In summer 1975 record executive Neil Bogart had a serious problem. His Casablanca Records had KISS’s Alive due for release. It was the fourth album by his cartoony hard rock band and Bogart was determined to finally break the band. In addition Casablnca had a super sexy disco singer Donna Summer about to release an X-rated single called “Love To Love You Baby,” one he’d personally had extended for disco play. Parliament, who’s funkified records were building a huge audience, were preparing The Mothership Connection, which he planned to support with a enough tour money that the band could tour with its own spaceship.

It was all promising. One problem. Bogart and Casablanca were dead broke. His record distributor, Warner Bros. treated the label like a ball headed step child. Other possible funders wanted control of the company. To meet payroll and release new albums Bogart needed an influx of cash. His solution? A weekend trip to Las Vegas. A serious gambler, Bogart had lines of credit at major casino/hotels the Dunes, the Flamingo, the Golden Nugget, the Riviera and the Sands. So Bogart began checking into Vegas hotels for a night, while drawing cash on his line of credit. He didn’t gamble. Instead Bogart collected the cash and brought it back to Los Angeles to pay Casablanca’s many bills.

The fact Bogart wasn’t gambling with the casino’s money did not go unnoticed. Reckless moves made with underworld money is how people found themselves buried in the Nevada desert. Once Bogart’s scheme was discovered a very serious gentleman in Vegas advised to stop the ploy and quickly. Lucky for Bogart the ‘Kiss’ Alive’ album became an multi-platinum breakthrough,  allowing him to pay back the Vegas casinos and launch Donna Summer and Parliament into the pop stratosphere. Bogart’s Vegas line of credit disappeared but he’d saved Casablanca even as he risked his life.  This is just one of the stories that made Bogart a new entertainment industry legend.

The record business, during its 20th century glory days, was run by driven, creative, often times crazy and reckless businessmen. Most of the great executives were hustlers, really musical traveling salesmen who would have sold sand to the beach if the beach strolled into the wrong bar. One of the most colorful of these characters was Brooklyn native Neil Bogart. He founded Casablanca Records in 1973 and made it one the most legendary, and notorious, labels in music history. Read more from Nelson George.

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