DERRY, NH – Attorney Frank Cimler’s collection of A-list clients runs the gamut – from Aerosmith and Paul McCartney, to Ray Charles and other rock stars and their managers, as well as countless athletes and luminaries. His unique niche and celebrity connections enabled him to become a producer of the Boston Strong benefit concert, which raised $3 million for the One Fund after the Boston Marathon bombing in April of 2013.
It’s a career highlight that he reflects on fondly as he looks ahead to his own next act.
“To have done what I did with Boston Strong, I couldn’t have done it without all the experience and knowledge I have gained over my career. It was as special moment that allowed me to use that experience to help others, and for that, I’m grateful,” says Cimler.
Born in Yonkers, Cimler moved with his family to Londonderry when he was just 13, a transition that eventually led to his bi-coastal existence as “attorney to the stars.” It was also how, as a teenager, he met other Yonkers-to-New Hampshire transplants Steven Tyler, Joe Perry and Ray Tabano, and their buddy, Joey Kramer, who would become founding members of Aerosmith, a group with which Cimler has formed a lifelong bond.
Opening a private practice in Derry was a childhood dream-come-true for Cimler. But he took the long way to get there. He joined the military after graduating from Pinkerton Academy – the only pathway to college he had, as the son of a janitor – and eventually earned two law degrees over 12 years of night school on the GI bill.
In the aftermath of the marathon bombing, organizers of the Boston Strong fundraising concert at Boston’s TD Garden were looking for an attorney with the right connections and knowhow to secure all the various authorizations and synchronization licenses for every artist, songwriter and record company involved. Cimler was their man.
“Looking back on it now, I don’t know who else, outside of New York or LA, could have done what I did for Boston Strong,” says Cimler. A bold statement, but those who know him say it has nothing to do with ego, and everything to do with Cimler’s brand of dogged determination and attention to detail.
Dave Marsden, lead booker for Live Nation New England, worked with Cimler and others, including Live Nation President and music mogul Don Law, to pull together Boston Strong a few weeks after the bombing. It sold out within minutes. Marsden says it couldn’t have happened without Cimler’s expertise behind the scenes, managing all the back-end legal permissions, licensing and releases.
“Because the show was live-streamed, there are all sorts of rights around who owns the music. And because it was a benefit, we needed to make sure there were no issues with artists performing a certain song. Just layers and layers of performance and publishing contracts and clearances. That’s Frank’s world, and no one gets it like Frank,” says Marsden.
“In fact, if any of us knew back then what it was going to take to pull it off, I’m afraid it might never have happened,” says Marsden, who rates the Boston Strong concert as the highlight of his long career booking shows in the biggest venues in the Boston area – even topping the deal to bring Bruce Springsteen to Fenway for what would launch the Fenway Park concert series.
Cimler had worked with Law over the years – Law and Bo Dickson from Amoskeag Beverages were the guys who launched Manchester’s Riverfront Park concerts in the 1980s, the proving ground that a civic center, now the SNHU Arena, could be built and sustained in Manchester. Cimler was the one who brought Dickson – his old Pinkerton football coach – and Law together.
It’s that kind of connectivity that has been the driving force behind Cimler’s success as an attorney to celebrities and their managers. Cimler is known for elevating the attorney-client relationship to the status of friendship and, at times, business partner.
Cimler partnered with Kramer, the drummer for Aerosmith, and Ronnie Mann, a former HP executive, to launch Joey Kramer’s Rockin’ & Roastin’ Organic Coffee five years ago.
“I couldn’t speak higher of a human being,” says Kramer. “Frank’s a perfect example of a stand-up guy. I’ve known him more than 30 years, and in that time we’ve done a lot together – including Boston Strong. He feels the way we all felt – we’re always ready and willing to do anything for Boston, but especially at a time like that, to be able to raise money for the victims, it was cathartic for me – for all of us, when we needed to do something.”
Becoming an attorney was an unlikely profession for a kid from Yonkers, says Cimler. It started with an idea planted in his mind by a nun at his Catholic School, back in fifth grade.
“It was not a career path I’d ever considered – my father was a janitor. But this one nun told me that based on my writing skills, and the way I spoke, that I should pursue being a lawyer. I wasn’t sure what that meant. My only point of reference was watching Perry Mason on TV. But it stuck with me. From a young age, I paid close attention to orators like William F. Buckley, and I read all sorts of historical books about how society developed,” says Cimler.
After the military, Cimler pursued law school, and got many acceptance letters. But the expense was daunting, especially while supporting his own family, including his mother – his father and brother had died while he was still in high school. He gathered the acceptance letters, stapled them together and hand-delivered them to the Dean of New England School of Law.
“The deadline had already passed, but I requested that he treat my circumstances as unusual … The next day I got a call from the dean’s office, and they said they were going to take me on,” says Cimler.
That kind of chutzpah doesn’t surprise longtime client and former music executive Harlan Lansky, who credits Cimler with sealing the impossible deal.
“It was a wild one, back around 2000, a large entertainment company wanted to purchase part of my music production company, and it was an important deal to me. But the one caveat was I had to deliver Ray Charles to the larger entertainment company, which is not easy to do, but they knew I had a connection within Ray Charles’s circle of employees and that sort of thing. So I called Frank,” says Lansky.
The deal took months. “We were finally able to get everyone in same room, in Los Angeles. But as fate would have it, Frank’s mother passed away the night before this meeting was to take place. Of course, I tell Frank not to worry about it – I knew how close he was to his mom. I’m expecting the deal to fall apart. But Frank gets on a plane at 4 a.m. the next morning, comes to LA, goes to Ray’s offices and in about three hours, we closed that deal. Then, Frank gets back on a plane and heads home to make the arrangements for his mother,” says Lansky.
“As an aside, Frank instructed me to come to the meeting with a copier and a couple thousand pieces of blank paper. I say why, Frank? And he says to me that these lawyers are going to nitpick and never agree to anything, so once we hammered out the agreement, we would physically print out the contracts with everyone sitting there. It was genius. I’d never heard of such a thing, but that’s exactly what happened. Hours of negotiation and hundreds of pieces of paper later, the deal was done,” Lansky recalls, adding: “I’m happily retired from the music business for years, now. Thanks to Frank, I don’t have to work anymore.”
To generate business, Cimler relies on word-of-mouth referrals from those who’ve seen him in action, including former Aerosmith manager Keith Garde. He describes Cimler as a small-town New Hampshire attorney with New York street-smarts.
“Whenever I recommend Frank to clients, some of them extremely well known and demanding, I would tell them if Frankie represents you, he represents you and he’s not afraid of anybody else. There’s no lack of clarity around his obligation to or his advocacy for you, and in the music business, that’s hard to find,” says Garde. After more than a few decades of jetting around the country to be where he’s needed, Cimler says he’s ready to downshift and get out of the fast lane. He’s a proud father of a decorated war hero, Capt. Nicholas Cimler, 31, who was awarded the Bronze Star five years ago, and a devoted grandfather of two boys, Colt and Remington.
“My son is a hell of a soldier. He’s not following in my footsteps – he’s gone far beyond them. Right now, he’s in Afghanistan as part of special operations command, and he has his hands full,” says Cimler.
“These days I’m spending less and less time on the music industry stuff and more on pursuing that sense of purpose. I’m looking for quality of life, you know, there’s that thing they call QTL – quality time left – I don’t have any desire to be in those circles anymore,” Cimler says.
With the number of record deals, legal contracts and book deals he has brokered for an impressive array of high-profile clients, Cimler figures he could write a book – and just may, one day, he says. He certainly has enough war stories.
This story was originally published in the April edition of the NH Bar News.