Since 1989, the company has gone out of its way to pursue a global strategy, and this has enabled Avram to produce the worldwide tours of megastars such as Michael Jackson and Rod Stewart. Jackson's "Dangerous" tour involved the most complex staging and production ever devised for a rock operation.
There were no less than six technical supervisors keeping an eye on rehearsals for the shows in Los Angeles and transmitting computer graphics back to the U.K. in order to cover any necessary changes to the set. Production equipment weighing more than 160 tons was flown from Los Angeles (where it took two days to load) in two giant Antonov Russian freight planes to London's Stanstead Airport, before being transferred to 65 trucks. And last, but certainly not least, there was the all-important traveling entourage. From the U.S., this numbered a modest total of 145 people—rising to 235 when additional crew members were brought in from Europe. In all, they traveled in 13 different tour buses, while Jackson himself flew in a privately chartered Boeing 727.
As for the tour itself, an unexpected complication arose in Israel. When a date and time—Saturday, September 18, 8 p.m.—were announced for Jackson's open-air performance at The Park in Tel Aviv, the Rabbinic Representative (RR) objected that it would contravene the laws of the Jewish Sabbath.
There are numerous religious rules regarding the Sabbath observed by orthodox Jews from sundown on Friday to sundown on Saturday each week. For instance, the use of motorized transport of any kind—cars, taxis, buses, trains—is forbidden. Even the state-owned El Al airline is grounded during the Sabbath hours. Even though the Tel Aviv gig was due to start at 8 p.m. - a full four hours after the end of the Sabbath - the RR reasoned that visitors from all over the country would be traveling throughout the day to reach the venue. Therefore, if the concert were to go ahead as announced, he would have no option but to refuse the kosher license for the sponsor, Pepsi, making it illegal to sell the drink again in Israel.
Avram tried to compromise by suggesting a start time of an hour later, pointing out that the entire country can be traversed in less than five hours. The RR refused. Moving the concert forward to either Thursday or Friday was also impossible, because, by sheer chance, these happened to be the days when the Jewish New Year would be celebrated. So, what to do?
"Without further delay, I decided to postpone the concert until the following Monday," recalls Avram. "That was the only solution. After all, we might have some Christians among us and of course they ought not to work on Sunday!"
It is due to Fritz Rau that German superstars such as Peter Maffay and Udo Jürgens are now incorporated into the MAMA roster. Theirs are household names in Germany and, as such, they sell massive quantities not only of their recordings but also concert tickets. Yet, thanks to the ever-dependable Anglo-American aversion to all things that are not spoken or sung in English, they—and their numerous European counterparts— are practically unheard of outside their home territory. What with MAMA's expanding international influence, however, and its dedication to music right across the spectrum—from pop to R&B, classical to folk, reggae to traditional Schlager—things could be about to change.
In the meantime, another major contribution by Fritz Rau to the company has been his introduction into the fold of such internationally renowned acts as Eric Clapton, Gary Moore, Jethro Tull and Roger Whittaker. And, since the merger, relations with the likes of the Rolling Stones and Prince have been intensified and strengthened. Meanwhile, some very firm friendships have been forged with many of the clients on MAMA Concerts & Rau's books.
When soccer-mad Rod Stewart is on tour, a football game is organized at least twice a week—with Stewart, Avram, the accountant and the management forming one side, and the road crew the other. "This is a must," says Avram, "but it is not without its little problems. On one occasion, I got injured in a tackle and had my leg in plaster for weeks. On another, Rod bet me that the crew would win. I backed my own team, but for once we lost and I ended up having to buy Rod's white Ferrari sports car!"
When soccer-mad Rod Stewart is on tour, a football game is organized at least twice a week—with Stewart, Avram, the accountant and the management forming one side, and the road crew the other.
There are safer ways in which Marcel Avram can indulge his interest in sports. For example, he has staged WWF wrestling in Germany for the past three years and he is currently looking to bring American gridiron NFL games to Germany.