Internal Memo: Barry Diller

Who’s on top? Who are the winners? And who are the losers? Who’s on the A-list? The B-list? The C-list? The D-list? My name starts with a B, but I’ve been on the A-list since I invented the made-for-TV movie in 1965. With the exception of a few months there in 1996, when I dropped to the B-list, I’ve never left the A-list. It’s not all about money. You could have all the money in the world and be stuck on the C-list your whole life, like that stupid Bronfman kid. A-list money but a C-list guy. Power isn’t just money. You gotta have talent. You gotta make something out of nothing, like we did with Laverne & Shirley at Paramount. Two dumb broads in an apartment. It was gold. You can also take something dead and bring it back to life. That’s how Jesus got on the A-list. Lazarus was dead four days, and Jesus brought him back to life. Straight to the top of the A-list, just like when Steve Jobs came back to Apple.

Tina Brown, let me tell you, she’s A-list all the way, even if she’d show up for the opening of a can of sardines.

You can’t put the genie back in the bottle, but you might be able to get the genie to sit down with you at the table, offer him some equity in your project and get him to keep granting wishes three at a time at least until you have your revenue stream in order, and from there your customers will pay. And if you don’t have a bottle or a genie, and you don’t want to risk any of your own fortune, it helps to meet a senile nonagenarian having a pre-death crisis.

When I met Sidney Harman, he seemed to me a D-list guy with A-list money. His wife is a congresswoman–strictly B-list stuff at best. But I could tell right away that he cared about journalism, and caring is a very A-list thing to do. For instance, he said to me and Tina, “I don’t care what you do with Newsweek, but you can’t change the motto, ‘All the News That’s Fit to Print.’ I love that motto. You can’t get rid of the Talk of the Town section or the Index page. You can’t fire Clay Felker. There still has to be fiction in every issue, and H. L. Mencken keeps his column.” I said to him, “Sidney, you have nothing to worry about.” Then he said to me, “Barry, it’s good to be in the stereo business with you.”

Internal Memo: Barry Diller