Joel Gotler is CEO of Intellectual Property Group, a literary management company representing some of the world’s best-selling authors. He is also responsible for selling the underlying rights to hundreds of films, including Indecent Proposal, Chocolat and The Wolf of Wall Street. Bolder met him on location in Los Angeles.
“I grew up in Queens, New York, where I lived in the back of a candy store with two half sisters and my mother. It was tiny. I was basically a child salesman. I’d work there from 5 in the morning until midnight, which is where I got the gift of the gab. Later on, I went to Jamaica High School and somehow did very well. I don’t know how as I have ADD [attention deficit disorder], but whatever I hear, I seem to retain.
I never knew what I wanted to be in life but human resources at WNEW Radio suggested I should become an agent. So, I started one up with five misfit friends out of a tiny room in New York. We called ourselves Soap Box Enterprises, which was a terrible name. We somehow managed to get a deal booking Carly Simon at a college but the very same day the William Morris Agency called me and said they had an opening, so that was the end of that. I took the job, in the mailroom.
Women should respect what men think in a relationship and men should respect what women feel.
I met my first wife during an interview like this when I was 39. We stayed together for seven years, until I found out she had been lying to me about a lot of things. A year later, I met my current wife Beth on a blind date – I remember sweating profusely, I was so nervous! Marriage isn’t the easiest thing in the world but we just celebrated our 21st anniversary. Beth is a Buddhist so she’s very grounded, whereas I am airy. She has this quiet aura that I need. For marriage to work you have to really be in touch with your heart and your mind. You also have to learn to compromise. Women should respect what a man thinks in a relationship and a man should respect what a woman feels. You can’t say, ‘you shouldn’t feel like that.’
It was fate that brought us our daughter, Liberty. We’d been trying for years to have a child but we couldn’t, then 15 years ago, something extraordinary happened. We were visiting my in-laws in Chicago and this little girl came up to us in the airport and asked us something about our flight. We found out from her parents that she came from an orphanage in Taiwan that only adopts to people by fate. If we hadn’t run into that kid, we’d never have had Liberty. We’re going to a basketball game tomorrow night together – just me and her, which is such a thrill. Sometimes I wake up crying, knowing that she is going to off to college soon.
It’s important just to do your best to be happy. I stay away from people who don’t make me feel good.
I am constantly on a road to self-discovery – trying to figure it all out. I try to learn something new every day. Self-knowledge is key. Liberty already has that – she said just the other day that she doesn’t believe in any religion, she just believes in herself. That’s great. It’s important just to do your best to be happy. I stay away from people who don’t make me feel good.
A perfect day for me involves a mix of yoga, massage, reading and good food. I also love to play the harmonica. You’re supposed to eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a pauper. I do it the wrong way around! I don’t drink much though. It’s so bad for you. It makes me tired and I can’t stand the smell. Headstands are for me, not drinking! I’ve been doing yoga for 35 years and I still do it almost every day.
My life motto? The truth will find you; you’re not going to find it.