Normally, I’m too busy to talk about my father’s death (which happened on this date in 1976) but since I am at my Montauk beach house looking out at the Atlantic Ocean with a very nice bottle of Slivovitz, I have a little bit of time (and am drunk enough) to write about my dad.
Harry Manka was a real prick. Not just to me but to all of my mothers (he had six wives – I’ve never really been sure which one was my real mother).
But people outside the family loved Harry Manka. He was called Hollywood’s Dark Lord for his habit of holding certain actors and writers hostage in the attic of Building 23 on the studio lot (dubbed “The Tower”) until they gave in to his demands.
Harry Manka had an amazing ability to stay alive. Most people thought he would die from his sixth heart attack in 1958 (the year of my birth) – but he would go on to have two more and two strokes over the next 18 years.
Dad must have loved horrible movies and television shows because he was constantly making them. During the early 1970s, he nearly bankrupt our family and the studio with such gems as Escape From Satan’s Planet and Black Illiad.
This is a day to remember a man who co-founded the World’s Largest Media Company (though it wasn’t the largest when I took over in 1976) with my two Uncles – the great Khan Manka (Sr.) who died tragically in 1937; and crazy Simeon Manka (1882 – 1958) who died on Hollywood Blvd. wearing only a sandwich board that read “Benny’s World of Beef.”
I vaguely remember the day of Harry Manka’s death. I received a call from C.J. Siegal, my dad’s personal assistant, who told me he was killed on the golf course after being hit with an errant tee shot.
We knew nothing could kill my dad and suddenly he dies after being hit with a golf ball? It was crazy. To this day, no one has confirmed who hit the ball that killed my dad. But we know. He was playing with Bob Hope, Joey Levitch and President of the U.S. – GERALD FORD. Who do you think killed Harry Manka?
C.J. was horrified when I told him I wouldn’t be able to come to the house later to be with the family because my band – King Khan – was getting ready for a very important gig at the Starlite Room in North Hollywood. Plus, later that night I had tickets for Jefferson Starship at the Forum. Being the son of a movie mogul, I always got backstage passes and nothing was going to stop me from using them.
On the day of his death, I was named Chairman & CEO of Manka Bros. Studios. I did not want this job. I wanted to take and smoke a lot of drugs with my Hollywood friends. I didn’t want to wear shoes and go to an office. I could feel that my band was really starting to take off. But C.J. Siegal reasoned with me and said I could immediately sign my own band to the Manka Bros. Records label and record a real album. This convinced me to take the job.
But after two weeks in that giant office with movie stars and directors begging you to make their movies, I quickly dropped the band and never recorded that album.
I realized being a media mogul is so much more impressive than being in a garage band. No matter how good our version of “Smoke On The Water” was.
I’ll leave you with one final thought – one of the last things my father ever said to me: “If you’re going to waste your life – go ahead and kill yourself. I’ll even give you the pills or the gun to do it!” – Harry Manka (1886-1976).