Sometimes conflict resolution calls for alternate ideas, so our quest for peace in Lakerland took us to the Hotel California, a.k.a. the Staples Center courtside seats of Glenn Frey and Irving Azoff.
Frey is a lead singer-guitar player-songwriter for the Eagles, Azoff their longtime manager. Whatever Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O’Neal and Phil Jackson have experienced, anyone associated with the Eagles can relate.
Playing in sold-out arenas? Done that.
Reaching the pinnacle of their profession? Done that.
Nasty in-house fighting? Done that too.
In the 1970s, when the group was at its peak, Frey and Don Henley got into vicious shouting matches in the recording studios and backstage at concerts.
“Karl Malone must feel like Timothy Schmit,” Frey said, referring to the Eagle bassist who replaced original band member Randy Meisner in the mid-1970s. “I just got in the band of my dreams, and Henley and Frey aren’t even talking to each other.’ ”
So how did Frey and Henley get through it?
“Well ... we broke up!” Frey said.
For 14 years, in fact.
“The difference with us is I could come back and play at age 44 and still perform,” Frey said. “These guys, it’s a lot smaller window.”
One of the top rock bands of the 1970s split up in 1980, and the Frey-Henley feud was so bad they had to collaborate on the final stages of their live album by mail from opposite coasts. Fans waited and hoped for them to get back together, but Henley said that would happen “when hell freezes over.”
But their music was too good, their moneymaking potential too great for them to stay apart. This is the group whose first greatest-hits album is the top seller of all time, with 28 million CDs and tapes (and, back in the day, records and eight-tracks) sold. Their 1976 classic “Hotel California” is in the top 20 with 16 million sold.
Although Henley scored two platinum albums on his own, none of the group’s solo efforts matched the collaborative success of the Eagles.
Just to show the group’s staying power, when Azoff put together a collection of country music covers of Eagles songs in 1993, it sold 3 million copies in six months. With that carrot, Azoff finally was able to get Henley and Frey to take the first step.
“Nobody gets anybody back together,” Azoff said. “I got them to talk to each other, and then it took its own thing. There’s no manager and coach that’s going to take the principals and twist their heads that way.”
That said, he thinks Jackson should be proactive in the handling of his two superstars. Jackson has always had a more laissez-faire approach, and Wednesday he said his primary role will be “watchfulness.”
“You’ve got to think ahead about what can go wrong and try to stop it,” Azoff said. “My style would be more hands-on. I know he’s got his thing where he’s going to let it run its course. In my business, you let it run its course, you’re going to have a train wreck.”
The Eagles did reconvene, and their 1994 tour (called, of course, the Hell Freezes Over Tour) grossed $80 million in 32 shows.
All that success still doesn’t guarantee harmony.
“Even myself, if you get me in the corner on the wrong night on the tour plane, I might do a little venting about other band members and what a strain it is to make it all work,” Frey said.
“But the bottom line is, it’s bigger than all of us. And so are the [Lakers].
“It’s very much the same. You have to put aside your differences and do what you do best and do what people expect you to do. These guys are pros. I remember in the ‘70s, when we were doing well, we always admired the Oakland Athletics. They were pretty much a team that didn’t get along in the clubhouse, but when Dick Williams put those guys out on the field, everybody got along -- Joe Rudi, Reggie Jackson, Gene Tenace, all those diverse people. We sort of looked at the Eagles the same way too.
“Of course, the other thing is, in this profession, everybody’s talented, so everybody’s volatile. You don’t have talented people without emotion and opinion and the other things -- passion and in some cases, just a pinch of insanity -- which is what makes you great.”
Bryant said he and O’Neal talked everything out, and it’s all over. Jackson didn’t sound convinced that it’s over, but he said any future flare-ups will be played out within the locker room and not through the media. O’Neal didn’t say anything at all for the last two days, but his refusal to even look at Bryant when Kobe came out of the locker room at the end of the third quarter in Tuesday’s game spoke loud and clear. According to one source, O’Neal didn’t even want to participate in some practice drills with Bryant on Monday.
Their relationship has now reached the stage of parents staying together solely for the kids’ sake. Maybe they’ll try to make this work one more time, try to squeeze out another championship and get rings for Malone and Gary Payton before this is over.
But when Bryant emptied his full clip Monday night, unloading every real and perceived transgression by O’Neal in an interview with ESPN, the relationship seemed to reach a point of no return.
“It’s hard to stay at the top, to continue to breathe that rarefied air,” Frey said. “There’s a reason why they only get to stay up at Everest for so long, and then you have to come down.
“For these guys, they didn’t win it all last year ...
“It’s gonna be a crazy and interesting season.”
On that point, even Shaq and Kobe would have to agree.
And they might want to look to the Eagles for a little inspiration.
Might I suggest the songs, “Take It Easy” and “Get Over It.”
J.A. Adande can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.