Returning to New York, Herbie learns that, due to Julie’s latest gambling debts, Bunker Hill has been taken over by GANGSTERS. Determined to be his own boss, Herbie
leaves Bunker Hill. But, try as Herbie might, the Gangsters won’t let him take “talent” Sam along. Furious with Herbie regarding these business dealings, Sam’s also personally disappointed in Herbie when he learns that Herbie’s been living a double-life: with wild swinger Herbie constantly leaving wife RUTH and 5-year-old daughter SANDRA alone at their suburban Long Island home.
Come 1967, a divorced Herbie has moved to Los Angeles and formed his own Sugar Records. There, Herbie’s joined by other former Bunker Hill staffers, including loyal secretary MELANIE HAYES and talent scout Julie. Proudly, a now LA-hip-dressing Herbie’s built Lugar into a huge success, representing such artists as gun-toting WILSON PICKET; JAMES BROWN - who’s going through his “black pride phase”, and ARETHA FRANKLIN.
To Herbie’s delight, he’s reunited with Sam who’s come West in search of artistic freedom. But, due to Sam’s outstanding contract with Bunker Hill, Herbie won’t sign him to a recording deal. Instead, Sam gets hired as an A&R man - with Sam’s resentment towards Jewish Herbie growing as he spends time hanging out with James Brown and militant H. RAP BROWN. Excited when he discovers singing sensation EDITH LECLAIRE - a sexy black woman from Alabama - Sam’s determined to make her a star.
The LA riots devastating the City, racial tensions grow. Insisting that he can’t be around white people, James Brown leaves Herbie’s label. His own resentment at Jews boiling over, Sam also quits and heads out on his own with client Edith. At a Miami music convention, racial tensions continue - with black hoodlum PERVIS WOODLEY forming a Fairplay Committee which blackmails the labels into paying Woodley huge kickbacks. When some of the music men resist, Woodley’s THUGS turn violent - killing one RECORDING EXECUTIVE and holding Julie hostage. Luckily, old pal Bobby Blue is the one white member of Woodley’s group and wins Julie’s freedom; with cheap Julie refusing to reimburse Herbie the huge ransom fee. With Bobby’s encouragement, Herbie agrees to sell Lugar to GEORGE GROSS, the CEO of huge Century Brothers music.
Come 1974, Herbie’s label continues to prosper as the face of music changes and Herbie bets on British spandex-clad rockers SPUTNICK to become huge stars. While hanging with the wild, room-trashing Sputnick, Julie accidentally is dosed with LSD; with Herbie soon getting into the drug scene. On the road, Sputnick is so wild that Herbie sends tough, black TEDDY SYLVESTER to keep them in line - a goal that Teddy accomplishes by making sure that there are lots of GROUPIES to keep the Sputnick members sexually exhausted. At a wild Sputnick party, Teddy and Julie are embarrassed to see that Herbie’s become a wild, cocaine addict.
Back in Los Angeles, Herbie continues to predict hitmakers with the help of now 14-year-old daughter Sandra. In New York City for a record industry gala, Herbie and Julie are happily reunited with old pals Bobby and Chick - with this successful quartet now overweight, middle-aged men. In New York, Herbie finds a protege in eager, young
photographer Jimmy Van Der Meer.
For his part, Sam’s still toiling to turn girlfriend Edith into a star. Stealing Edith from Sam, Herbie becomes her lover and manager - with Edith finally finding stardom and even getting the chance to duet with her idol Aretha Franklin. Enraged, Sam battles with Herbie during a wild fistfight. Meanwhile, Jimmy’s determined to prove himself - even if it means stealing audition tapes from Julie. Impressed by Jimmy’s drive, Herbie allows him to sign Harness, a middling Alabama-like clone.
Angered by Herbie’s betrayal, Jimmy quits and returns to NYC where he soon dies of a heart attack. Harness becoming stars, Herbie continues to try to push Edith’s career - even if it means forcing Rolling Stone Magazine’s JANN WENNER into giving her a cover story. From Bobby Blue, Herbie learns that George Gross is planning on selling Century Brothers to American Media - a magazine corporation run by CEO David Weiner who creates the huge American-Century Music.
In Los Angeles, Herbie finally marries Edith in an extravagant wedding that’s modeled on Prince Charles’ wedding to Princess Diana. But as a bickering Herbie and Edith honeymoon in Italy, disaster strikes as George dies of a heart attack. Learning that Jimmy’s betrayed him to Weiner, Herbie fires Jimmy. But Herbie faces new problems as scheming Jimmy becomes American-Century’s new head of the music division.
Infuriated, Herbie confronts Weiner who’s so impressed by Herbie that he makes Herbie the music division’s chief. Business forcing him to move back to New York, Herbie keeps Edith at home at their huge country house; while Herbie spends most of his time in NYC. But, come 1984, Herbie realizes that he’s made a horrible deal: he’s a figurehead who even Weiner ignores. Finally, Herbie’s world comes collapsing in when, at the Grammy’s, Edith blames her failure to win any awards on him. Even worse, after two decades in the music business, Herbie is summarily dismissed by Weiner in a press release which accuses Herbie of embezzling company funds to pay for his extravagant wedding. Forced to retire in disgrace, Herbie takes Weiner to court and is granted a $40 million pay off. Similarly, Sam is paid $30 million to also retire. Divorcing Herbie, Edith finally finds mega-success - and five Grammies - via her song about finding her freedom as a mermaid.
Although they’re both mega-wealthy, Herbie and Sam are both barred from competing in the music business - with these two old cronies spending time together at a Broadway diner where they bemoan the fact that they’ve been edged out of their beloved music business.