Lady Gaga's former manager auctioning off early demos, recalls 'painfully shy' star
Bob Leone fondly remembers the first time he met Lady Gaga. The pop star wasn't donning one of her outlandish costumes made of meat or hair and she wasn't anywhere close to ranking on any Forbes list.
She actually couldn't even pick her head up off the floor.
"She was painfully shy. A lot of people think she was born Lady Gaga. She wasn't. Stefani Germanotta was a whole nother person," he recalls of the first time he saw a reserved young Germanotta attend one of his open mic nights in New York City with her mother.
Leone, a former director for the Songwriters Hall of Fame, approached the teen -- she was around 13 or 14 at the time -- and asked her to perform onstage after she sat timidly in the audience for two weeks in a row.
"She would sit there with her face to the floor. I approached her and said, 'Look, I want to see what you've got … if you've got it in you. The next open mic she sat down at the piano and blew everyone away. She's an excellent keyboardist, and had a decent voice for someone that age. I was struck by the quality of songwriting," Leone said. "It was obvious she had a special talent. It was clear even then."
He began working with Germanotta for several years and assumed the role of manager for six months in 2006, he said, under two conditions: it had to be part time (he was still employed with the Hall of Fame), and once a major label showed interest, he would step aside in favor of a manager that could give her full-time attention.
Leone said one disc, dated from 2006, features six songs ("Wonderful," "Retrosexual," "Rock Show," "Spin You Around," "Yay Ha" and "Oh Well"). Also up for grabs are the albums "Stefani, Red And Blue," "Stefani Germanotta," and "Words" as well as a performance DVD shot at the Cutting Room in New York.
When pressed as to why he's putting the items up for auction, Leone is unabashedly candid.
"I was not paid for all the work I did, which is fine. In replacement of the money, she gave me these items with the hope, I think, that they would bring some money to me [when she got big]," said Leone, who says he hopes to net about $15,000 from the auction. "Since she's at her peak of popularity right now, I put them up. Hopefully the money that came available would equal the time I put toward mentoring her and bringing her out to the real world."
Leone says the demos showcase the Germanotta that he knew with the a singer-songwriter pop sound. He said she would bring him the demos she began recording under her now-famous moniker.
"She was really happy with the work she was doing [with ex-boyfriend/producer Rob Fusari]. She would bring me the CDs in just crystal jackets," Leone said. "The songs were raw, but they show an early phase of her songwriting skills."
He admits he hasn't spoken to the superstar since her massive success, but laughs when he mentions a conversation he often had with her.
"Whenever anyone asked her what she wanted to achieve, she would say 'world domination.' Of course she got exactly what she said she was going to get," he said.
For more details on the auction, go to Gotta Have Rock 'N Roll's website.
-- Gerrick D. Kennedy
Top photo: Bob Leone holds unreleased Lady Gaga demos at the Gotta Have It!'s Rock & Roll Pop Culture Auction Press Preview in New York City last week. Credit: Henry S. Dziekan III / Getty Images
Bottom photo: Lady Gaga performs at the 52nd Grammy Awards in January. Credit: Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times