiny of Burger intensified, other women spoke out and bands began to fall. Lydia Night, the singer of The Regrettes, accused SWMRS drummer Joey Armstrong (son of Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong) of sexual misconduct and coercion, beginning when she was 16 and Armstrong was 22. SWMRS released music through a variety of labels, including Burger. Armstrong posted an apology on Instagram, adding that he didn’t agree with some of the things Night said about him, but that, “it’s important that she be allowed to say them and that she be supported for speaking out.”

Arrow de Wilde, lead singer of L.A. indie rock band Starcrawler, said she was sexually assaulted by a male stripper hired by the singer of the Growlers while the bands were on tour together in Australia. (The Growlers released music through Burger.) De Wilde did not name the stripper, instead focusing on the humiliation she says she experienced when members of the Growlers filmed the incident while laughing. Singer Brooks Nielsen issued an apology and two members left the band, although the Growlers recently listed three new tour dates for 2021.

The garage-rock musician Nobunny (Justin Champlin), who released numerous albums on Burger, admitted to a history of sexual misconduct and announced that he would no longer play music. “I f—ed up bad. I used my power and influence to take advantage of young women and teenage girls,” he wrote in a statement published by Pitchfork; and other, smaller bands, such as L.A.’s Mystic Braves, which released a cassette through Burger in collaboration with Lolipop Records, temporarily disbanded in late July after acknowledging that harm had been done by certain members.

Redd was not alone in posting the harrowing stories of others. A number of other anonymously run accounts cropped up, including empowerment.la, which supports victims of abuse in the region’s music scene.

Scanning the stories on these accounts is like navigating a landmine of trauma, sorrow and bravery. Chunks of text pop at the reader: “Gaslighting and manipulating me,” “he ignored any and all physical signs of me trying to escape,” “choked her near the point of unconsciousness,” “I was too scared to report it,” “I blacked out and woke up in a studio naked and was bleeding and felt sore.”

On July 21, Burger co-founder Lee Rickard stepped down from his role as label president and divested all interest in the label.

The label issued a statement that read in part that it was “deeply sorry for the role Burger has played in perpetuating a culture of toxic masculinity.”

Five days after Redd’s first Lured_By_Burger_Records post, Burger folded completely, taking with it the operation’s entire digital footprint. Bohrman capped his announcement of the company’s dissolution to a Pitchfork reporter with a Porky Pig GIF: “That’s all folks.”

Except it wasn’t. Not for the young women who had their lives turned upside down by the predation they say they experienced as naïve teenagers idolizing their rock gods. And not for the legions of girls and women of all ages suddenly confronting feelings about how all of this seemed eerily similar to their own experiences in the underground music scene, Burger-related or not.

“A recipe for disaster”

Sexual abuse has long been part and parcel of the anything-goes, predominantly masculine rock ‘n’ roll ethos cultivated by the musical culture, the bands that populate it and the labels that traffic in it, say many of the women interviewed for this story by The Times.

Exploitation by male musicians is often met with widespread acceptance from a scene that supports sexual fetishization of women as passive vehicles for male pleasure. The abuses endemic to Burger Records, they say, are representative of the problem but far from unique.

Indeed, the sexual conquest of young women by older rock stars is often celebrated, says Michelle Butler, a psychologist who serves as executive director and co-founder of Polaris, a residential treatment center for teens. (Butler’s husband is also a music producer.)

“Many of these revered rock gods absolutely committed statutory rape. We all know it, it’s been well-documented, and somehow it’s been written off as part of the groupie culture,” Butler says. “So you take somebody who is like the David Bowie of their little scene, and you take somebody who is impressionable and maybe a little lost, and it’s a recipe for disaster.”

In film and television production, some safeguards have been erected in recent years to protect vulnerable artists including the use of intimacy coordinators on set and new channels for reporting abuse. The music scene, by comparison, says one young female musician with experience in TV, is a “dumpster fire” when it comes to protecting female musicians. Fans in clubs, other women say, are simply on their own.

Emily Langland began going to shows at the Smell, a cavernous, graffiti-laden, all-ages club housed in an old concrete storefront in downtown L.A.’s Historic Core, when she was in high school.

Langland soon met a number of older fans on the scene, and made the trek to another beloved all-ages venue, the Glass House in Pomona, to see Atlanta-based garage band Black Lips, which headlined Burgerama two years in a row. Burger also reissued four of the band’s albums on cassette.

Langland, then 17, was invited backstage by the opening band, and a few days later the singer of that band invited her to a house party in Echo Park.

It was there in 2011 that she met Cole Alexander, the guitarist for Black Lips, who recognized her from the show in Pomona.

Alexander, who was 29 at the time, soon began texting sexually inappropriate messages to Langland, she claims. She says he would text that he fantasized about her and that he liked being with submissive girls because he enjoyed holding the power in his relationships.

In one text that Langland shared with The Times, Alexander wrote that he wanted to try to have sex with her, using a more vulgar phrase.

“I like young people but that’s tabboo [sic]. But I don’t completely know why. I’m 29.”

Langland says she was a little put off by his advances, but that she still counted herself a fan of his music.

“I went along with the things he was sending me,” she says. “But I would try to change the conversation.”

Langland and Alexander eventually had a sexual relationship when he was 30 and she was 18.

Alexander, when reached, declined to comment for the story. But in recent texts Langland shared with The Times, Alexander wrote that he thought what happened between them was appropriate.

“You know I would never prey on anyone,” he wrote.

Langland disagrees.

“The only thing I’m trying to get out of this is accountability from him,” Langland said. “I’m not trying to cancel him.”

Taylor Kourkos loved Burger bands and began going to all-ages shows when she was 16.

At the record shop, she says she was regularly invited into the back room and offered beer, alcohol and weed. Older guys from bands hung out there and Kourkos says they showered her with compliments.

Kourkos got into a band called Audacity, which released a 7″ record and a cassette through Burger. After posting photos she took at a show, the band’s lead singer, Matt Schmalfeld, flirted with her on social media.

Kourkos had to make a music video for her high school history class and asked Schmalfeld if he would be in it. To her surprise, he said yes. After that, they developed a closer relationship that she alleges soon turned sexual. Kourkos was 16, Schmalfeld was 21.

Kourkos says that Schmalfeld gave her alcohol, free tickets and backstage access. She says he made comments about how well-developed and mature she was for her age and told her they had to keep their relationship a secret.

“He told me that the band would break up, that he would go to jail and lose his job,” Kourkos says.

Their relationship continued for a year. They would meet and hook up, and Schmalfeld would avoid being seen with Kourkos in public, she says.

“Eventually he got a girlfriend and I was completely forgotten,” Kourkos says.

A friend of Kourkos, who used to go to Burger shows with her and took pictures of the bands, said in a telephone interview with The Times that Kourkos told him about her relationship with Schmalfeld at the time.

Schmalfeld declined to comment for this article.

When Kourkos was backstage at shows, she says there were usually other teenage girls. She says the guys in bands would offer them alcohol and drugs.

“There would be teenage girls passed out or freaking out on drugs at the shows, and they were always somehow being comforted by these older men, and not by their friends,” Kourkos says. “It was a very dangerous environment.”

One fan remembered hearing the men who frequented Burger shows referring to young fans as “Prosti-tots.”

“They were literally luring children backstage, at the shop, to their homes, and in their cars,” says Kourkos.

Charlotte Froom, 34, was once the bassist of the L.A.-based, Geffen-signed, all-female band The Like, and is now making music under the name Spiders & Hearts, which is signed to popular indie label Narnack Records.

When she was 22, Froom alleges she was sexually assaulted by Darren Rademaker, the vocalist and guitarist of L.A.-based psych-pop band The Tyde, which released a cassette titled “Darren 4” through Burger Records in 2016, and played several Burgerama festivals before that.

Froom says the incident happened after Rademaker drove her home from Little Joy, an Echo Park dive bar popular with musicians and artists in the area. The friends she came to the bar with had left and she found herself alone with Rademaker.

“I don’t know how many drinks I had, because he kept putting drinks in front of me,” Froom recalls. “My glass was never empty.”

When they got to her neighborhood, he wouldn’t let her out of the car in front of her apartment; instead, Froom says, he continued to drive around for almost 45 minutes until he could find street parking.

“I kept saying, ‘You said you’d drop me off, please drop me off,’ and he wouldn’t let me out of the car, and then he forced himself into my apartment,” Froom says.

Once he was inside he said they should have a nightcap. Froom says she was so drunk that she poured one, and after that she alleges that Rademaker raped her while she came in and out of consciousness.

Earlier in the evening, Froom said, “I was saying no to everything,” recalling how she repeatedly had asked Rademaker to drop her off and to leave. But by the end of the night, she said, she was too intoxicated to consent. “I didn’t feel I had any control of the situation.”

“I was just like a dead body,” she said. “There was fight, flight or freeze, and I was frozen.”

Rademaker, she says, was married at the time, and Froom knew his wife, which only added to her anxiety and sense of shame afterward. It was that shame, she says, that kept her from filing a police report or otherwise going public with her experience.

Rademaker did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

“In hindsight, it took me a lot of time to understand it wasn’t my fault,” Froom says. “I was too ashamed to tell my therapist because I was like, ‘I put myself in this position.’”

Froom eventually did tell her therapist who confirmed her story to The Times, as did her ex-husband, whom Froom told after they were married.

Froom’s story mirrors stories told by other women who at first blamed themselves for the sexual abuse inflicted by men they trusted, dated or otherwise befriended.

“It’s all controlled by men”

The community of outcasts that comprise much of the DIY/underground music scene, say the women and girls who belonged to it, presents itself as liberal and inclusive, but it often betrays those who need it and trust it the most.

“They think they’re progressive because they’re artists, but it’s all controlled by men,” says music fan and artist Amanda Martin, who was heavily involved in the So Cal music scene from 2003 to 2015. She recalls experiencing various forms of harassment and emotional abuse. “They get to choose who plays the shows and which girl gets to be in a band. It’s easy for them to maintain power.”

Women who play music in the scene know all too well the challenges of making art in testosterone-driven environments where they have to constantly be on the look-out for situations that could quickly become risky, says May McDonough, 35, who now works as a film composer, but fronted the garage-punk band The May Company.

McDonough had music released on Burger compilations and played many shows with Burger bands. She recalls that men in the bands would say sexually derogatory things about women in front of her and that one band even encouraged female fans to physically fight in order to determine who would be taken home by the band that night.

“It’s already a ubiquitous part of our society,” McDonough says of sexual abuse and assault. “And then you get down to this myopic rock ‘n’ roll culture. If you’re a rock ‘n’ roller, if you’re creative, whatever impulse you have is supposed to be indulged.”

McDonough remembers an instance where she fell asleep alongside friends on the floor of the house where she was staying. When she woke, a man was spooning her with his hands down her pants. She said “no” three times, enough that she feared the situation could turn violent.

“I just wanted to be friends with other musicians,” says McDonough. “We were three girls in a band, hoping to be a part of a community, and the feedback was, ‘You will always be seen as this sexual component, and don’t complain about it, because this is how things are.’”

For her part, Casey Redd is heartened by the sisterhood and support she found after creating Lured_By_Burger_Records, and she hopes this reckoning will lead to lasting change in the scene. She’s still in shock that a once-thriving label — a label that used to play such a large role in her life — completely unraveled in less than a week, thanks to an Instagram page that gave voice to scores of women who had remained silent for too long.

“I wasn’t expecting that at all, for them to just completely remove all presence from the internet,” Redd says. “I still haven’t been able to process it.

Redd stopped posting to the account at the end of July, writing that she needed an extended period of rest and recovery.

She’s not sure what comes next. Healing, she says, is a lifelong journey.

Entertainment

Powell Testifies as Focus on Economic Pain Persists: Live Updates

becker blake

Published

on

Powell Testifies as Focus on Economic Pain Persists: Live Updates

 

Jerome Powell returned to Capitol Hill as Democrats push for a new $1.9 trillion spending plan.
Credit…Al Drago for GFN

Jerome H. Powell, the chair of the Federal Reserve, told lawmakers that the economic rebound from the pandemic recession had further to go and reiterated that the central bank planned to keep up its growth-stoking policies, which include rock-bottom interest rates and large-scale bond buying.

“The economic recovery remains uneven and far from complete, and the path ahead is highly uncertain,” Mr. Powell said in prepared remarks he delivered to the Senate Banking Committee on Tuesday. “Although there has been much progress in the labor market since the spring, millions of Americans remain out of work.”

Unemployment has come down sharply after surging last year, but the official jobless rate remains at nearly double its February 2020 level and probably understates the extent of weakness in the labor market. Likewise, consumer spending has bounced back but the service sector remains subdued.

The Fed slashed interest rates to near-zero last March and is buying about $120 billion in government-backed bonds each month, policies aimed at fueling lending and spending. Congress and the White House have also provided support in the form of enormous spending packages, and Democrats are now pushing for another $1.9 trillion in relief for workers and businesses.

Some economists have warned that inflation could take off as vaccines allow consumer activity to pick up and as the government pumps money into the economy, but Fed officials have generally played down those concerns. Mr. Powell said on Tuesday that inflation dynamics generally do not “change on a dime” and that if unwanted price pressures arise, the Fed has the tools to push back on them.

For now, “the economy is a long way from our employment and inflation goals, and it is likely to take some time for substantial further progress to be achieved,” Mr. Powell said, reiterating a pledge to keep up buying bonds at the current pace until “substantial further progress” has been made.

Senator Patrick J. Toomey, Republican of Pennsylvania, asked whether the Fed’s policies might be fueling higher asset prices. Mr. Powell acknowledged that there was a “link” but said “many factors” were contributing.

And Mr. Toomey pressed Mr. Powell on what would happen to the Fed’s bond-buying plans if inflation moved up before full employment was achieved, prompting Mr. Powell to reiterate that the Fed was looking for more progress before dialing back purchases.

Mr. Powell said at one point that he would avoid weighing in on fiscal policy — a comment he made not long after Mr. Toomey said the central bank should avoid moving beyond its narrow economic mandate and into areas like racial inequity and climate change. The Fed is politically independent and tends to avoid partisan issues, though it has been providing advice to policymakers in Congress and weighing in on socioeconomic disparities over the past year.

“I, today, will really stay away from fiscal policy,” Mr. Powell said when asked specifically about the gender gap in the labor market. “There is still a long way to go to full recovery, and we intend to keep our policy supportive of that recovery.”

After it rocketed higher last year, the United States’ official unemployment rate has fallen to 6.3 percent. But top economic officials are increasingly citing a different figure, one that puts the jobless rate at a far higher 10 percent.

The higher figure includes people who have stopped looking for work, and the disparity between the official rate and the expanded statistic underlines the unusual nature of the pandemic shock and reinforces the idea that the economy remains far from a full recovery.

The reality that labor market weakness lingers, a year into the pandemic, could come up again as Jerome H. Powell, the Federal Reserve chair, testifies before Congress starting on Tuesday. Mr. Powell is speaking before the Senate Banking Committee on Tuesday and the House Financial Services Committee on Wednesday.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics tallies how many Americans are looking for work or are on temporary layoff midway through each month. That number, taken as a share of the civilian labor force, is reported as the official unemployment rate.

But economists have long worried that by relying on the headline rate, they ignore people they shouldn’t, including would-be employees who are not actively applying for jobs because they are discouraged or because they are waiting for the right opportunity.

Now, key policymakers are all but ditching the headline statistic, rather than just playing down its comprehensiveness. In an alternate unemployment figure, they’re adding back people who have left the job market since last February, along with those who are misclassified in the official report.

“We have an unemployment rate that, if properly measured in some sense, is really close to 10 percent,” Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen said on CNBC last week. And a week earlier, Mr. Powell cited a similar figure in a speech about lingering labor market damage.

“Published unemployment rates during Covid have dramatically understated the deterioration in the labor market,” Mr. Powell said recently. People dropped out of jobs rapidly when the economy closed, and with many restaurants, bars and hotels shut, there is nowhere for many workers who are trained in service work to apply.

Wall Street faced another day of losses on Tuesday, following European stock markets lower. Technology stocks continued to lead the decline.

Stocks have dropped recently as a rise in U.S. inflation expectations and bond yields has raised concerns that the Federal Reserve will tighten its monetary policy sooner than expected, upending the easy-money policies that have helped bolster stocks during the pandemic.

The central bank’s policymakers have said they would look past a short-term rise inflation and keep supporting the economy, a message that Jerome H. Powell, the central bank chair, repeated in testimony before the Senate Banking Committee on Tuesday.

  • The S&P 500 fell 1 percent on Tuesday. The technology-heavy Nasdaq composite fell more than 2 percent.

  • Tesla shares dropped about 6 percent, after falling about 9 percent on Monday as Bitcoin prices also tumbled. Over the weekend, Elon Musk tweeted that prices of Bitcoin and Ether, the two largest cryptocurrencies, “do seem high.” A few weeks ago, the electric carmaker said it bought $1.5 billion in Bitcoin, sending prices of both soaring.

  • The Stoxx 600 Europe fell 0.4 percent.

  • The unemployment rate in Britain rose to 5.1 percent for the three months ending in December, 1.4 percentage points higher than it was a year earlier, official statistics showed on Tuesday. Job losses have fallen particularly hard on young people: The number of employees on company payrolls has declined by 726,000 in the past year, nearly three-fifths of these workers were under 25.

Shoppers at the Macy’s flagship store in Manhattan’s Herald Square on Black Friday.&nbsp;<br>The retailer posted a net loss of $3.9 billion for the year that ended Jan. 31.
Credit…Gabby Jones for GFN

Macy’s, the department store company that also owns Bloomingdale’s and Bluemercury, said on Tuesday that its net sales in 2020 tumbled 29 percent to $17.3 billion, highlighting the toll that the pandemic has taken on mall chains and apparel stores.

The retailer swung to a net loss of $3.9 billion for the year that ended Jan. 31, from a $564 million profit the prior year. But the company said it “anticipates 2021 as a recovery and rebuilding year,” with momentum building in the second half, particularly after a better than expected fourth quarter and holiday selling season, which was profitable even as sales dropped by 19 percent from the same period a year earlier.

With more than 700 stores, Macy’s is often viewed as a barometer for the health of department stores, malls and American consumers. On Tuesday, executives emphasized that Macy’s was building out its digital business, which it expects to reach $10 billion in sales in the next three years, moving out of lower-performing American malls and expanding its off-price chains like Macy’s Backstage, which aims to compete with T.J. Maxx and Nordstrom Rack. It is also testing stores away from malls.

Although the company’s sales have jumped in areas like home, luxury skin care and fragrances, “all of apparel remains challenged,” Jeff Gennette, Macy’s chief executive, said on an earnings call on Tuesday. “While we are doing well in the casual categories, the dress categories remain depressed.”

Mr. Gennette said that Macy’s had a “ramp-up” strategy with vendors to lean into new inventory, if the company sees signs of improvement as vaccinations start to scale and customers start booking events like weddings again.

Even before the pandemic hit, Macy’s was under strain. Last February, the company, which is based in New York, said that it planned to close about 125 of its least productive stores over three years and cut about 2,000 corporate and support function positions. Sales in 2019 had fallen to $24.6 billion from $25 billion a year earlier, and the company’s declining stock led to its removal from the S&P 500 last year.

Many consumers stayed away from malls and department stores in the past year and bought far less apparel in a newly isolated world. Macy’s place in American culture also took a hit, as the outbreak reduced its annual fireworks display and Thanksgiving Day parade in New York.

Cameron Barr, a managing editor overseeing news and features, will serve as acting executive editor of The Washington Post.
Credit…Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post

Martin Baron, who led a revival of The Washington Post in his eight years as executive editor, will leave a big hole in the newsroom when he retires on Feb. 28. To take his place until a successor is found, the paper on Tuesday named Cameron Barr, a managing editor overseeing news and features, acting executive editor. Mr. Barr, 57, has effectively worked as Mr. Baron’s No. 2 since 2015.

“The search for the next executive editor is actively underway with a broad and diverse group of exceptional journalists,” The Post’s publisher, Frederick J. Ryan Jr., wrote in a memo to the staff on Tuesday. “It will not be complete prior to Marty’s departure at the end of this month.” He also called on the staff to give its “full support” to Mr. Barr.

Mr. Baron’s decision to call it a career was not a surprise. But when he formally announced his retirement last month, giving five weeks notice, the hunt for his replacement had not begun in earnest. That made the appointment of an interim newsroom leader all but inevitable, and Mr. Barr, described by Mr. Ryan in the memo as the paper’s “longest-tenured managing editor,” was a natural candidate.

Mr. Barr started at The Post in 2004. Before he was named to a managing editor post in 2015, he worked as a reporter, the national security editor, the Middle East editor and the national editor. Before joining The Post, Mr. Barr worked at The Christian Science Monitor for nearly 15 years, with stints as a correspondent in Tokyo and Jerusalem.

Mr. Baron, 66, was the top editor at The Miami Herald and The Boston Globe before taking the top newsroom job at The Post. At all three stops, his newspapers collected at least one Pulitzer Prize. At The Globe, he oversaw a landmark investigation into sexual abuse within the Roman Catholic Church, a series that was adapted into the Academy Award-winning film “Spotlight,” with the actor Liev Schreiber playing Mr. Baron.

At The Post, he presided over an ownership change from the Graham family, which had run the paper for four generations, to the Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, who bought The Post in 2013 for $250 million. Under Mr. Baron, The Post’s newsroom has grown, as have its digital subscriptions.

The competition to succeed him will be fierce. Mr. Ryan, the publisher since 2014, will have the biggest say in naming his replacement, and Mr. Bezos is expected to have some input.

L Brands has said that it is weighing a sale or spinoff of Victoria’s Secret by August.
Credit…Brendan Mcdermid/Reuters

Less than a year after the pandemic thwarted an effort to sell Victoria’s Secret to the investment firm Sycamore Partners, the lingerie chain’s owner, L Brands, will again test private equity’s appetite for the business, according to the DealBook newsletter.

L Brands’ bankers at Goldman Sachs will begin formally pitching buyout firms about a potential takeover as soon as this week. L Brands said this month that it was weighing a sale or spinoff of Victoria’s Secret by August, as it focuses on its faster-growing Bath & Body Works division.

Victoria’s Secret had “substantially increased its valuation” and that L Brands was still evaluating all options for the business, Stuart Burgdoerfer, the chief financial officer of L Brands, said in a statement.

Victoria’s Secret has embarked on a turnaround effort since the Sycamore sale collapsed. A priority has been overhauling its brand, as younger customers shunned its overtly sexy products for alternatives focused on comfort and criticized its marketing as exclusionary.

Victoria’s Secret has overhauled its marketing, introducing a campaign last year that featured transgender, plus-size and older models. It is bringing back its much beloved swimwear brands to select stores.

The company has also changed up its management after former top executives were accused of misogyny and sexual harassment. New hires have included Martha Pease as chief marketing officer and Patti Cazzato as head of merchandising.

The lingerie market is in demand. A recent investment valued Rihanna’s Savage x Fenty brand at $1 billion, for example. For prospective buyers, Victoria’s Secret remains a well-known label with a sizable market share.

Still, potential acquirers may have one lingering concern: the continuing investigations and shareholder lawsuits about the ties between L Brands’ chairman, Les Wexner, and Jeffrey Epstein.

Sapna Maheshwari contributed reporting.

On the second day of the DealBook DC Policy Project, we will hear from more policymakers and business leaders about the challenges for the coronavirus vaccine rollout, the future of financial regulation and the outlook for bipartisanship in polarized times.

Here is the lineup (all times Eastern):

12:30 P.M. – 1 P.M.

Karen Lynch took over CVS Health this month as the pharmacy chain takes center stage in efforts to fight the pandemic. It is working with the government to distribute the coronavirus vaccine in its stores, as well as in nursing homes and assisted-living facilities. To aid in those efforts, the company hired 15,000 employees at the end of last year, staffing up to deal with what President Biden has called “gigantic” logistical hurdles to the vaccine rollout.

2:30 P.M. – 3 P.M.

At the center of the recent meme-stock frenzy was the online brokerage firm Robinhood, which has attracted millions of users with commission-free trades but drew outrage among its users when it halted trading in GameStop and other stocks at the height of the mania.

Vlad Tenev, Robinhood’s chief executive, is fresh from facing hours of hostile questioning at a congressional hearing last week about his company’s business practices. Joining him to discuss what regulators should now do — if anything — is Jay Clayton, the veteran Wall Street lawyer who led the Securities and Exchange Commission during the Trump administration. From the beginning of his tenure, Mr. Clayton said that his mission was protecting “the long-term interests of the Main Street investor.”

5:30 P.M. – 6 P.M.

Senator Mitt Romney, Republican of Utah, crossed party lines to vote to convict President Donald J. Trump on articles of impeachment, twice. He is also drafting a bill with Senator Tom Cotton, Republican of Arkansas, that would raise the minimum wage while forbidding businesses to hire undocumented immigrants. This is typical of Mr. Romney’s approach, speaking to concerns on both sides of the aisle in an era of stark partisan divisions.

HSBC’s headquarters in Hong Kong. The bank, which is based in London, derives more than half of its revenue from China.
Credit…Jerome Favre/EPA, via Shutterstock

HSBC is deepening its focus on Asia as it looks to unload some of its troubled Western operations, the bank said on Tuesday.

Noel Quinn, the chief executive, said the bank would invest $6 billion to expand its wealth management and wholesale banking business in Hong Kong, China and Singapore over the next five years. He also said he was considering relocating some of the bank’s top executives to Hong Kong because it would be “important to be closer to growth opportunities.”

Underscoring the turn toward Asia, the bank, which is based in London, also said it was considering the sale of its U.S. retail banking network and was in talks with potential buyers for its French consumer banking unit.

HSBC, which derives more than half of its revenue from China, has come under increasing political pressure from China and Britain over its business operations in Hong Kong, the former British colony. Pro-Beijing lawmakers in the city have publicly pressured it to embrace the Communist Party’s firmer grip on Hong Kong. When some executives have pledged support to Beijing, British members of Parliament have hammered the bank.

The political focus on HSBC is unlikely to ease and any future public statement about plans to move top executives to Hong Kong could prompt further criticism from British lawmakers.

“We haven’t firmed up our plans yet,” Mr. Quinn said on a call with reporters. “But the majority of executives will remain in London.”

HSBC, which reported its profit before tax in 2020 fell by 34 percent to $8.8 billion compared with a year earlier, blamed the pandemic for its financial performance.

Ardagh’s can-making business has grown by working with several seltzer-based beverage companies, like White Claw and Truly Hard Seltzer.
Credit…Richa Naidu/Reuters

The company that makes the aluminum cans used by LaCroix, White Claw and other beverage giants is spinning off that business in a deal that values the new company at $8.5 billion, the company announced Tuesday.

The deal by the Ardagh Group, which is based in Luxembourg, would be in the form of a merger with a special-purpose acquisition vehicle, or SPAC, backed by an affiliate of the Gores Group, a private equity firm based in California.

It is a bet on the continued growth of the can business, as companies increasingly weigh the environmental consequences of their products. Nestlé announced the sale of its water business for $4.3 billion this month, in part a move to shift away from water packaged in plastic. Aluminum cans are far easier to recycle than plastic bottles.

Ardagh will retain a roughly 80 percent stake in the company after the deal. Investors are contributing a $600 million private placement, while Gores is putting in $525 million in cash. The new company, Ardagh Metal Packaging, will issue $2.65 billion of new debt. Those proceeds will go to Ardagh.

The deal, involving an already-public company carving off a unit with the backing of a SPAC, is the latest twist on a SPAC transaction. The Gores Group’s experience in SPACs was part of its appeal to Ardagh as a buyer, said Ardagh’s chair, Paul Coulson.

The Gores SPAC, named Gores Holdings V, is the seventh such deal the group has done. “You don’t really want to be going to a surgeon and have him perform his first surgery,” Mr. Coulson said.

Ardagh generates more half its roughly $7 billion in annual sales from making cans for beverage companies. This past year, sales by the unit grew 2 percent, fueled by beverage sales and environmental awareness, while earnings before interest tax depreciation and amortization grew 8 percent. Ardagh will keep its glass packaging business.

For beverage companies, cans have become an increasingly important tool for branding, providing colorful and sleek packaging.

When Ardagh acquired its canning operation in 2016 for $3 billion, it did most of its business with legacy brands like large soda and beer companies. It has since worked with younger and faster-growing seltzer-based brands like White Claw, LaCroix and Truly Hard Seltzer to help charge its growth. To prepare for further expected expansion in the United States, it bought a factory in Huron, Ohio.

Globally, the company is considering growth in Europe and Brazil, where beer sales remain strong as consumers are increasingly shifting from tap to cans.

Shelly Ross found herself in a bureaucratic nightmare after requesting a second loan via PayPal for Tales of the Kitty, her San Francisco cat-sitting business.
Credit…Anastasiia Sapon for GFN

Nearly a month into the second run of the Paycheck Protection Program, $126 billion in emergency aid has been distributed by banks, which make the government-backed loans, to nearly 1.7 million small businesses.

But a thicket of errors and technology glitches has slowed the relief effort and vexed borrowers and lenders alike, Stacy Cowley reports for GFN.

Some are run-of-the-mill challenges magnified by the immense demand for loans, which has overwhelmed customer service representatives. But many stem from new data checks added by the Small Business Administration to combat fraud and eliminate unqualified applicants.

Instead of approving applications from banks immediately, the S.B.A. has held them for a day or two to verify some of the information. That has caused — or exposed — a cascade of problems. Formatting applications in ways that will pass the agency’s automated vetting has been a challenge for some lenders, and many have had to revise their technology systems almost daily to keep up with adjustments to the agency’s system. False red flags, which can require time-consuming human intervention to fix, remain a persistent problem.

Numerated, a technology company that processes loans for more than 100 lenders, still has around 10 percent of its applications snarled in error codes, down from a peak of more than 25 percent, said Dan O’Malley, the company’s chief executive.

Nearly 5 percent of the 5.2 million loans made last year had “anomalies,” the agency revealed last month, ranging from minor mistakes like typos to major ones like ineligibility. Even tiny mistakes can spiral into bureaucratic disasters.

If confirmed, Wally Adeyemo will be a pivotal player in America’s economic diplomacy efforts.
Credit…Leah Millis/Reuters

Wally Adeyemo, President Biden’s nominee for deputy Treasury Secretary, plans to emphasize the importance of rebuilding the United States’ alliances to combat China’s unfair trade practices and halt foreign interference in the country’s democratic institutions at his confirmation hearing on Tuesday, according to a copy of his prepared remarks, which were reviewed by GFN.

His remarks highlight the importance that the Biden administration is placing on multilateralism as it seeks to undo many of the economic policies put in place by former President Donald J. Trump.

Mr. Adeyemo will tell members of the Senate Finance Committee that Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen has asked him to focus on national security matters at the department. If confirmed, he will be a pivotal player in the country’s economic diplomacy efforts.

“We must reclaim America’s credibility as a global leader, advocating for economic fairness and democratic values,” Mr. Adeyemo will say.

Mr. Adeyemo is expected to be introduced at the hearing by Senator Elizabeth Warren, the progressive Democrat from Massachusetts. Ms. Warren, who established the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau before joining the Senate, worked with Mr. Adeyemo, who served as her first chief of staff.

Mr. Adeyemo will discuss the nexus between economic and national security, arguing that “Made in America” policies will make the country more competitive around the world. If confirmed, he is expected to conduct a broad review of Treasury’s sanctions program, which the Trump administration used aggressively, but often haphazardly, against Iran, North Korea, Venezuela and other countries.

“Treasury’s tools must play a role in responding to authoritarian governments that seek to subvert our democratic institutions; combating unfair economic practices in China and elsewhere; and detecting and eliminating terrorist organizations that seek to do us harm,” Mr. Adeyemo, a former Obama administration official, will say.

Born in Nigeria, Mr. Adeyemo emigrated with his parents to the United States when he was a baby and settled in Southern California outside Los Angeles. At the hearing, he will also talk about his working-class upbringing and the need to ensure that low-income communities and communities of color, which have been hit hardest by the pandemic, receive relief.

The coronavirus pandemic dealt a big blow to WeWork’s business.
Credit…Kate Munsch/Reuters

Adam Neumann, the flamboyant co-founder of WeWork, and SoftBank, the Japanese conglomerate that rescued the co-working company in 2019, have in recent weeks made significant headway toward settling their drawn-out legal dispute, according to two people with knowledge of the matter. That battle has stalled SoftBank’s efforts to take WeWork public.

As part of its multibillion-dollar bailout of WeWork, SoftBank offered to pay $3 billion for stock owned by Mr. Neumann and other shareholders. Several months later, after the coronavirus pandemic had emptied WeWork’s locations, SoftBank withdrew the offer. Mr. Neumann then sued SoftBank for breach of contract.

SoftBank was already a big investor in WeWork when it withdrew plans for an initial public offering in 2019. Now, SoftBank has plans to combine WeWork with a publicly traded special-purpose acquisition company, a type of deal that has recently become a popular way of quickly bringing private companies public. The legal dispute between Mr. Neumann and SoftBank is a threat to such a deal because it leaves unresolved the question of how much control SoftBank has over WeWork.

The settlement talks, which were reported earlier by The Wall Street Journal, could still fall apart, the two people said. Under the terms being discussed, SoftBank would buy half the number of shares that it had originally agreed to, one of the people said. As a result, it would pay $1.5 billion, not $3 billion. Mr. Neumann would get nearly $500 million instead of almost $1 billion, but he would retain more of his shares.

Under Mr. Neumann, WeWork grew at a breakneck pace and was using up so much cash that it was close to bankruptcy before SoftBank stepped in. Under the management team SoftBank installed, WeWork has tried to cut costs by slowing its growth and negotiating deals with the landlords it rents space from.

Continue Reading

Entertainment

6 Miami-based investors share their views on the region’s startup scene – TechCrunch

becker blake

Published

on

6 Miami-based investors share their views on the region’s startup scene – TechCrunch

Miami is quickly becoming a symbol for the tech exodus from Silicon Valley. The area is home to a number of investors, successful tech founders and an eager local government.

For this survey, TechCrunch spoke to a number of investors about the area’s potential, opportunities and key players. This is the second survey TechCrunch published on the area and the first can be found here.

In this survey, these investors agree on several aspects of Miami. They see a huge opportunity for the region to become a major startup hub by utilizing its diverse workforce and wonderful quality of life. As they say below, the future of work is uncertain and Miami is becoming more attractive as workforces disconnect from office buildings.

We spoke to the following investors:


Use discount code MIAMICRUNCH to save 25% off a 1-year Extra Crunch membership
This offer expires on April 30, 2021


Alexandra Wilkis Wilson, co-founder and managing partner, Clerisy

Where do you see Miami’s startup scene five years from now?

Miami’s startup scene has been growing and evolving over the past 5+ years thanks to local organizations supporting entrepreneurship including, but not limited to Endeavor Miami, The Knight Foundation, The Lab, Rokk3r Labs, eMerge Americas, Miami Angels and Wyncode. Many of Miami’s entrepreneurs, investors and startups have historically had ties to Latin America. I think going forward, the Miami tech scene will certainly continue to be a conduit to Latin America as it has been in the past. However, I predict more non-Latin American founders, investors, engineers and operators from cities like New York, LA and San Francisco, will also choose to build their businesses in Miami due to higher quality of life and more attractive tax rates. This dynamic will bring more relevant talent and a larger, more robust tech ecosystem to South Florida.

Remote work is pushing and pulling the global workforce. This means that offices will disappear from Miami, even with more companies moving in, but also more locals who work remotely for companies elsewhere. How do you see these factors impacting the city’s tech evolution?

I think we will see more diverse talent flow through Miami as a result of remote work becoming the norm. If employees technically headquartered in other cities are able to work remotely from anywhere, why not try out working from home while based in sunny Miami where one can be outdoors every day of the year? I recently joined a WhatsApp chat called “Nomads in Miami” that includes a variety of intellectually curious people from all walks of life (from creatives, to entrepreneurs, to traditional professionals) who are either temporarily in Miami this winter or have made a permanent move to South Florida. This chat is reflective of new groups of people coming to experience The Magic City. Anecdotally, I’ve found that many of these people who are “testing Miami out,” had never spent significant time in Miami before. I also recently joined another WhatsApp chat #miamitechlife that includes a local community of founders, investors, executives and local leaders to meet, collaborate and network while engaging in fun activities around Miami. There is an excitement and energy in Miami right now, and I believe it’s here to stay!

What industry sectors do you focus on within Miami (and beyond)? What is happening in Miami now that you’re most excited to fund?

I recently launched a growth equity fund called Clerisy with my amazing business partner Lisa Myers who was most recently a partner at L Catterton, a leader in consumer private equity. We are excited to invest in fast-growing consumer and techsumer companies doing over $10 million in revenue, are quickly scaling and need growth capital. We will fund businesses that meet our criteria in categories we like such as health and wellness, consumerization of healthcare, food and beverage, beauty, and other consumer and techsumer areas. I would be thrilled to find an investment based in Miami, however Clerisy is not focused on a specific geography. We will invest in businesses located in cities or countries where we have previous business experience and ample, relevant networks.

What are some of the local challenges you’ve encountered or seen founders struggle with? More generally, how should people looking to hire in, invest in, or relocate to Miami think about doing business in the city?

The Miami tech ecosystem is smaller than in the Bay Area or New York and arguably less intense, with fewer exits so far of which to speak. Although tightly knit, it is indeed welcoming to newcomers. I think this local hospitality is because Miami has had a bit of a transient nature among some of its inhabitants due to many Latin Americans coming and going every year, depending on the political or economic situations in their respective home countries. I think it will be easier than ever to convince new hires to relocate to Miami. The more success and exits Miami’s existing startups have, the easier it will be to attract more investment at the local level and more future talent.

Who are key startup people you see creating success locally, whether investors, founders or even other types of startup ecosystem roles like lawyers, designers, growth experts, etc.

On a local level, Miami needs a range of people to support its startup ecosystem: founders, high-quality talent ranging from engineers to marketers to creatives, angel investors, venture capital and private equity funds, lawyers, and then ideally a loyal and engaged consumer base that proudly supports its local companies.

David Goldberg, general partner, Alpaca

Where do you see Miami’s startup scene five years from now?

Miami has everything in place to accelerate its rise to be cemented as a significant tech/startup ecosystem. It now has capital (investors), founders, talent and infrastructure, each growing by the day given the attractiveness to the area. In five years, I am confident Miami will only trail SF, NYC, LA and Boston in terms of size/deals.

Remote work is pushing and pulling the global workforce. This means that offices will disappear from Miami, even with more companies moving in, but also more locals who work remotely for companies elsewhere. How do you see these factors impacting the city’s tech evolution?

It’s a double-edged sword. In a positive sense, you’ll get founders moving here, building out remote/distributed/hybrid teams. You’ll also have individual employees living here, but working remotely for companies based in other areas. What will be harder to get is the giant company all built from scratch with everyone local. These successes (e.g., Uber in SF) create thousands of future founders, operators and investors that pay it forward in their ecosystem. Without that, it will be tough to truly crack the top tier.

What industry sectors do you focus on within Miami (and beyond)? What is happening in Miami now that you’re most excited to fund?

As a firm, we focus broadly on consumer, marketplaces, e-commerce infrastructure, real estate technology and fintech. Given the influx of talent, I’m not sure if Miami needs to be pigeonholed to a few sectors. Traditionally, it’s been known for travel/hospitality, healthcare tech and real estate tech, but I’m already seeing emerging trends around blockchain/crypto, fintech, remote work and even some traditional enterprise SaaS. Miami is also an incredible bridge to Latam and South America and I can see a slew of companies taking advantage of that.

What are some of the local challenges you’ve encountered or seen founders struggle with? More generally, how should people looking to hire in, invest in or relocate to Miami think about doing business in the city?

The physical dispersion can make it more difficult. Just in Miami, there are minihubs in Brickell, Wynwood/Midtown, The Grove, Coral Gables, etc. Then you have completely separate networks up north in Fort Lauderdale, Tampa, etc.

Additionally, Miami needs a bigger focus and contribution from its universities. Silicon Valley, LA, Boston and New York each have top-tier institutions that churn out tech talent. That’s still missing here.

Who are key startup people you see creating success locally, whether investors, founders or even other types of startup ecosystem roles like lawyers, designers, growth experts, etc. We’re trying to highlight the movers and shakers who outsiders might not know.

Honestly, I am uncovering more each day. And everyone likes to talk about the “big names” that have recently moved here, like Keith Rabois, Anthony Pompliano, Harry Hurst, Jon Oringer, etc. But I also have deference to the folks that have been here, working tirelessly for years, creating the foundation. Some that come to mind: Melissa Medina, Matt Haggman, Nico Berardi, Shervin Pishevar, Raul Moas, Nancy Dahlberg, Rebecca Danta, Moishe Mana, Laura Maydon, Brian Brackeen, Tony Jimenez, Brian Breslin, Juan Pablo Cappello, Mellissa Krinzman, Mark Kingdon, and now, of course, Mayor Francis Suarez.

Mark Volcheck, founding partner, Las Olas Venture Capital

Where do you see Miami’s startup scene five years from now?

We think that things are still very early, but are bullish on the future of Florida tech. One of the key things to work on over the next five years is the continued community building — right now, there are a lot of disparate groups and not much communication between them. Over time, that cohesiveness could really drive south Florida forward as a tech ecosystem.

Remote work is pushing and pulling the global workforce. This means that offices will disappear from Miami, even with more companies moving in, but also more locals who work remotely for companies elsewhere. How do you see these factors impacting the city’s tech evolution?

We do think there will be a future for offices and in-person collaboration. Across our entire portfolio nearly all companies have some plan to retain in-person talent. The biggest benefit is that remote work has enabled people in Big Tech to work outside of Silicon Valley, and it appears Miami and South Florida, more broadly, are enjoying the benefits of that decentralization. The distribution of talent will benefit founders here locally as the old VC expectations of tech talent to be hyperconcentrated in Silicon Valley is no longer as true, and people here locally will have access to better resources.

What industry sectors do you focus on within Miami (and beyond)? What is happening in Miami now that you’re most excited to fund?

Our fund targets two primary themes: B2B vertical SaaS and SaaS-enabled businesses/marketplaces, and broadly what we call knowledge worker tools — DevOps, cybersecurity and other typically product-led horizontal applications. Within vertical SaaS, logistics and supply chain tech has really taken off within the last few years, with even more tailwinds due to COVID’s impact on consumer demand and delivery expectations. As logistics is a huge industry for Miami and Florida, we think startups here have a very exciting opportunity in that space. We have now funded several companies in Florida across various aspects of logistics, from final mile delivery to long-haul trucking route optimization.

What are some of the local challenges you’ve encountered or seen founders struggle with? More generally, how should people looking to hire in, invest in or relocate to Miami think about doing business in the city?

Access to capital has been a significant problem for Florida-based founders since before we started our first fund back in 2016. There are relatively few funds actively investing in tech companies here at the seed and Series A stage, and essentially none post-Series A. Companies have historically had difficulty getting attention from Silicon Valley-based VCs due to the preconceptions of Florida as a bad place to start a company. Even as recently as last year the standard line from some Bay Area investors was, “Move out of Florida if you are serious about raising money.” That said, some of these preconceptions have been deserved, as historically South Florida as a business community has been prone to falling for flash over substance and that has occasionally been true for investors and startups as well. With the buzz around Miami and Florida as a place of interest for VCs and tech, we hope that attitudes around funding Florida companies have changed, as it is clear that good businesses can be built anywhere.

Who are key startup people you see creating success locally, whether investors, founders or even other types of startup ecosystem roles like lawyers, designers, growth experts, etc.

We’d like to mention all of our Florida-based companies who have been heads down building great businesses here locally — ReloQuest, CarePredict, OneRail, SmartHop and Plum. They are all hiring and growing like crazy, and several have received follow-on funding from top VCs. Check them out!

Maya Baratz Jordan, CEO and founding partner, Founders Factory New York

Where do you see Miami’s startup scene five years from now?

Cities with a diverse set of well-represented industries are often fertile grounds for building interesting companies. New York is a great example. Tech ecosystems thrive in an environment where you can unearth and solve a myriad of different problems versus just the problems of a single sector. The most interesting and lucrative companies tend to focus on blindspots in big markets. The blindspots are often discovered when they emerge out of silo and there’s a creative flow between industries. This is why I believe the diversity of industries and talent is ultimately a strength for Miami.

Remote work is pushing and pulling the global workforce. This means that offices will disappear from Miami, even with more companies moving in, but also more locals who work remotely for companies elsewhere. How do you see these factors impacting the city’s tech evolution?

One of the reasons it seems a lot of people are moving to Miami now is the fact that their job may not be tethered to a geographic location and they can work where they enjoy living. Given this unique strength to encompass work/life balance, Miami can experiment with hybrid models of working environments. Perhaps the dichotomy of working in an office versus working at home is dated. Offices were created for a time when technology used to be limited and the fastest way to communicate was in person. In-person interaction is important, but perhaps there are ways we can maintain [in-person interaction] that are not necessarily tethered to an office and that incorporate more ways to integrate with one’s life.

What industry sectors do you focus on within Miami (and beyond)? What is happening in Miami now that you’re most excited to fund?

Consumer healthcare is an area I’ve been actively investing in, and it seems like there’s been a lot of activity in Miami in that vertical, ranging from medical robotics to remote monitoring for chronic illnesses. I’m also interested in the future of work and the creator economy, and I believe the diverse set of industries in Miami will breed interesting companies that address the need for people to lucratively pursue their passions.

What are some of the local challenges you’ve encountered or seen founders struggle with? More generally, how should people looking to hire in, invest in, or relocate to Miami think about doing business in the city?

People in Miami joke that they run on “Miami time,” which is something between island time and how New Yorkers think of time.

Who are key startup people you see creating success locally, whether investors, founders or even other types of startup ecosystem roles like lawyers, designers, growth experts, etc.

Miami is a city built by immigrants, and that strength is what will allow Miami to thrive as a tech ecosystem; immigrants start businesses at higher rates than those who are native born. It seems like female founders in particular have been quietly building interesting and successful businesses here.

Sanket S. Parekh, managing partner, Secocha Ventures

Where do you see Miami’s startup scene five years from now? The city has attracted a wide range of people over the years, including more tech and finance companies very recently. How will it add up to something more than the sum of the parts?

If you think of Miami as a product and evaluate its adoption curve, it seems like we have reached the chasm. I.e., those of us who have been here pre-COVID are like those you’d characterize as innovators and the during-COVID crowd as the early adopters. Miami is at the point where we now need to prove we can continue on the curve from early adopters to early majority.

Five years from now we’ll hopefully be focused on headlines showcasing startups that are growing and hiring here, and not just about which investor has relocated here (which is also good, don’t get me wrong, but not the end-all).

We can also wish that Miami’s best traits — its international perspective, its racial, socioeconomic and cultural diversity — will infuse something unique and truly distinctive into the founders and investors building their businesses here.

Remote work is pushing and pulling the global workforce. This means that offices will disappear from Miami, even with more companies moving in, but also more locals who work remotely for companies elsewhere. How do you see these factors impacting the city’s tech evolution?

I don’t see a future where humans stop interacting with each other IRL. While how we “work” will look very different, offices “disappearing” is a bit of a stretch. It’s more likely that we will see an evolution of what an office looks like and how it functions as a “hub.”

Miami is full of disjointed “neighborhood clusters.” Up until now, this has been a negative, but given the changes we are going to see in how we work, I believe this is no longer as critical. In fact, it can be seen as an advantage where someone could live/work on the beach, and go to events/meetings at their “hub,” which may be elsewhere, when needed versus being so focused on living close to your workplace since you need to commute every day.

What industry sectors do you focus on within Miami (and beyond)? What is happening in Miami now that you’re most excited to fund?

While we’ve been based in Miami for the last seven years, we invest globally. In fact, COVID has made it even more acceptable to not be geographically constrained. This is the precise reason you are seeing investors move here.

We invest in fintech, healthcare tech, consumer tech and consumer products.

One of our most exciting portfolio companies is based in Broward: CarePredict. With the changes that COVID has brought about, they are uniquely placed to take advantage and provide the right dose of technology that eldercare requires.

Within our local ecosystem, Chewy and MagicLeap have been large employers. I’m most excited to see what their employees branch out and create in the coming years.

We are also excited to see a growing number of exceptionally talented founders moving to Miami to start their companies. These talents may have selected San Francisco or NYC previously, which is a great opportunity for us to meet exceptional teams at the infancy of an idea.

What are some of the local challenges you’ve encountered or seen founders struggle with? More generally, how should people looking to hire in, invest in or relocate to Miami think about doing business in the city?

Angel rounds are challenging here as compared to other more mature markets where founders or folks from the startup ecosystem play a larger role in angel rounds. Most local angels are used to investing in real estate, and approach early-stage deals differently than those who may be more accustomed to the asset class.

Hiring top-quality talent was also traditionally more challenging here than in tier-one entrepreneurial cities. With the significant influx of remote workers in the past year and the change in perceptions about Miami, we are hopeful that local companies will be able to overcome this challenge.

Miami is a collection of neighborhood clusters, as I mentioned earlier. If someone is looking to relocate here, they should spend some time getting to know what works for them before they commit to a neighborhood.

Who are key startup people you see creating success locally, whether investors, founders or even other types of startup ecosystem roles like lawyers, designers, growth experts, etc.

  • Venture Bites is a local grassroots organization made up of people passionate about the startup ecosystem. They organize educational sessions with key players from across the country and are also organizing a pitch competition with prominent public and private partnerships already in place.
  • Refresh Miami has been a vocal supporter and “info hub” for the community.
  • Miami Angels has been working tirelessly to get more angel investors into the startup ecosystem. There are a lot of high net worth individuals here, but it’s been historically challenging to get their attention away from real estate investing to startup investing. Hopefully, with Miami crossing the chasm it’ll bring more folks into the mix.
  • Animo Ventures and Las Olas Venture Capital are two other VC firms located in South Florida from pre-COVID days. Hopefully we’ll hear of many more setting up shop here in the coming months.
  • The Knight Foundation has been one of the most consistent supporters of the ecosystem and its impact cannot be understated.
  • 500 Startups is one of the very first Silicon Valley firms to have recognized the potential of Miami, setting up an office here a few years ago. Ana and her colleagues have been instrumental in stimulating and engaging the local ecosystem.

Laura González-Estéfani, founder, TheVentureCity

Where do you see Miami’s startup scene five years from now?

If the leaps we have made in the last five years are any indication of the next five, we believe Miami will be the next big tech hub in the southern United States. We have all the right pieces to make that true: engineer/developer schools and academies, startup programs and accelerators for seed, a thriving tech community, exits from founders reinvesting in the next generation of founders, influx of new capital, quality of life that tech company founders and employees are starting to prioritize, engaged local government as we have recently seen, as well as an incredibly diverse pool of talent.

Remote work is pushing and pulling the global workforce. This means that offices will disappear from Miami, even with more companies moving in, but also more locals who work remotely for companies elsewhere. How do you see these factors impacting the city’s tech evolution?

We believe talent has no zip code and smart cities are those that attract and retain the best talent — it’s no longer just about connectivity or infrastructures exclusively. In the past, people had to relocate to work at their dream job sacrificing too much personally. 2020 has just confirmed that you don’t need to sacrifice the way you want to live your life because of a dream job. The complaint we used to hear from talent was that there were not enough mid- to senior-level roles in Miami in tech — remote work has significantly strengthened Miami. Miami is a dream destination for a lot of people in different stages of life, so we see Miami also becoming a great remote work hub for those that can be 100% remote, even if they only spend part of the year here and then migrate to other climates. The workforce has more choices now than ever before and we think people will start to really put quality of life over job location. It is a true game changer.

What industry sectors do you focus on within Miami (and beyond)? What is happening in Miami now that you’re most excited to fund?

We have been based in Miami for the past four years and we invest from Miami to where the best founders are. Sometimes [they are] in Miami and sometimes in other states or countries. “We are from Miami to the world.” We are now witnessing a huge internal movement from other states to Miami, but many of us moved from our countries to Miami because of the immense opportunities Miami offers. We invest in software companies disrupting traditional industries, Health tech, fintech, mobility, cybersecurity and jobs. We have also invested in marketplace business models in products disrupting travel, pets, solutions for SMBs. We love giving a first ticket from $100,000 to seed stage companies jointly with a product-led growth program or a pre-Series A to a ticket of an average of $3 million through our Fund II. We love diverse companies, international mindset and execution over anything else.

Miami has always been an extraordinary hub for fintech, we are closely following interesting companies in this space and obviously health tech. We have to say that we have seen very disruptive companies in proptech and also very interesting marketplaces of all kinds B2C and B2B.

What are some of the local challenges you’ve encountered or seen founders struggle with? More generally, how should people looking to hire in, invest in or relocate to Miami think about doing business in the city?

Our biggest challenge has always been fighting the biases of people around Miami. You have to experience Miami to understand the opportunities it brings. It’s a very welcoming city where so many people will help you land. The next biggest challenge is that the amount of capital that Miami moves versus how much is invested in tech is ridiculous, really a pity. For this reason we need a fund of funds that supports the local funds so that they can develop the ecosystem on this front. And I am not talking about leftovers of capital that need to meet a quota or small initiatives. I mean people investing with true conviction in the asset. That is what gets the flywheel running, capital to fund managers that chose the right entrepreneurs from Miami or outside [and] that create jobs, etc. Let’s not forget that capital attracts founders and founders develop a huge industry that creates thousands of jobs. It is not only about investing in Miami, it’s also about investing from here to the world.

Who are key startup people you see creating success locally, whether investors, founders or even other types of startup ecosystems roles like lawyers, designers, growth experts, etc?

Sure, Juha and Johanna Mikola from Wyncode [since submitting these answers, the company was acquired by Brain Station], Andrew Parker from Papa, Claudia Duran from Endeavor, Victor Servin — CTO of TheVentureCity, David Smith — chief data scientist from TheVentureCity, David Marcus — chief product officer at TheVentureCity. Jimena Zubiria — VP of People at TheVentureCity, Anabel Perez-Novo — CEO of NovoPayment, Adolfo Babatz — CEO of Clip, Rodrigo Teijeiro — CEO of RecargaPay, Jackie Baumgarten — CEO of Boatsetter, Justin Meyers — CEO of Explorest and Vivek Jayaram (lawyer).

 

Continue Reading

Entertainment

Clown Princes: Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall on ‘Coming 2 America’

becker blake

Published

on

Clown Princes: Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall on ‘Coming 2 America’

There was a time when Eddie Murphy ruled the multiplex like a king — or at least a prince.

In the 1980s, he capped off a series of comedy blockbusters (“48 Hrs.,” “Trading Places,” “Beverly Hills Cop”) and stand-up sets (“Raw”) with “Coming to America.” That 1988 film cast Murphy as Prince Akeem, the wealthy potentate of the fictional African nation of Zamunda, who travels incognito to New York with his faithful attendant, Semmi (Arsenio Hall), in search of a woman who will love him for himself.

“Coming to America,” directed by John Landis, was propelled by his chemistry with Hall and their aptitude for playing countless other characters, including an unctuous reverend (Hall), a mediocre soul singer (Murphy) and the squabbling denizens of a local barber shop (Murphy, Hall and Murphy).

Murphy has had many career highs and lows since, though he has lately been on an upswing that includes his hit 2019 biopic, “Dolemite Is My Name.” And now he’s returning to Zamunda in a long-awaited sequel, “Coming 2 America,” which Amazon will release on March 5.

The follow-up, directed by Craig Brewer, finds an older Akeem reckoning with a grown daughter (KiKi Layne) who wants her own opportunity to rule the kingdom. He rushes back to New York with Semmi after learning that he fathered a son (Jermaine Fowler) there on his original visit. Murphy and Hall reprise several of their supporting characters, joined by “Coming to America” alumni James Earl Jones, Shari Headley and John Amos, as well as franchise newcomers like Wesley Snipes, Tracy Morgan and Leslie Jones.

The making of “Coming to America” and its sequel is a story that spans the real-life friendship of Murphy and Hall, from their first encounter as stand-up comics to the present day. Murphy and Hall got together recently for a video interview to talk about the creation of “Coming 2 America” and their camaraderie, and to needle each other as only good friends can.

These are edited excerpts from that conversation.

How did you first meet?

EDDIE MURPHY When we started doing comedy, there may have been, like, 10 Black comics in all of the country, so everybody knew each other. Comics are very cliquish, so you get in a clique with the people you think are funny. Of the 10 Black comics, there were four or five that I never became friends with. [Laughter] When I came out here [to Los Angeles], I met Arsenio through Keenen [Ivory Wayans].

ARSENIO HALL We’re standing in front of the Improv, Keenen introduces me, I shake Eddie’s hand and we talk for a while and then coming down the street is Damon Wayans. But I had never met him. Keenen introduces us to Damon and he’s doing that character that Eddie let him do eventually in “Beverly Hills Cop,” the hotel guy. It was so convincing, I didn’t laugh because I didn’t know whether it was real. But that’s how he got the role in “Cop” 1.

Eddie, what got you interested in the idea of seeing America and New York through the eyes of this African prince, Akeem?

MURPHY This was at the height of when I first got in the business. I was on tour and had just broke up with a girlfriend, and a conversation started on the tour bus about wanting to meet a girl that didn’t know I was this dude and just liked me for me.

Arsenio, at that point I think your only movie credit was a comedy sketch in “Amazon Women on the Moon.” How did you get involved in the original film?

HALL It’s funny, I was not a movie star, I was a stand-up comic —

MURPHY Oh, no, no — he also did an episode of [the revived] “Love, American Style.” He’s with a “Soul Train” dancer named Damita Jo Freeman and they play a couple. I’ve looked all over. I looked on YouTube, but I can’t find it. [The segment can be found here.] We were friends, and I always like to be with some other comedian, to make it as funny as it can be. There’s me and Richard [Pryor in “Harlem Nights”], there’s me and Arsenio, me and Martin [Lawrence in “Life”]. I’m not going to be shouldering this [expletive] by myself.

HALL But it’s funny you mention “Amazon Women” — Eddie and I are riding through Manhattan in a new white Corvette he had bought and Eddie says we’ve got to find somebody to direct this movie. And I remember saying, well, I’m not going to be much help, because I’ve only done one movie and it was with John Landis, called “Amazon Women on the Moon.” And I saw something go off.

MURPHY You know what’s funny? John Landis says to me, “You know who’s really funny? Arsenio Brown.” I was like, “Arsenio Brown? Arsenio Hall.” “Oh, yes, Arsenio Hall.” To this day, he’ll still call himself Brown.

HALL I think Reverend Brown came from that joke.

MURPHY Arsenio Brown! It actually has a ring to it. Arsenio Hall sounds kind of stagy, like he made it up. Arsenio Brown sounds like a real person.

Whose idea was it to have you play multiple characters in the movie?

MURPHY The original idea didn’t have multiple characters. Once John Landis got involved, he knew I was able to do the Yiddish accent, so he was like, that would be hysterical. He had worked with [the special makeup-effects designer] Rick Baker before, so he was like, Rick could make you look like an old Jewish man — that would be hysterical. And that’s how that stuff started.

Your careers went in very different directions after “Coming to America.” Did that make it difficult to remain in each other’s lives?

MURPHY There’s never been a period where we haven’t been friends.

HALL We can share different experiences. Part of it is being comfortable with who you are and knowing who you are. I’m a stand-up comic and a guy who does TV. Eddie is a movie star. But we share with each other because the bottom line is we’re both comfortable in our own skin.

What’s something that’s different about the two of you?

HALL I’m here ’cause I’m broke — he’s here ’cause he’s good. [Laughter]

MURPHY I don’t see myself as a movie star or a comedian or any of those things. I see myself as an artist. And I feel like there’s a bunch of different ways I can express myself.

HALL You can pop by Eddie’s, and he’ll play a song for you. And you can’t even believe, wait, that’s you on guitar? That’s you singing? You wrote and produced this track? And that’s what he does for fun. For him it’s like crocheting a hat.

MURPHY I have so many tracks and collaborations with people — Michael [Jackson], El DeBarge — all these people I’ve been in the studio with over the years and never finished it or never released it.

HALL He does so many things. He does them as well as anybody else. He’s a beast. It’s hard to deal with.

What took you so long to make a sequel to “Coming to America”?

MURPHY We never thought about doing a sequel. The way the story ended was kind of like, “And they lived happily ever after.” Then all this time passed and the movie became this cult thing. Catchphrases from the movie start working their way into the culture. Stores turning themselves into McDowell’s. I see Beyoncé and Jay-Z dressed up like the Zamunda characters for Halloween.

Then Ryan Coogler, before he directed “Black Panther,” I meet with him and he says, I want to do a “Coming to America” sequel. He had an idea for Michael B. Jordan to play my son and he would be looking for a wife. I was like, then the movie would be about the son, it’s not our characters, we already did that. It didn’t come together.

But all that made me start thinking, maybe we should do a sequel. I saw the “Terminator” movie where they made Arnold Schwarzenegger young — his face looked like Arnold, but young — and that’s where I got it. [Snaps fingers] If we use that to make us young and create a new scene in the club [from the original “Coming to America”] where we’re out looking for the girls, so it’s part of that night. I go home with a girl and I’m high — that was the piece we needed to start the flow.

HALL I never thought about it because we had always said we’re going to leave “Coming to America” where it is. But I text him sometimes when I do my coffee run in the morning, and he says, What are you doing? I think you should read this script now. And I read half of it sitting in his yard. It was so exciting and so good.

Did the lawsuit won by Art Buchwald, who said “Coming to America” was based on a treatment he wrote, affect your ability to make a sequel?

MURPHY Oh, not at all. I’m not even sure how all that stuff was resolved, what the exact wording was. But at the end of the day, I think it’s all good. In the credits, they give a thank you to the Art Buchwald estate.

In both “Coming to America” films, we see Zamunda as this nation where Black people are able to fulfill their potential and achieve greatness without white people interfering or oppressing them. Was that a point you were trying to make explicitly?

MURPHY We never say that. We never show you the history of the country. We just are. We’re like Wakanda.

HALL And how perfect to do “Coming to America” 2 in Atlanta, where it’s very hot and the palace actually is owned by Rick Ross.

MURPHY Yeah, his house is so big, we literally were able to dress it and make it look like a palace. That stuff you see where I’m walking on the African plain and there’s antelopes running — that’s Rick Ross’s backyard. He has like 300 acres or something.

HALL And a lake! Do you have a lake? You’ve got to start rapping. Let me hear you say [Rick Ross voice], “Hunh.”

Were there any character bits that were written for the sequel but didn’t make the cut?

MURPHY There was a draft where the barbers had on MAGA hats and it turned out that they were Republicans. But it wasn’t because they were for Trump — they were Herman Cain supporters. We thought it was funny but it kind of dates the movie if we do this. We had these two old goat herders that had a dispute over a goat, and it was very funny but it culminated in, one of these guys [had sex with] this goat. It was like, uhhhh, we’ve got James Earl Jones in this movie — let’s keep it all classy. [Laughter] In the early drafts, Tracy Morgan was my son.

HALL I’m like, I love Tracy and he’s the funniest guy in the world. But yo, Ed, y’all about the same age. [Murphy voice] “We’ll work it out, man, we’ll figure it out. He’s funny.”

Did the barbershop guys remain eternally the same age?

MURPHY You look at the makeup — we aged them up nice and good. They’re supposed to be in their late 80s, early 90s now. Looking at the first one, I was amazed at how young we looked — the skin is tight, Saul [the barbershop patron], there are no age spots on his face, his face is all even-toned.

What do you do to pass the time when you’re in the makeup chair?

HALL It’s funny because we go to different places. We can’t be in the same trailer. He watches certain things and I watch certain other things. We tried it, the first day, together, and there were times when I didn’t want to see Prince videos.

MURPHY Oh, you didn’t want to see MonoNeon?

HALL Oh God!

MURPHY MonoNeon — what’s the best way to describe him?

HALL Something that makes Arsenio need his own trailer.

MURPHY MonoNeon is a musician who plays bass and he’s unbelievable. He’s Jimi Hendrix and Basquiat and Skittles, all combined. I could watch it for hours and hours and hours and hours. [Hall begins to grimace and Murphy does Hall’s voice] “You’re watching MonoNeon again?!”

HALL I’m a news junkie and I’ll watch the left, the right and the center, all day long.

MURPHY I’m the exact opposite. Before the pandemic, I never, never watched the news. I never know what’s going on. I’ll be like, “What happened?” “Trump is the president!” I totally don’t follow any of that stuff.

In the new movie, we see Akeem adjusting to changing times and reckoning with the desires of his grown children. Eddie, is this at all a metaphor for your life? Are you starting to think of the legacy you’ll someday leave behind?

MURPHY If I’m thinking about my legacy — and I rarely do — my career never even comes into it. My legacy is my children. When I’m dead, and they’re doing my eulogy, ain’t nobody going to be standing over the coffin talking about, [preacher voice] “And then, he did ‘48 Hrs.,’ which was a wonderful film. Burst on the scene with Nick Nolte and shook up the world. Moved onto ‘Trading Places’ and then the great ‘Beverly Hills Cop.’ And then the classic ‘Raw’ — let’s show a clip.” [laughter]

HALL [indicating the array of trophies that Murphy is seated in front of] I know you think those awards behind him are for show business, but those are Daddy of the Year Awards.

MURPHY One for each child.

Do you have any plans for another collaboration?

HALL I think it’s back to the comedy clubs for me. I’ll be at the Milk Through Your Nose in Canada next Friday.

MURPHY The plan was for all of us to be doing standup. When I got up off the couch and did this little patch of work, it was, let’s do “Dolemite.” Let’s do “Saturday Night Live.” Let’s do “Coming 2 America.” Because I want to go do standup again, but I don’t want to just pop up out there when people hadn’t seen me be really funny in a while. I didn’t want to do standup after the last movie you’ve seen me do is “Meet Dave.” [Laughter] Let me remind them that I’m funny. And then the pandemic hit and we had to pull everything back. But when the pandemic is over and it’s safe to be around people, I’m going to go do standup again. There’s so many comics in “Coming 2 America.” I’d love to do a tour with all the comedians, me, Arsenio, Leslie Jones, Tracy Morgan, Trevor Noah, Jermaine Fowler, Louie Anderson, Michael Blackson.

Is it perilous for the two of you to hang out in public? If people see you together, do they just start quoting “Coming to America”?

MURPHY We haven’t been out in a year because the bottom fell out of the world. But when the world gets back to normal, I don’t have a problem going anywhere. When I was young I used to have bodyguards. Then one day it was like, hey, wait a second — I don’t need all these bodyguards! [Laughs] And I haven’t had them since. I don’t restrict my movements or not go to places. When you go somewhere, you just say, “What’s up?,” take a picture and keep it rolling.

HALL I can’t wait for those times to come back. The only problem with Starbucks is, Eddie’s a big tipper. When I go back alone, there’s always this look, like [mimes someone looking behind him to see if Murphy is also coming]. I leave $5. Eddie will leave them a Rolls-Royce tire.

Bella Murphy contributed additional camera operating for the photographs of Eddie Murphy.

Continue Reading

Trending