John Cornetta Writes About His Friend, Larry Rollins

 I sensed that John wanted this published and I am happy to oblige, In this business men like this are rare.

Subject: The death of one of my mentors Larry Rollins

Just what seams like yesterday Larry Reeves aka TANK died and it hurt so bad

and if that were not bad enough today I found out that my friend, one of my

mentors, if not THEE mentor in my life Mr. Larry Rollins died in his sleep

on Monday here in Atlanta Georgia. I don’t want this to be about how sad I

am and how as I write this tears are streaming down my face yet again, I

want it to be about Larry and what he meant to me and what he did for me and

what he taught me. As I write this I am playing Mama I’m Comin’ Home by Ozzy

Ozbourne, don’t ask me why it just fits.

Man I am so sad this man was genuinely the sweetest man I ever knew. When I

first moved to Atlanta in February 1990 I drove here from Florida with

everything I owned in a car that was about to be re-possessed. No furniture,

some clothes, my guitar, $700 to my name, in big debt and 100 pieces of

lingerie. I used that $700.00 to rent a town house on Roberts Drive which is

now part of Sandy Springs, I still drive by that town house every now and

again just to remind myself where this part of my life started.

I was determined to make it on my own without the help of my family and

friends, not to say that they didn’t help, lord knows I owe my family

everything. But back on track, I start doing these shows in bars and girls

model lingerie and swimwear in these places and the customers can win the

outfits. I’m under capitalized, I am green as could be and the biggest

company in the US at that times decides to do the same thing in Atlanta

about five weeks after I start.  I stand no chance, they have the money to

advertise and lots of cloths, I am already down to about my last 20 pieces

when I am introduced to Larry Rollins a sales representative for Fantasy

Lingerie out of LA California. He lives in Atlanta, originally from Kansas

and he doesn’t know me from Adam.

I ask him if he could meet me at a bar called Rascals on Roswell Road

because I can not show him my town home that I am living in and working out

of because it has no furniture and I am sleeping on the floor. He agrees and

I meet Larry sometime in March, 1990. He brings in racks and racks of

garments in to the back area, and Mr. Lombardi thank you for letting him do

that, and I am like a kid in a candy store. But I’m that kid with no money

to buy the candy. Larry puts the stuff away and with perhaps the last

dollars to my name I say Mr. Rollins can I buy you lunch? SURE John I would

love to have lunch with you! He said and we must have talked for 5 or 6

hours. I laid it all out on the table to him, I told him the truth, every

single word of it. I said Mr. Rollins, he stopped me and said ” It’s Larry.”

I said okay I’ll make you a deal, let me call you Mr. R at least please and

I remember him saying ” Only if you allow me to call you Mr. C !” For over

17 years on the phone or in person from that day forth it was Mr. C it’s Mr.

R how are you and vice versa.

Well I say Mr. R that’s my plan, I am going to do it, I already am but I

really need some help I am not looking for a hand out or anything, I just

need some time to pay off the lingerie but I am willing to give you

collateral whatever you want, whatever I have. I took off my watch and my

one ring and I said I think these are worth about $500 bucks, you hold on to

them until I can pay you, will you do that? Larry says ” No, I can not and I

would not.” … I was crushed I thought in those 5 hours we had formed a

bond, but he was after all a business man so I understood and when my eyes

started to droop and my head lower in defeat Mr. R said to me I will never

for get… He says ” John….. JOHN… Mr. C pick your head up. You have

something much more valuable to be and worth a hell of a lot more then your

watch and ring. I see it in your eyes, I hear it in your voice, I feel your

passion, what you have that I want is your handshake and your word.  That

John, from you, I already know is better and more valuable collateral then

anything in the world. Your going to make it John and I mean big. I have a

good read on people and I’m with you!”   Again I am crying as I write this

because this was the first day I had met this wonderful, beautiful, so

thoughtful of men.

What I never told Mr. R until years later that I pawned those pieces of

jewelry anyway. I would go to this pawn shop on Pleasant Dale Road and sell

them my stuff on a Monday, pay Larry do shows and then go and buy it back by

Friday. I did that for about 6 months until I finally started to get my head

above water.  I started to grow and get stronger and smarter. I didn’t buy a

shower curtain for over a year because I didn’t want to waste the $20 bucks

for it. I was hard core, I didn’t have anything to prove to anyone, I wanted

to make the people who loved me and the friends who supported me and bet on

me when I had nothing, people like Larry Rollins, I wanted to make them

right. I wanted to make them proud, that they were right for having that

faith in me.

Many years later when I told him this story about the pawn shop he says ”

John why? Why did you do that?”  And I said that I needed to. That I wanted

him to be paid back faster and I wasn’t used to owing people money and I

wanted him to be proud of me… and he said to me all those years later ”

Mr. C like I told you that first day, I had your word and you were going to

make it and I knew it. I would have given you anything you wanted or needed

I saw it in your eyes”   Mr. R and I had that conversation outside a half a

million dollar building that I owned leaning up against my brand new White

Mercedes S-500.  I built that company, Simply Irresistible Lingerie, with

the help of Mr. R and many others in to a company that was by 1992 doing

over 120 YES 120 lingerie fashion shows per WEEK in the Atlanta area! Over

30 models worked for me and I sold about 1,000 pieces of lingerie per week,

almost 5,000 pieces per month. In fact I sold more lingerie every month in

Atlanta then Sears and Wal-Mart combined.  That lead to Xcitement Magazine,

two trade publications, countless bars and business deals, franchises for

the Lingerie in Charlotte, Chattanooga and St. Louis, and over 12 Love Shack

/ Burn Stores in Atlanta and Mr. R sold me lingerie up until the day he


It was the best business bet he had ever made he once told me saying John

you have bought millions and millions of dollars worth of clothing from me

over the years. I bet on a winner and won. We shared a friendship so

special, we even rented office space together on Sexton Woods Drive in

Chamblee and worked next door to each other every day for two years. Larry

and his wife Beth were so nice to me and to my parents. Larry even gave my

dad a much needed job back in those days. Man we were tight. I finally sold

that company, Simply Irresistible Lingerie about two years ago, I had grown

so big so fast that I could not concentrate on it as much as was needed. The

funny thing is this…………… it came full circle. I sold it to Mr. R

for his son Chris to run. Mr. R said ” I want Chris to learn some of the

lessons only a business will teach him , I will help him and I know you will

too John.”  He did, I did, Chris still owns it and today it was Chris who

called me to say that his father,  my mentor, my buddy, my friend, the first

person to believe in me who didn’t even know me, the person who always said

John you have what it takes, you just do, that this man, this father like

figure to me had passed away.

I love you Mr. R, I miss you so much already and I can never thank you

enough for all you did for me and my family. God how I love and miss you. I

have no regrets with our relationship other then not being able to see you

one last time. We had just seen each other about two weeks ago and had a

great conversation. I will keep that one with me for a while, in fact you

said see you round Mr. C and I said thank you Mr. R and boy oh boy did I

mean it.

Mr. R as my Italian family and friends would say, you were a Stand up Guy

and as my Jewish friends would say you were a Mench.  I love you, safe

journey home.  I shall see you soon……………………   just not yet,

Love your adopted son


If anyone who knows me, even if you didn’t know Mr. Rollins would like to

pay tribute to this great man, a man who made a huge impact on my life and

stand by my side along with my wife, my mother and father and many current

and former employees who all loved him,  I will be at his service this

Friday November 23, 2007 at 1 pm at :

Peachtree Baptist Church
2108 Briarcliff Rd NE
Atlanta, GA 30329

15110cookie-checkJohn Cornetta Writes About His Friend, Larry Rollins

John Cornetta Writes About His Friend, Larry Rollins

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