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TV Makes You Famous; Rock'n Roll Makes You Rich

By Jsn Herman
Gannett News Service
February 6, 1977

NEW YORK - Television will make you famous. Movies will make you glamorous Rock' n roll will make you rich.

Art Garfunkel still marvels at how easy it was to make $100,000 for a night's work during the heyday of the Simon and Garfunkel rock music duo.

More millionaires are made overnight in the record and concert business than in films or television and Art Garfunkel is one of them.

"Paul and I went out twice a year from 1966 to 1970 for eight to ten weeks in the fall or spring. We played to packed houses. It was such a tight little operation we were the envy of the business.-" he said in a recent interview. "But we sang well and we gave them 1 money's worth."

Garfunkel recalled that he and Paul Simon kept their operation purposely simple. It made for tidy profits. The two of them would take care of the equipment and the acoustics and their friend, Mort Lewis, would arrange the halls. One of their secrets was always to book halls slightly smaller than their potential draw.

 "It's disconcerting for performers to play to empty seats," Garfunkel explained, adding: "The public doesn't realize how simple it was. All we had to do was count heads and multiply by the price of the tickets. That's what we'd make. We always got 90 per cent of the gate."

At their peak in the late 1960s, Simon & Garfunkel played to as many as 17,000 persons at a single concert. But such figures pale when compared with the disbanded duo's approximately 40 million worldwide record album sales over the past dozen years.  In fact, there-were few singing groups more successful.

American sales, amounting to half the worldwide distribution, went like this:

"Wednesday Morning” (1964) one million record albums sold; "The Sounds of Silence" (1965) four million; "Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme" (1967) three million; "The Graduate" sound track (1968) 2.8 million: "Bookends" (1969) three million; "Bridge Over Troubled Water" (1970) 4.5 million: "Simon & Garfunkel's Greatest Hits" (1971) three million.

 

Add to that 16 hit singles and one begins to sense, if only dimly, the enormous wealth Simon & Garfunkel generated.  Gross sales in America alone could easily have reached $100 million at S5 an album. Moreover, since the duo's break-up in 1970, Garfunkel has cut two albums — "Angel Clare" (1970) and "Breakaway" (1975).  Though largely unheralded, their combined sales have reached 1.6 million.

In the days before his stardom, Garfunkel lived in a middle-class Queens neighborhood of post-World War II row houses, indistinguishable from thousands of others. Today, in keeping with his status as millionaire and celebrity, his 1920's vintage penthouse sits high above the city, overlooking Central Park, Fifth Ave and Metropolitan Museum of Art.

But success has not spoiled Art Garfunkel.

Attired in plaid work shirt, he was a formidable contrast to the fastidious trappings of wealth — giving the lie to F. Scott Fitzgerald s maxim that the very rich are different from you and me. "I'm dealing with so many things it's getting to me now," Garfunkel said. I'm proud of being a record producer and not just a performer.”

At 35. he looks much as I remembered him from high school. He has the same frizzy hair, though it is longer and somewhat receded, the same introspective smile, the urgent desire for precision and, of course, the same angelic voice that propelled him to the top of the charts with Simon, who remains his lifelong friend despite their professional estrangement.

Perhaps he has put on a few pounds. But his demeanor looks more relaxed than it was 20 years ago. Still cerebral, still a lover of numbers (he was a brainy math whiz at school), he appears a good deal less defensive.

"So I was defensive, huh?" Garfunkel said, chuckling at my observation. "I didn't realize it showed so much. I guess it came from not knowing how to be a person then. Everybody else in high school seemed to know how."

Being a person with conventional goals apparently always concerned him. That is why, even during the peak of the Simon & Garfunkel era, he led a double life. For years he attended Columbia University Teacher's College between recording sessions and concert dates. Earlier, he had earned a Columbia baccalaureate in architecture.

 "I was halfway to my doctorate in teaching. But it was schizophrenic and I finally dropped out," Garfunkel recounted. "Growing up, I never believed you could be a daddy of a family and be a rock'n roller. But you could be if you were an architect or a teacher. Paul was always freer about that. He knew what he wanted very early in life."

By the 1970s. Garfunkel entered the world of Hollywood, typified by an Al Hirschfeld caricature the singer keeps on his study wall. A memento of the days when be played opposite Jack Nicholson in the film, "Carnal Knowledge." it satirizes Nicholson and Garfunkel with their arms around each other and Ann Margret sitting between them. In the background are actresses Candice Bergen, Carole Kane and Cynthia O'Neal.

But with the good must come some bad.  Garfunkel’s entry into filmdom resulted in the break-up of the phenomenal recording partnership with Simon. They say it was mostly a matter of incompatible schedules. Both singers are philosophical about it now.

Said Simon: "I'm convinced our partnership was bound to break up anyway. Most partnerships do."