Michael Fagien leads a double life. By day, he’s Dr. Fagien, chief medical officer of The Sagemark Company. There, he spends the majority of his time reading Positron Emission Tomography (PET) scans in his office. By night, he runs a jazz empire—a combination of JAZZIZ magazine, JAZZIZ Bistro at the Hard Rock Resort & Casino in Hollywood, and a number of other branded consumer items. So when does he sleep?
“I live off quad shots of Starbucks non-fat cappuccino,” said Fagien.
Fagien blended his love of medicine and music back in the early 1980’s when he was a medical student at the University of Florida. During the day he performed his necessary medical work along with a most unusual task—collecting the sweat of athletes. After hours, he devised plans to introduce a new magazine to jazz lovers. It was here that sweat met sweet success.
Dr. Bob Cade, University of Florida professor of medicine and physiology and inventor of the internationally well-known sport drink Gatorade, analyzed the sweat collected by Fagien. That professor/student relationship is what launched the latter’s, JAZZIZ magazine.
“I told him about my idea for a magazine and he agreed to put up the venture capital to get it started. He put in $30,000 over the first year. I owe him everything,” said Fagien of the recently deceased Dr. Cade.
The magazine was a hit but Fagien wasn’t content to simply offer a periodical with standard interviews of established jazz musicians or critiques of rising stars or albums; he wanted to kick his product up a notch. JAZZIZ later introduced a CD containing a preview of music featured in the magazine’s articles. This innovation catapulted the publication into the largest-circulated jazz magazine in the world and set the standard for other music periodicals. With its success, Fagien branched out into other aspects of jazz.
“I’d been exploring the club/restaurant model for over fifteen years and in 2000 was planning the first JAZZIZ Bistro in New Orleans with my friend and famed French Quarter restaurateur Dickie Brennan. It was a nice idea, New Orleans being the birth place of jazz and all that . . . but there were things about the deal that Dickie and I didn’t like, nor did we have any control over, and when we began to feel the ‘squeeze,’ we eventually put the brakes on the deal,” explained Fagien.
Putting on the brakes may have brought the New Orleans deal to a screeching halt but it opened up another opportunity in South Florida. Assembling a strategic partnership of Burt Rapoport (Henry’s in Delray Beach and Brasserie Mon Ami in Boca Raton) and restaurant construction expert Gerard Klauder, in December 2004, JAZZIZ Bistro opened at Seminole Paradise at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood. It features a contemporary style 180-seat top-tier restaurant, bar, stage and retail space and is open for lunch and dinner. Live music, featuring national and local artists, is delivered seven days a week from a separate dinner club complete with dance floor.
Lee Ritenour, one of the world’s leading jazz guitarists and a long-time friend and former record label partner of Fagien’s, thinks JAZZIZ Bistro is a great addition to the South Florida musical landscape.
“With the Jazziz Bistro being presented as a lifestyle rather than a specific jazz club, they are opening the door for many people to come check out the club and magazine that may not be normally interest in jazz. I’m hoping someday that the JAZZIZ Bistro stretches out to include Los Angeles, New York, Chicago and other big cities in the states,” he said.
Ritenour’s wish may come true sooner than he thinks. Future plans call for the opening of a second JAZZIZ Bistro in Chicago with a dozen more to follow over the next five years. And Fagien is planning a launch of a new JAZZIZ record label. All this on the heels of a makeover of JAZZIZ magazine from a strictly jazz-oriented publication to one that keeps a jazz focus but appeals to a wider, more mainstream male audience.
“Our magazine now has sections that include food, travel, clothing and gadgets. And we offer suggestions on pairing food, wine and music,” said Fagien.
Just as the jazz entrepreneur’s career has soared, so has his medical career. His experience on the cutting edge of nuclear medicine allowed him to become a leader in his field and launched his current positions as chief medical officer at The Sagemark Company, visiting professor at the University of Florida and volunteer faculty member at the University of Miami.
But for all his accomplishments, Fagien hasn’t let it go to his head.
“Wealth is relative,” said the 50-year-old. “I remember Bob Cade once told me this story about his wealth. At a dinner honoring him his son asked, ‘Dad, are we rich?’ Bob told me, ‘I didn’t know how to answer him but I looked around the room at all of my friends and said to my son, ‘Indeed we are.’” That philosophy always stuck with Fagien.
“I’ve tried to do good and treat people well. It’s never about getting the better part of a deal but making a good deal. There’s no good deal with bad people, and no bad deals with good people. I want to remembered for what I gave not for what I took,” he said.