Cleaning out his mother’s home the other week, Jesse Bauer came upon a trove of backstage passes. Photos of Ivy Bauer with the members of Journey and Van Halen at the height of their arena-rock powers.
He found a framed letter from M. Scott Peck, author of “The Road Less Traveled,” a book that, in 1978, sent 7 million readers on a journey of spiritual growth — and who packed a lecture Bauer put on for Peck.
“It was an interesting life,” Jesse Bauer said of his mother, a Seattle music promoter who died Sept. 15. “Some people shy away from being around characters, but my mom didn’t. She really identified with people who had a stance and a passion.”
Ivy Bauer was 72 and living in Tamarac, Florida, when she died of a brief illness.
Bauer was born in Brooklyn, New York, the youngest of four daughters born to Eastern European immigrants. Her introduction to the music business came when a friend who was working as a receptionist in a recording studio ran off to Los Angeles with a musician and Bauer took her place.
She moved on to a management company in New York, working with the late jazz legend Miles Davis, the late rocker Lou Reed and Blood, Sweat & Tears.
She met and married promoter John Bauer, and moved with him to his native Seattle, where in 1975 they started the John Bauer Concert Company. It was a time when each city had localized promoters, before the rise of AEG and Live Nation. The Bauers’ first booking was The Rolling Stones.
Even though the company was named for her husband, Ivy Bauer was a force of her own.
“They were true partners, and I know just from talking to people that she was as much of that company as my dad,” said Jesse Bauer, 40, who followed his parents into the business, and now works for Gold Village Entertainment, managing artists like Steve Earle, The Trews and The Waterboys.
“One of her strengths was that she saw artists as a career-oriented thing,” Jesse Bauer said of his mother. “It wasn’t about the first show, it was about the next 10 shows.”
With that in mind, Bauer also created “Catch a Rising Star” at the Paramount Theatre, which showcased new artists for a low ticket price.
And she did all this, her son said, while remaining tough and principled in a business dominated by men.
“I don’t think there were a whole lot of women in positions of power and influence during that time,” he said. “She was the only woman in the room 99% of the time. She just loved what she did and I think she felt like she belonged there.
“It was her Brooklyn personality and she wasn’t going to get pushed around by anyone.”
Bauer found out she was pregnant with her son while on tour with Van Halen. Jesse Bauer spent his childhood in his mother’s Bellevue office, reading Billboard and other trade magazines.
His mother was close to Lynyrd Skynyrd lead singer Ronnie Van Zant, who died in a plane crash with two other band members in 1977. He had given Bauer some jewelry during their friendship, and, after his death, she gave it to Van Zant’s widow. She also used to babysit for Mott the Hoople frontman Ian Hunter and his wife.
“I was a music nerd, surrounded by interesting characters,” Jesse Bauer said, “and it was great.”
The Bauers adopted a daughter, Chanda McDonough, who now lives in Las Vegas.
The couple divorced in 1984, and the family split, with Jesse Bauer moving with his mother first to Issaquah, then Bellevue.
“There was a lot of warmth in our house,” he remembered of his childhood. “It was always a house of music and good food and laughter.” Bauer, in her “hippie clothes,” loved to sip chardonnay and cook for friends, with Leonard Cohen’s “The Future” playing in the background.
“I probably heard that album 10,000 times,” Jesse Bauer said.
That same year, and limited by a noncompete clause with her husband, Bauer moved with her son to Los Angeles, where she started booking events for the Nederlander Organization and children’s entertainment for Lorimar-Telepictures. “Bugs Bunny on Broadway.” “Thundercats Live!”
They returned to Seattle four years later, and, with the noncompete clause expired, Bauer launched Ivy Presents with her first booking: U2’s “Zoo TV” tour in three cities. She had worked with the band in its early days, getting it airplay on radio stations and stage time in small clubs, and developing a friendship with U2 manager Paul McGuinness as well as legendary bookers Barbara Skydel and Frank Barsalona, founder of the Premier Talent Agency.
“They liked her so much because there was a sense of loyalty that isn’t there anymore,” Jesse Bauer said. “She booked U2’s first show and I don’t think they forgot that.”
She went on to promote other artists such as David Crosby and Alan Jackson.
Over the years, business slowed, and she moved to Massachusetts to be near family, then to Florida.
“But I think Seattle was the most home,” Jesse Bauer said. “Her real memories in life were here. This was where she belonged and I wish she hadn’t left.”
There will be a celebration of Bauer’s life next summer. Donations in her name can be made to the Southern Poverty Law Center or the American Civil Liberties Union.