Volume 95, Issue 89

Thursday, March 21, 2002
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Alumni Adventures: we don't all end up failures

Paul Wells - from chemist to National newsman

Alumni Adventures: we don't all end up failures

Ron Rivlin - new hope for sociology graduates

Name: Ronald Rivlin
Bachelor of Arts – Sociology
President and CEO of Coast II Coast, Editor of Essential Database, president of martini girl business
Favourite hangout:
Playboy Mansion
Tori Spelling, Redman, Hugh Hefner
Favorite 1980s celebrities:
Scott Baio and Corey Feldman
Net worth:
Millions of dollars
Favorite Rock Band:
The Grateful Dead
Favorite biker gang:
The Hell's Angels

By Dale Wyatt
Gazette Staff

Gazette File Photo

HANGING OUT WITH CELEBRITIES - IT SURE FEED THE EGO. Western alumni Rob Rivlin (left) hangs out with rap-artist Redman.

What do surfing, the Hell's Angels and Western all have in common?

The answer – successful entrepreneur Ron Rivlin.

Everyone has a story and 1999 Western sociology graduate Ron Rivlin is no different – only his story may be a little more colourful than most.

Today, Rivlin is the president of the booking agency Coast II Coast Entertainment, publisher of Essential Database – the first trade publication for electronica music – and president of a martini girl business.

It was a rough and complicated road to success, but, as Rivlin has proven, destiny can be a strange thing.

After graduating from high school, Rivlin decided to embark on a life-altering journey. He began travelling alongside the Grateful Dead and was soon surfing and partying in Los Angeles. Eventually, he found himself poor, hungry and in need of a way home to Toronto.

In order to avoid turning to his parents for help, Rivlin requested and received just enough financial aid from the Canadian Consulate to make it to Vancouver.

After becoming stranded in Vancouver, he eventually worked his way across the country and back to his parents' Toronto home.

"My parents said, 'Look at you, you're a bum. You're not university material. You should just find a nine-to-five job.' But I felt differently," Rivlin said.

After deciding to take his OACs at night school, Rivlin achieved an 87 per cent average and applied to the University of Arizona, York University, Trent University and Western.

He was accepted to all four. The University of Arizona was too expensive, he opted against York because he already lived in Toronto and wanted a change and he concluded Trent was just too small for his liking – with no other options left, he chose Western.

Rivlin began his career at Western with the intention of earning a business degree, however, he soon grew to despise the business program and experienced a change of heart.

"I took [first-year] business and hated it," Rivlin said. "I didn't like how structured it was and how you couldn't deviate from a model. You had to follow a certain protocol when doing business and I have always been an entrepreneur."

Despite his dislike for the course, Rivlin learned a valuable lesson. "Western taught me there is a formal way to do business – you have to follow their rules to graduate. The way I do business is purely intuition – I just know when it is the right move."

Meanwhile, outside of the classroom, Rivlin met and befriended Nedina Park, a former Saugeen-Maitland Hall soph who would change his life forever.

Park introduced Rivlin to electronica music and the rave scene and, eventually, he found himself deeply involved in it all.

A year later, tragedy struck.

"After first year, Nedina went to London, England, where she contracted meningitis, went into a coma and passed away. I had to break the news to everyone at Saugeen and I basically had people exploding in tears. Nobody even knew she was sick," he explained.

Instead of mourning her death, Rivlin decided to throw a party in her honour featuring Park's three favourite DJs. The event took place on Jan. 11, 1997 at the Portuguese Community Centre on Clarke Road, under the company name Daybreaks.

"It was an amazing event. People stayed until 9 a.m. the next morning and word about the event spread. Soon, I started getting phone calls asking me to do more shows."

Daybreaks ended up organizing more than 25 events over the next two years in Montreal, Toronto and London.

A that point, Rivlin decided to risk everything and invest all his money into the final show of the 1999 Hang the DJ tour in Montreal. The show drew some of the biggest names in the business and cost over $200,000.

Two days before the event, Rivlin and his business partner received an unusual, anonymous phone call. "We get a phone call saying 'you have to meet with us at this restaurant in two hours.' So we go and it is the Hell's Angels," Rivlin said. "They bring us in the kitchen, lock the door behind and say, 'you don't fuck with us, we don't fuck with you!'"

It turned out the Hell's Angels controlled a venue located near the Hang the DJ show and were upset about the potential loss of business Rivlin's show was causing.

Left with two options – either pay the Hell's Angels $35,000 and use their venue or cancel the show – Rivlin and his partner said they would think about it and left.

A couple hours later, the office phone rang again. "We were like, 'who do they think they are?' [and] my partner basically said 'go fuck yourself' and hung up. The next thing we knew, we lost our venue and the mayor of Laval had cancelled our show."

Determined not to be beat, they moved the show to a different venue and suffered a loss of $55,000. However, the money was the least of Rivlin's concerns.

"The Hell's Angels ended up coming to my event looking to kill me. I had to hide in the DJ's booth crouched on the floor and luckily they didn't look there. Afterward, I had to go to a psychiatrist cause I couldn't swallow or eat. I was in shock," Rivlin confessed.

Soon after, Rivlin once again returned to his parents' house in Toronto, broke and unsure of what to do next. He rejected his parents' wishes for him to become a stockbroker and decided to start organizing events again. This time, he attempted to minimize his expenses and close his safety deposit box.

In the process, Rivlin discovered some money he had stashed away and long ago forgotten. Viewing the cash as a second chance, Rivlin had a vague idea of what he wanted to do.

Already having a network of contacts, he decided to call them and offered to book their shows. "About 90 per cent were open to me finding them bookings, so I created Coast II Coast. I thought it was a good name for an expanding agency," he said.

Within months, Rivlin was back on his feet and making money.

Being a joint American-Canadian citizen, he was able to do business in the United States. Before long, he was on a plane heading for Los Angeles to set up an office.

Rivlin bounced around for a little while, networked and attended all the top parties, including some at Hugh Hefner's infamous Playboy Mansion. Within eight months, he opened his current office on Wilshire Boulevard – the business district of Hollywood.

Over the course of his first year in the U.S., Rivlin obtained about 25 clients, including Run DMC and Slick Rick.

"A lot of agents aren't professional and don't please the artist – especially with hip hop. So I came along and got known as the guy who gets the 'loot' and is always on point – not difficult to work with," he said.

Coast II Coast has since expanded to include about 20 hip hop acts and 12 electronica acts, including both Mos Def and Redman.

"Destiny is strange. None of this would have happened if it wasn't for Western [and] Nedina. I love what I do and I owe a lot of it to Western."

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