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The Mailroom: Hollywood History from the Bottom Up [Kindle Edition]

David Rensin
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $17.00
Kindle Price: $11.76
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Book Description

It’s like a plot from a Hollywood potboiler: start out in the mailroom, end up a mogul. But for many, it happens to be true. Some of the biggest names in entertainment—including David Geffen, Barry Diller, and Michael Ovitz— started their dazzling careers in the lowly mailroom. Based on more than two hundred interviews, David Rensin unfolds the never-before-told history of an American institution—in the voices of the people who lived it. Through nearly seven decades of glamour and humiliation, lousy pay and incredible perks, killer egos and a kill-or-be-killed ethos, you’ll go where the trainees go, learn what they must do to get ahead, and hear the best insider stories from the Hollywood everyone knows about but no one really knows. A vibrant tapestry of dreams, desire, and exploitation, The Mailroom is not only an engrossing read but a crash course, taught by the experts, on how to succeed in Hollywood.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Rensin (coauthor, Don't Stand Too Close to a Naked Man) captures the ambition, manipulative plotting and hustler mentality of a few Hollywood mailroom employees in this series of raunchy, realistic interviews with some top agents who started out in the mailroom. As with any entry-level gig, "the hours are long, the pay... abysmal." Star mailroom grads from the William Morris Agency, Creative Artists Agency, ICM and others voice conflicting views, making Rensin's book an uncompromisingly truthful tell-all of what it takes to make it in the movie biz. William Morris's Norman Brokaw recalls, "I made it a point to develop relationships early on," while Bernie Brillstein's a bit more blunt: "I kissed ass." Most of the agents admit opening up private correspondence and packages, insisting, "everybody did it." Rensin also exposes affairs with secretaries to learn company secrets, fights over use of phones that led to wrestling matches, and homophobia. Sam Haskell, William Morris's worldwide head of television, offers a different take: "Your primary power is your character and your integrity." Rensin furnishes fresh anecdotes about an embarrassed novice who didn't recognize Judy Garland, or another who believed in Marilyn Monroe despite a casting specialist calling her "just another blonde." Clashing views of Mike Ovitz, from "a superb leader" to someone who preferred "style over content" and to whom "appearances were everything," help explain Ovitz's meteoric rise and massive collapse. Most notably, Rensin shows that the road from mailroom to mogul is a rough one. The stories are amusing, intriguing and sometimes horrifying, but Rensin, to his credit, never dilutes sordid details.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

Rensin's upward-mobility saga suggests that aspiring Hollywood conquistadors should start in the mailroom of a talent agency instead of hanging around soda fountains in tight sweaters, waiting to be discovered, or essaying other such fabled, fame-and-fortune-seeking ploys. Focusing on the cesspools of power behind the stars--the William Morris Agency, Creative Artists Agency, and lesser stokers of the dream machine--Rensin outlines the path to real power in filmdom by relaying the personal stories and reminiscences of the back-channel operatives who wield it. He reveals no shortages of backbiting, antisocial behavior, and power politics in the mailroom, though the place lacks the glamour usually gleaned to gild such showbiz exposes. Do readers dig the dirt on the David Geffens and Barry Dillers of the world as much as that on the Winona Ryders and Mickey Rourkes? Well, if they're money minded, they ought to. The goods Rensin's got on the likes of Michael Ovitz makes his ilk as exciting as the stars an Ovitz lucratively manipulates. Mike Tribby
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Product Details

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
41 of 42 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Read this book before heading to Hollywood April 29, 2006
By ReaderZ
I'm a former talent agency trainee. I worked at one of the majors. This book tells it like it is, and I wish this book was published before my talent agency stint. If you have ever seen the show "Survivor", you can get an idea of what it's like to climb the agency, or Hollywood ladder. There are very few spots, and there many people clambering for those spots. And those people who want it the most will do whatever it takes. It's very cutthroat. An agency with 100 agents, has 100 assistants, all of whom want to be agents. Maybe 10 of them will make it. Family members of Hollywood VIP's most probably WILL get promoted to agents (but after that it's still sink or'll read the story of Peter Guber's daughter in this book...she sunk). Same goes for Harvard grads...deep Harvard connections in Hollywood. Many trainees quit. The attrition rate is huge. It's a crazy business, and nearly impossible to have a balanced life as a trainee (or agent, or for anyone else in Hollywood). It's no walk in the park for new agents either. They start with a tiny salary (although more than a trainee)and must perform or they're out.

Before going to Hollywood, be real with yourself and determine if you're cut out for it. This book gives you a good glimpse into those who make it. Unless you are highly extroverted, and an extremely high energy person, than don't choose this career. If you are a person who needs downtime to collect their thoughts, than don't choose this career. If you are a person who needs their 8 hours of sleep a night, than don't choose this career (you may never sleep again!). If you aren't a highly social person, than don't choose this career (i.e. does your phone ring off the hook in your personal life?). Are you politically savvy, or do you put your foot in your mouth?
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I love entertainment business books and this one does not disappoint. Unless you're in the biz, which I'm not, almost all of the names will be unfamiliar. This book has no story. It's a known fact that a way into the entertainment industry is to work in an agency's mailroom, eat sh*t, and hope for your break. This book is a series of interviews with the former mailroom attendees on the good, the bad, and the mental make-up of the wannabes struggling to get out of "mailroom jail". It's funny, informative, and one of those books you can't put down.
Many industries have a proving ground. In investment banking we put them on as a trading or sales assistant hoping they will pick up the lingo and learn on the fly. But the agency mailroom seems to be about feeding egos of senior agent's with much more screaming, yelling and attention paid to personal chores. They do mention many of the nice agents as well as the agents who were best at teaching the mailroom guys. My favorite stories are about CAA because it is next door to my favorite hotel the Peninsula and because of the Mike Ovitz aura. Mike doesn't come off particularly well in the book but partner Ron Meyer does come off as a particularly sharp and nice guy.
The positives and negatives of the mailroom run from taking your bosses stool sample in the doctor to having nude actresses answer the door. I also enjoyed the stories of the CAA mailroom which had a particularly high level of paranoia. I had met media mogul and former agent, Mike Medavoy so it was interesting seeing his son's quotes who was eventually fired due to information leaked to his father.
If you have any interest in the business side of Hollywood, you'll like this book. Other books of interest would be "Wannabe" about an MBA's attempt to succeed at the low levels of Hollywood, and Lynda Obst's book "Hello, He Lied" about her journey from journalist to producer.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars FAST, FUNNY, OUTRAGEOUS MUST-READ February 5, 2003
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I haven't even finished reading this book and already I love it. I know Hollywood isn't like any place else in America, and this just makes what it's like to start at the bottom in Tinseltown all the more fascinating. At the same time, these kids who went through the mailroom share much with all of us. Everyone has to start somewhere, and in the end the experience isn't all that different.
You won't believe some of the crazy stuff these kids had to endure and survive while learning how to play the game. I love the story about delivering the, uh, stool sample. And the one about how David Geffen kept from getting fired by faking a letter from UCLA saying he graduated. And the ones about hoping to deliver stuff to pretty young actresses, or crashing the company cars out of total frustration. It's endless. And mind-boggling. And really frank. A history of Hollywood also comes through. In the beginning, behind-the-scenes people got into show biz for the glamour, to rub elbows with the stars and be dazzled; then it became about the power and money and business. Or maybe it was always like that, only the perks became accessible to more than just the top layer, which is why Harvard law grads and Wharton MBAs began to forgo huge corporate salaries to push a mail cart for $400 a week -- or less. The Mailroom paints a stunning picture of ambition -- with lots of humor and humanity -- and best of all, the author just lets the people speak for themselves in this oral history. It's truly a book that shows instead of tells.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Hollywood textbook!
Amazing book for those reaching for more or those wanting to know more. A genuine read for anything and everything Hollywood.
Published 2 months ago by Julio
4.0 out of 5 stars Good book to read.
A collection of stories from agents. Very interesting to read about the things agents have to put up with in the business.
Published 4 months ago by Kirk Thompson
5.0 out of 5 stars Really Informative and Inspiring
I bought this as required reading for my internship with WME. I feel as though I am being well-prepared for what I am about to undertake with this internship. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Alana
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent stories from the mailroom
From the real men and women who started at the bottom and made it to the top and beyond. There is some backstabbing as they all aspire for the same jobs but also the camaraderie of... Read more
Published 5 months ago by SUZANNE
5.0 out of 5 stars Required reading for fans of show business
I reread this book usually once a year and it never loses the ability to make me laugh and remind me that chutzpah, ambition and the ability to be creative are not exclusive to... Read more
Published 7 months ago by NYCM
4.0 out of 5 stars Good on set reading
Currently paying own dues as an actor doing extra work and this is a good read on set. Came on time if not early & brand new. Read more
Published 11 months ago by Corey
5.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining, Informative, Easy, Addicting
Step 1: Get a job in the mailroom of a major agency.

Step 2: Fight to maintain a solid workload, social life, and sleep schedule. Read more
Published 14 months ago by David J. Bradley
5.0 out of 5 stars Must Read
This book is a must read for anyone considering a career in the entertainment industry. These guys are still all powerful players in the industry and getting a look at how they... Read more
Published 15 months ago by A.W.
3.0 out of 5 stars Crash course on what it takes to be a talent agent
Since I work in a talent agency here in NYC, I just had to read this book. It is the perfect book to read if you are in the entertainment industry or trying to get into. Read more
Published 15 months ago by Natasha874
5.0 out of 5 stars Review
This book is great! Whether you're in the industry or not- it's a good read. Also- I am trying to break into this industry so it's definitely an inspirational story for me to read.
Published on July 7, 2012 by Samrose
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