The centuries-old adage no good deed goes unpunished is a common refrain for star music manager Scott Rodger of late. Rodger, who represents Paul McCartney and Andrea Bocelli at Maverick, says his client Matteo Bocelli, the son of the opera star, was stiffed out of promised expense reimbursement by the American Icon Awards.
The event, held in May at the Beverly Wilshire in Beverly Hills, honored Al Pacino, whom longtime friend and colleague Robert De Niro introduced with a lively speech that included a dig at Donald Trump, along with Quincy Jones for music and Evander Holyfield for sports, among others recognized for humanitarian efforts. Those in attendance included Sylvester Stallone, Joe Mantegna, David Foster, Naomi Campbell, Sebastian Maniscalco, Jake Hoffman and NFL veteran Devon Sill. Martin Scorsese is listed as the event’s honorary dinner chair.
Philanthropy is at the heart of the six-year-old American Icon Awards, which, according to the organizers’ own press release “is a Los Angeles based philanthropic organization,” so it stands to reason that performers and attendees might forego their usual appearance fees or, essentially, donate their time and craft for free. Indeed, according to Rodger, the request to “sing for Al Pacino” was, er, an offer the Italian couldn’t refuse. “Matteo was happy to do it in return for the event covering his travel and hotel costs,” says Rodger. “No fee was involved [but] they stiffed us and won’t reimburse the agreed expenses.”
He continues: “It’s not the end of the world, but the point is events like this cannot masquerade their legitimacy, especially involving real legends like Al Pacino, when they aren’t capable enough of fulfilling their most basic obligations.”
Reached by Variety, Joseph Clapsaddle, owner and executive producer of the American Icon Awards, says, “I can confirm that Matteo Bocelli’s expenses have not yet been reimbursed.” While short of an apology, Clapsaddle adds, “We are very grateful for Matteo Bocelli’s beautiful performance at our event as well as the support of his management. His generous participation was especially appreciated by Al Pacino and our other honorees and guests.”
“I guess they assume we can afford it and they don’t have to pay,” says Rodger. “But it’s really not cool. They shouldn’t be allowed to take advantage of people.”
Others who performed at the American Icon Awards, including Robin Thicke and “American Idol” alum Pia Toscano (both honored Quincy Jones), reported no issues with payments, and like Bocelli, each performed for free, though it’s worth noting that the singers reside in L.A. and didn’t have to incur transportation or lodging costs. One vendor hired for the day tells Variety the company was compensated for its services, but three more indicated that they had not been paid or had checks bounce (see update).
Clapsaddle has been an independent producer for nearly a decade, though he did serve as the chairman of board of directors for the West Hollywood Chamber of Commerce for nine years, stepping down in 2012.
Joseph Clapsaddle and Associates is licensed as a commercial fundraising professional with the state of California, and the charitable partners with which it associated in 2019 — St. Jude Children Research Hospital, Ignited and Autism Movement Therapy/Autism Works Now — all upstanding and legitimate nonprofits. It’s unclear how much the event has raised in total, though in 2015 it was reported that the second annual American Icon Awards brought in $1 million.
Tickets were on sale to the general public, both to individuals and tables for groups or corporations, and teased everything from gift bag items to a private meet-and-greet with Pacino at Wolfgang Puck’s Beverly Hills eatery Spago. Opening tickets to the public is uncommon, even considering the high volume of award shows and events that bestow charitable honors.
Still, it’s not clear why Bocelli would have to take a hit personally.
To that, Clapsaddle adds, “We continue our fundraising efforts and have every intention to cover all of our financial obligations to our partners in this event. We look forward to another successful event in 2020.”
Rodger scoffs at the notion of efforts being made and suggests that the event is simply not solvent.
A rep for Pacino had no immediate comment. The next edition of the American Icon Awards is set for May 3, 2020.
Update: Following publication of this story, three more unpaid vendors reached out to Variety, including FNTECH, a California-based production company that handled all of the staging and technological needs for the event. David Dustin, director of sales for FNTECH, says a check he received the night of the American Icon Awards bounced a few days later. For supplying equipment and labor for the whole event, as well as the lighting, sound, camera and video packages, the company discounted its services by 50% because, says Dustin, “my grandson has autism.” FNTECH is out approximately $53,000.
Lynda Hamilton, who was hired to recruit talent for the event, also says she wasn’t paid for her services, as agreed upon, and that Clapsaddle also reneged on expenses due to talent, which ended up being paid out of pocket. “Not cool,” says Hamilton. “I fulfilled my contract.”