Neil Resnick is LA commercial real estate’s Zelig.
Like the title character in the 1983 Woody Allen film who meets many early 20th century luminaries, Resnick has palled around with LA sports and entertainment royalty.
Basketball legend Jerry West, a family acquaintance, drove a 9-year-old Resnick to the Los Angeles Sports Arena, where Resnick was one of the Lakers’ first ball boys. Resnick later photographed Joni Mitchell, Cat Stevens, James Taylor, Paul Simon and other singers as a house photographer at West Hollywood’s famed Troubadour nightclub.
He burnished his counterculture credentials through the early ’70s, protesting the Vietnam War as a student at the University of California, Santa Barbara, taking monthslong trips across the country in his red VW bus, doing stints as a radio announcer and ad salesman at free – form rock stations.
In 2011, Resnick opened brokerage Avison Young’s first Los Angeles office, where at 70 he can still be found recruiting brokers and meeting with clients.
“I’ve been blessed with a fabulous real estate career, but I’ve never lost sight of those memories and all the things that I’m passionate about,” Resnick said in an interview.
Resnick’s uncle was a good friend of Lakers coach Fred Schaus, who had also coached West in college, a connection that not only got Resnick the ball boy position, but led to West ferrying him to and from games. Resnick, who now lives in Tarzana, California, relishes talking about his rides to the arena in West’s Pontiac Grand Prix, which Resnick said was a recruitment gift from the Lakers in the early 1960s.
He said the Lakers star, barely into his 20s, was already displaying the drive that earned him the nickname of “Mr. Clutch” as an NBA player and member of the Basketball Hall of Fame, and later as a coach and executive for the Lakers and other NBA teams.
“I was the head ball boy for all the visiting teams at the Sports Arena and Jerry would pick me up at my home in Mar Vista after school before every home game,” Resnick said. “It was literally just the two of us. We would shoot and rebound for each other. No conversation. It was all business.”
Resnick, a Lakers ball boy from 1962 to 1964, quickly learned how serious the emerging superstar was about his own on-court performance.
“On those nights that the Lakers lost, he wouldn’t say a word to me on the drive home,” Resnick said. “He’d finally explain why. ‘Neil, I feel that it’s all my fault. I don’t want to talk about it. I just want to think.'”
Resnick recalls West as intense but polite and very kind: “Jerry West was a humble young man who was handling all the accolades and news coverage very well.”
Resnick played basketball for the Venice High School Gondoliers but eventually abandoned hoops and, like millions of other baby boomers, fell in with the counterculture as a teenager during the turbulent late ’60s. I got a gig as a photographer at The Troubadour. Some of his images from a 1972 Joni Mitchell performance at the legendary folk hangout are featured on Mitchell’s official website.
“My path was very unfocused on business and capitalism,” Resnick said.
By the mid-’70s, though, Resnick had graduated from UC Santa Barbara and started to think about making money.
He wrangled a gig as a part-time on-air announcer and later an account executive at a Santa Barbara rock station before being recruited by San Francisco’s top rock station of the era. Around that time, he launched an ad agency with another account executive, Charles Benard. The duo organized national ad campaigns for Ford Motor Co., HP and other big firms.
At a Southern California Broadcasters Association luncheon to accept an award for an ad campaign in 1985, Resnick found himself seated next to a fellow awardee, Vin Scully, the broadcasting voice of the Brooklyn and Los Angeles Dodgers for 67 seasons.
Scully, who died this month at 94, was considered by some to be the greatest baseball broadcaster of all time. According to Resnick, he lived up to his reputation as a nice guy away from the microphone.
“We literally spent half the day together at the table,” Resnick recalls. “In person, he was as sweet as he sounded on the air. He was just so warm and engaging.”
A variety of things going on in his life led Resnick back to Los Angeles by 1986. Through a family connection, at age 34 he landed a job as an office assistant and brokerage trainee at Coldwell Banker.
“I figured that if I can sell radio airtime, something you can’t see, feel or taste, then I can sell and lease real estate,” Resnick said.
He stayed for 16 years at the company that became CBRE, the world’s largest commercial brokerage. He moved on to Grubb & Ellis in 2001, where he represented big Hollywood media and entertainment tenants before jumping ship a few months before Grubb filed for bankruptcy protection to accept an offer from Avison Young CEO Mark Rose to open the nascent brokerage’s first Los Angeles office in 2011.
Resnick is now principal of Avison’s West Los Angeles office, in charge of recruiting brokers and representing entertainment and creative office tenants and landlords. He represented the William Morris Agency for 25 years and helped sell the famed talent agency’s iconic Beverly Hills headquarters when it merged with the Endeavor Talent Agency in 2009.
Over more than three decades, Resnick has represented businesses owned by actor Jodie Foster and the late Prince and Michael Jackson, and large media and publishing companies such as BMG Music Rights, Harper Collins and Def Jam Records in real estate transactions.
During an interview, Resnick pivots back to a memory of earning a chance to make shots to win prizes during a halftime show at a Lakers game. The anxiety-wracked youngster tried to back out, but West convinced him to just go out there and shoot.
“I choked. I was heartbroken,” Resnick said. The normally talkative kid was quiet on the drive home that night. After dropping Resnick off, West cranked down the window of his Pontiac and gently called the youngster back.
“He told me that it’s not always about winning, it’s about giving your all and doing your best. Then he reached back into his Lakers bag and handed me one of his extra jerseys,” Resnick said.
“Jerry West was one of the kindest, sweetest, most soft-spoken men that I had met,” Resnick added.