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Here is the story of Jerry Weintraub: the self-made, Brooklyn-born, Bronx-raised impresario, Hollywood producer, legendary deal maker, and friend of politicians and stars. No matter where nature has placed him--the club rooms of Brooklyn, the Mafia dives of New York's Lower East Side, the wilds of Alaska, or the hills of Hollywood--he has found a way to put on a show and sell tickets at the door. "All life was a theater and I wanted to put it up on a stage," he writes. "I wanted to set the world under a marquee that read: 'Jerry Weintraub Presents.'"
In WHEN I STOP TALKING, YOU'LL KNOW I'M DEAD, we follow Weintraub from his first great success at age twenty-six with Elvis Presley, whom he took on the road with the help of Colonel Tom Parker; to the immortal days with Sinatra and Rat Pack glory; to his crowning hits as a movie producer, starting with Robert Altman and Nashville, continuing with Oh, God!, The Karate Kid movies, and Diner, among others, and summiting with Steven Soderbergh and Ocean's Eleven, Twelve, and Thirteen.
Along the way, we'll watch as Jerry moves from the poker tables of Palm Springs (the games went on for days), to the power rooms of Hollywood, to the halls of the White House, to Red Square in Moscow and the Great Palace in Beijing-all the while counseling potentates, poets, and kings, with clients and confidants like George Clooney, Bruce Willis, George H. W. Bush, Armand Hammer, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Bob Dylan, Led Zeppelin, John Denver, Bobby Fischer . . .well, the list goes on forever.
And of course, the story is not yet over . . .as the old-timers say, "The best is yet to come."
As Weintraub says, "When I stop talking, you'll know I'm dead."
With wit, wisdom, and the cool confidence that has colored his remarkable career, Jerry chronicles a quintessentially American journey, one marked by luck, love, and improvisation. The stories he tells and the lessons we learn are essential, not just for those who love movies and music, but for businessmen, entrepreneurs, artists . . . everyone.
"Now, I could tell you stories about Jerry, but Jerry is the first and best to tell them. He's funny and grumpy and perfectly inappropriate. When it comes to work, nobody works harder. When it comes to charities, nobody guilts better. And when it comes to friendship, he has no peers. That's Jerry's great talent. He doesn't just light up a room, he lights it on fire. He's a great producer, a great organizer, a great friend, and truly the greatest showman on earth."—George Clooney
Rich Cohen--I've been reading him for ten years--is one of the country's best writers. Jerry Weintraub--film producer, musician manager, deal maker--is one of the nation's best livers. (Mention an event, a celebrity, the man has a story.) Cohen can write anything; Weintraub has done nearly everything. Which is what makes this book such a perfect match. Weintraub is the real deal--came up without money or the helping hands than can do the work of money; produced the three "Ocean's Eleven" pictures, also "Nashville" and "Diner" (two decades' great classics), also managed Elvis, also Sinatra, also the chess-champion Bobby Fischer at Reykjavik. It's an amazing story. Weintraub goes everywhere and does everything; he heads someplace, arrives, finds himself at the center. A gift, which he discovers in himself and develops. He found a way to take Elvis on the road at 26, to bring Sinatra's career back at 35; when he's watching the Fischer chess championship on TV, he just buys a ticket, flies to Iceland, and more or less enters the screen himself. (That's one lesson Weintraub teaches from his kind of life. Find what you love, trust it. Then act.) The story is filled with advice, plus advice-by-example: hustling in the beginning, finding the angle, picking your allies--"If you work with people you love, which, of course, is not always possible, the hard times become an epic adventure"--then getting to a place where your own work functions as an ad, as the attraction: "I did not have to hustle quite as much. Once you've established yourself, you can, to some extent, let business find you. You become a beacon, a door into a better life."
Weintraub's own life swings into the rat pack and Sinatra (first call to Weintraub: "Look, kid, when I say I want to meet that means now"), the White House, Hollywood, Palm Desert: the five great gambling cities (Peking, Moscow, Las Vegas, Washington, Hollywood). Because of his gifts, Weintraub goes everywhere and does everything. His story is a chronicle, a great life, one giant path through the last fifty years. And Cohen, who loves to write lives like this (the corporate big shoulders in "Sweet and Low," the resistance fighters in "The Avengers") helps him tell this story. An incredible mix: Weintraub's friendships, destinations, experiences, lessons, voice, advice; Cohen's speed, words, eye. You feel you're there, which is the first requirement of any writing, and still the hardest one to bring off. You live Weintraub's incredible life alongside him. So the thing reads like a great Saul Bellow novel that also happens to be true--the skinny kid who chucks home, finds the center, makes it big. And there's the great thought that somehow, on some reclining chair with a phone at his ear and some big pending deal and expensive view, Weintraub is living the next chapter. A great mix, a great read. As Sinatra might say, You don't read it; you breathe it.Read more ›
Based upon Harvey Levin's description of this as a "Great Book" on TMZ, I bought a copy. Unfortunately, it is not, for the following reasons:
1. The book was ghost-written by Rich Cohn and lacks the immediacy and integrity it would have had if Mr. Weintraub had written it himself;
2. There is an endless parade of all the important people Mr. Weintraub has run into during his life;
3. Mr. Weintraub uncritically fawns all over said important people; and
4. Mr. Weintraub tells us about all of his successes, but none of his failures.
In other words, the reader comes away with the impression that the book is dishonest.
For example, Mr. Weintraub spends a good deal of time eulogizing Elvis Presley's manager, "Colonel" Tom Parker, a bilious bag of gas who took far more than the traditional 10% of Elvis's earnings (reaching 50% by the end of Presley's life). After Elvis's death in 1997, Parker became embroiled in legal claims with Elvis's estate for overreaching, eventually agreeing to sell masters of some of Elvis's major recordings for $2 million and to drop any claims he might have against the estate. It was also later discovered that he was not a U.S. citizen (he was born in the Netherlands) a fact that many believe caused him not to seek concert opportunities for Presley abroad. Even his assumed title of "Colonel" was phony; he was, at best, a "Kentucky Colonel." But Mr. Weintraub discusses none of this in his extensive descriptions of his relationship with Mr. Parker.
There is no question that Mr. Weintraub has the experience to write a great book about the entertainment industry. This is not it.
Jerry Weintraub was born in 1937 in Brooklyn and raised in the Bronx. He was what he and I term a street-wise Jewish New Yorker who wound up as one of Hollywood's true elite impresarios'. Jerry was blessed with two wonderful loving parents... but along with playing stickball and stoopball (which of course... as any New York kid would know included a Spalding!)... Jerry knew he didn't want to go to college... and even though his Dad taught him about the jewelry business he knew he didn't want to become part of his Dad's business. He didn't really know what he wanted but he knew it wasn't that. When he was fourteen-years-old he and a friend ran away from home and with very little money started hitch hiking to Florida. They made it as far as Myrtle Beach before giving up. When he was seventeen-years-old and before he graduated high school he had his parents sign a consent form and he joined the Air Force. He started his training at Keesler Air Force Base (Note: The author mistakenly calls it Kessler Air Force Base. I should know the correct name since I was stationed there approximately sixteen-years after Jerry.) in Biloxi, Mississippi. Jerry discusses the anti-Semitism he encountered there... including circumstances that resulted in him having breakfast with a Klansman. (Note to Jerry: Sixteen years later I ran into the same anti-Semitism and though I didn't have breakfast with a Klansman... I did witness crosses being burned on the lawn of the base... and also was subjected to anti-Semitism by NCOs' very similar to yours.) The author's first person narrative is enticing and near hypnotic as it becomes obvious Jerry has unmatched drive... and a truckload of *CHUTZPAH*... and never hesitated in taking advantage of every opportunity... whether it was offered... or if his inner drive created it himself. After Mississippi Jerry was assigned to Alaska and when he took a part-time job while he was still in the service he came up with the idea of selling complete tropical vacation packages including clothing to freezing locals.
After getting out of the service Jerry's life is a world-wind of mostly self-created opportunity and riches. Just like in a movie... one of his early jobs is in a major talent agencies mailroom. From there in dizzying sequences that you won't be able to keep in chronological order... nor do you need to... he takes Elvis Presley on nationwide concert tours working with one of his marketing idols the legendary Colonel Tom Parker... handles Frank Sinatra... confronts the Mafia... discovers John Denver and molds him into one of the highest paid entertainers in the world... and as they say "SUCCESS BREEDS SUCCESS"... and he winds up in business with... and lifelong friends with... and advising... everyone from Presidents... to Prime Minister's... to a who's-who of the world's richest men... and marrying one of his early clients Jane Morgan who at that time was one of the most famous entertainer's in the world. He proceeds to not only become one of the top agents in the world... but he becomes a top movie producer... Broadway producer... investor... it's as if a Jewish-street-fighting-silver-tongued- Forrest Gump- with- a -Midas-touch- and- a- gift- for- gab... was literally making up stories of success as he goes... but they're all true.
In the more recent past he produced the "OCEAN'S-ELEVEN-TWELVE-THIRTEEN" trilogy which grossed over ONE-BILLION-DOLLARS... and of course became loving-special-friends with George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon... and if that isn't enough he fell in love with a new young girl friend and told his wife of forty-eight-years about it... and she wouldn't divorce him. They discussed it openly with his kids and grandkids and all of them get along fine. As much as any average person would become uncontrollably jealous of a man who has accumulated so much... and who could "name-drop" for thirty days straight and still not repeat a name... it's impossible not to love this guy and root for him. His story telling is absolutely *MESMERIZING*... and when this book ends... your only complaint is that you want more stories!Read more ›