(CBS Local)– You may not have heard of Clarence Avant, but he’s been one of the most influential and powerful figures in music, entertainment, and politics over the past 50 years.
The music executive and entrepreneur has been friends with Quincy Jones for decades, advised Presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton, and worked with musical talents like Bill Withers, Jamie Foxx, and Snoop Dogg. Avant’s incredible story is chronicled in the new Netflix documentary from director Reginald Hudlin called “The Black Godfather.”
“I’ve known him [Clarence] most of my professional career and in certain circles he’s legendary,” said Hudlin in an interview with CBS Local’s DJ Sixsmith. “A lot of people see the movie and say they were embarrassed they didn’t know who he was. He didn’t want you to know who he was. It took us 20 plus years to convince him to make the movie.”
Hudlin, who is known for his work as a director of films such as “House Party”, and “Marshall”, has seen his career impacted by Avant. Hudlin first met Avant as a young filmmaker coming out of Harvard and that relationship has lasted for years. The documentary features interviews with 75 people like presidential hopeful Kamala Harris, Ludacris, P Diddy, and many more. One person Hudlin didn’t interview was Muhammad Ali, who had a very special relationship with Avant.
“It hurts me so much that we didn’t get a chance to talk with Muhammad Ali,” said Hudlin. “They not only did projects together, but they stayed friends. It makes perfect sense because these were people that said I don’t care. I’m doing it my way and that’s the Clarence way.”
The documentary features several profound moments in interviews with President Bill Clinton and President Barack Obama. Hudlin got Clinton to reveal how Avant influenced him during the Monica Lewinsky scandal.
“It was mind-blowing to me. First of all, I’m interviewing presidents,” said Hudlin. “I had met President Obama many times, but I had never met President Clinton. I was very excited to see him because he has a reputation of a super charismatic guy. I’m impressed by him as a man and as a thinker and his honesty is incredible. When I asked him the question of what is the best piece of advice Clarence ever gave you, he gets quiet… looks down and tells that story. I can see the raw emotion in his eyes. It’s so honest and real and I was so moved.”
“The Black Godfather” is available to stream now on Netflix.