Veteran show-biz news hound Charles Fleming argues that the short, insanely foolish life of producer Don Simpson (Flashdance
, Top Gun
, Bad Boys
) stands as a larger indictment of Hollywood, and it's hard to argue with him. For one thing, Simpson helped create Tom Cruise, Richard Gere, Will Smith, and Eddie Murphy, and his loud, high-concept, low-IQ school of filmmaking helped launch Arnold Schwarzenegger, Mel Gibson, and Bruce Willis to new heights (or depths). Others may have been responsible for 14 Top Ten pop tunes and 10 Oscar nominations, but nobody had thought to combine pop music and movies in a synergistic way.
While Fleming concentrates on Simpson's own antics--car wrecks, career crackups, whacked-out drug and sex orgies, whimsical overspending on brain-dead blockbusters--he does make an excellent case that the entertainment industry as a whole is nutty and slutty. Even the more levelheaded stars who turn up in High Concept turn out to be appalling: Fleming documents the behavior that earned Demi Moore the Hollywood nickname "Gimme More."
Despite his $60,000-a-month drug habit, Simpson actually did come up with smart ideas, according to many witnesses, and he was sharp enough to know how dumb so many of his colleagues were. Sylvester Stallone, for instance, almost starred in Beverly Hills Cop, and had he not left the project in favor of his notorious stink bomb Rhinestone, viewers would have been stuck with Stallone's rewrite of Cop, from which the star had removed every trace of humor--the very concept that made an ordinary action film, in Murphy's talented hands, a smash hit. In his detailed account of Simpson's bizarre life, Fleming demonstrates why modern movies are the way they are.
He also proves what a strangely tiny town Hollywood is. Simpson was mixed up with Heidi Fleiss, whose indicted dad was Madonna's pediatrician; his doctors had treated Kurt Cobain and Margaux Hemingway (and one had helped design Miss Piggy); Don Simpson's drug dealer claims he sold drugs to O.J. Simpson the day Nicole Brown Simpson died. The most shocking thing about the book is the Pulp Fiction-like combination of decadent horror and slapstick comedy that constituted everyday life for Don Simpson's cronies. The high life, as described in Fleming's addictively readable book, exemplifies Carrie Fisher's Hollywood mantra: "Good anecdote--bad reality." --Tim Appelo
From Library Journal
Contemporary Hollywood takes it on the chin in these two books, written from widely different perspectives. Fleming, who has written extensively on Hollywood for Variety, Newsweek, and Entertainment Weekly, tells the sordid story of producer Don Simpson, who helped create a string of blockbusters (Flashdance, Beverly Hills Cop, Top Gun) and whose box office figures gave new meaning to the phrase "gross receipts." Simpson died in January 1996 at the age of 52; his heart gave out after years of crash dieting, drugs, alcohol, and disfiguring plastic surgery. Fleming spares few of the gory details of Simpson's decline, and he's quick to tie his lifestyle up with that of other Hollywood miscreants like Robert Downey Jr. and Chris Farley. The book needs a better sense of Simpson's longtime relationship with partner Jerry Bruckheimer, as well as some perspective; Fleming barely acknowledges that the film business has always harbored and even encouraged hard-living dynamos like Simpson, as long as they were successful. Grey, described by his publisher as "once a Hollywood insider," offers a collection of brief essays and interviews about the state of films. Grey's chats with directors John Waters (Hairspray) and Wes Craven (Scream) highlight what's best about the book; the author's essays range from the provocative to the puerile. A discretionary purchase for most collections. [Fleming's book was previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 12/97.]AThomas J. Wiener, Editor,"Satellite DIRECT.-AThomas J. Wiener, Editor,"Satellite DIRECT"
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.