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High Concept: Don Simpson and the Hollywood Culture of Indulgence Hardcover – June 4, 1998


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Hardcover, June 4, 1998
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 300 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC (June 4, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0747536112
  • ISBN-13: 978-0747536116
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.3 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (45 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,180,601 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

A highly entertaining read, and plenty of dirt dished.
Pvt
Anyway, on to High Concept: I felt the book was poorly written and too often shot for the tabloid instead of the insight.
Gabe
A great inside peek at the world of Hollywood and what makes up the people that make the movies America loves.
Michael A. Snider

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 5, 1999
Format: Paperback
It takes a truly ungifted writer/editor to transform such a sordid topic into such a boring read.
With little original research of any value at his disposal, Fleming leans heavily on other books and magazine articles. The book's most annoying feature is its mindless repetition. Quotes and anecdotes that appear in one chapter are re-introduced in another chapter (see Simpson's public humiliation of Craig Baumgarten in an 1985 Esquire article) or, worse, in the same chapter (see Fleming's "where are they now" summary of Bonnie Bradigan).
What's worse than Fleming's shoddy writing (pick a tense, Mr. Fleming, any tense) is his utter lack of insight into Simpson's admittedly repellant character. The author is content to spread unsubstantiated rumors and dwell on the most minute detail of Simpson's bizarre sex life without even once delving into the psychological reasons/motivations for such repulsive behavior.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Gabe on June 30, 2005
Format: Paperback
Why is it that the movie FLASHDANCE has been central to the last 4 industry books I have read? It provides a great RASHOMON-style perspective on the industry: Get producer Don Simpson's take in High Concept, producer Lynda Obst's take in Hello He Lied, producers Peter Guber and Jon Peters in Hit and Run, and finally, writer Joe Esterhaz's take in Hollywood Animal.

Anyway, on to High Concept: I felt the book was poorly written and too often shot for the tabloid instead of the insight. I was more interested in his role in the industry and his exploits with Bruckheimer but this was overshadowed by chapters on his drug use and penchant for hookers.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Rottenberg's rotten book review on December 10, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Yes, Don Simpson, as in Simpson-Bruckheimer, the creative team that did much to shape how movies are made. From the early 1980's, Simspon-Bruckheimer produced a string of incredible hits - "Officer and a Gentleman", "Flashdance", "Top Gun" and the Beverly Hills Cop flicks - that seemed universally derided yet implausibly popular. While Jerry Bruckheimer seems to be the man who dealt with the nuts and bolts of production, this book credits Don Simpson with the brainstorms that turned uninspired treatments into blockbuster films (like casting America's favorite black comedian to star in a police-action movie originally slated to star Sylvester Stallone). True to its title, this book focuses on the now late Don Simpson who seems literally to have died of excess (sex, drugs and food). More than the story of the films he made, "High Concept" tells the story of Simpson and how he came to Hollywood from unspectacular origins to become a star himself. When that dream proved impossible (he cast himself in a key role in one of his own flicks - virtually all of his scenes ended up on the cutting room floor) and his own status as a power-player seemed diminishe, the excesses that had already become an established part of his life came to dominate it entirely. Simpson's weight yoyoed, wrecking his metabolism and compounding the strain inflicted by narcotics. Drunk driving accidents and a notorious addiction for hardcore sex further helped wreck Simpson's already suffering career. By 1995, Simpson was on deathwatch, and his ultimate overdose seemed less of a tragedy than release.
"High Concept" is actually two halves of two different stories, much in the same way that Simpson was half of two different people.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By rudy on October 20, 2000
Format: Paperback
Poorly written, very poorly edited, but well worth the information conveyed. With better writing and editing, it obviously could've been a better read, but the details given about politics in movie studios and the excesses of life in 1980's Hollywood make the book worth purchasing regardless. Almost entirely, the book doesn't hold back. It names names, places, and dirty deeds done. Author doesn't seem to have any personal vendettas against Hollywood or Simpson and therefore the book reads relatively objectively. Fleming pretty much criticizes everyone equally, while also finding time for some sparse praise.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By OverTheMoon on January 7, 2004
Format: Paperback
Learn how to become a movie mogul, get laid every hour, do cocaine by the second and eventually die on the toilet just like the "King" himself. Truth be told it is a terrible thought that this best-selling Hollywood expose book is based on a dead man written shortly after his death. It's a fair topic - a tab bit tasteless - but fair, because when you are a multi-million dollar figure in Hollywood who has spent money and time on the latest fashion, fast cars, diets and diamonds to get your face into Variety press, then when things come tumbling down, or you go the way of the dodo, you can't expect writers like Charles Fleming to look the other way - and Fleming certainly does not!
This book is cruel. It does nothing for Simpson or his family and friends. If you know the man well or have been close to him then this is nothing more than despicable tabloid trash. However the rest of the world may not see it that way. We have an interest. How did the most powerful movie producer in Hollywood live? What made him tick? What did he eat for breakfast and what do people really think about him? Fleming is able to give us an angle, although it is an extremely limited one. It seems that anybody who had a good thing to say about this man just shut up and didn't want to talk to Fleming during his research. Unfortunately, the end result is that the only people who wanted to talk are those who didn't like Simpson much and Fleming's rendition of this producers life is marred almost by a secular group, who... well... to put to bluntly... hated the man's guts.
So this book ends up being pure sleaze with a big capitol "S".
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