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Meet the Music Manager Who Helps Struggling Addicts on the Road to Recovery

In Variety‘s Recovery Issue, prominent entertainment figures offer insights on navigating a sober life in Hollywood. For more, click here.

Longtime music manager Jeff Jampol is known as one of the top estate representatives in the world. He’s made a career out of monitoring — and monetizing — the brands and assets of such legends as Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin and the Ramones, among many others. But Jampol is just as well-regarded by his peers for being the go-to person for those struggling with addiction. He’s beloved in the industry for his tireless work to provide guidance, connections and motivation so that others can get clean, just as he did 30 years ago.

“I’ve known Jeff for much of my career in the music business,” says Steve Berman, the vice chairman of Interscope Geffen A&M Records, home to Lady Gaga, Maroon 5 and Eminem. “But what many people don’t know — and that’s because Jeff doesn’t make a big deal about it — is that he’s helped dozens and dozens of executives and artists on their path to recovery from addiction issues. He is, as they say, ‘of service’ to an enormous number of people in recovery, many of whom go on to help others as part of their process. The ripple effect of positivity and healing created by Jeff is simply incalculable.”

Jampol’s own struggle started during college, when he dropped out of Sonoma State University after a year “to manage punk bands and deal cocaine,” he says. “Unfortunately, I was my own best customer, so that didn’t go so well as a commercial venture.” Heroin soon proved to be his drug of choice. “I got as close to death as you could possibly get, and almost had my leg amputated.”

Employed at Warner Bros. sales and distribution during the music biz’s boom years in the 1980s, Jampol — who already stands out at 6’8” — didn’t want to walk into work with track marks on his arms, so he shifted to veins in his leg. The result wasn’t pretty: “Hundreds of abscesses started joining together to create one huge open cave on my leg,” says Jampol, who wound up in the ER due to an exposed tibia bone. “They said, ‘If we don’t amputate, he’s definitely going to die; he might still die after we amputate, but we’ve got to do it,’” he recalls. Luckily for Jampol, the anesthesiologist refused — Jampol’s tolerance level to opiates was too high — and he landed in the detox unit, where enough tissue growth allowed for reconstructive surgery.

Two skin grafts and another stint in detox later, Jampol was finally sober. But he was still an addict. Ultimately, he couldn’t resist the temptation to shoot up — in the same leg — once again. “With every IQ point I now possess,” Jampol points out, “so clearly it’s not an intellectual issue. As I was preparing the syringe and thinking, ‘This is a really bad idea,’ I plunged the needle right in my leg. It’s a very powerless state of being.”

It took Jampol four trips to treatment to achieve long-term sobriety. One of his first jobs in recovery was selling computer printer ribbons over the phone for $150 a week. “I had lost everything, and I was sleeping on floors for over a year,” he says. “But I decided to make a commitment to recovery.” It was a decision made not only for himself but for others, and it paid off exponentially: One of the people he met on the road to recovery was Danny Sugerman, manager of the Doors — which led to a friendship and then a blossoming business partnership that filled an industry void and modernized the legacy artists market.

Even by the standards of the music industry, Jampol Artist Management is unusual. First there’s the mantra: “Wisdom comes from good judgment and good judgment comes from experience and experience comes from really bad judgment.” And Jampol proudly declares: “I’m one of the most experienced guys you’ll probably ever meet.” But what sets his business apart from every other management firm in town is its foundation on “spiritual principles,” such as honesty, faith, commitment, courage, willingness, perseverance and, Jampol’s favorite, service. “As an addict, I was completely dishonest and self-centered and manipulative,” he says. “I took so much out of the world and people that when I got this gift of recovery, it was really important to me to give back.”

Many other high-profile people in the industry were happy to talk about Jampol’s service work — off the record. They stay sober by regularly attending 12-step recovery meetings, where community anonymity is the only price of admission. Jampol even hosts weekly meetings at his home in the Hollywood Hills, which is a short drive from his HQ on Sunset Boulevard. Flashy symbols of success adorn his office: the Grammy he won for producing a documentary on the Doors (along with the Diamond award for the band’s greatest hits album, which sold more than 10 million copies); a multiplatinum plaque for Joplin’s “Pearl”; a Robert Graham bust of Charlie Parker, yet another client.

Jampol is known to walk out of meetings whenever an addict in crisis calls, which can be a daily, sometimes hourly, occurrence, say colleagues. Explains Jampol: “I can be with a label chairman or a publishing company president, and I’ll get a call or a text — somebody in recovery who needs help — and I’ll interrupt to take that call.” Often the person on the other end of the line is a stranger. “I’ve put many people in treatment and not even met them until later when they have a year or two clean,” he says. Jampol estimates that he has also made “hundreds and hundreds” of house calls for personal intervention over the years.

When it comes to advising addicts on how to get clean, what Jampol brings to the table is expertise through experience. “What usually happens in these cases is the whole team knowingly or unknowingly is enabling the addict,” he says. “I can do something that no therapist or doctor or judge can do, which is just one addict helping another — that beautiful principle of empathy. I can sit with the hardest of the hardcore addicts and literally in four to six minutes I can gain their confidence.

“Because,” he says, “I’m them.”

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