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on April 10, 2010
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.
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on May 17, 2010
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.
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on July 10, 2010
Heard the CD version of WHEN I STOP TALKING, YOU'LL KNOW
I'M DEAD--written and read by Jerry Weintraub.

He's the legendary Hollywood producer, deal maker, and friend of politicians
and stars . . . as he notes:

* All life was a theater, and I wanted to put it up on stage. I wanted to set
the world under a marquee that read: "Jerry Weintraub Presents."

And present he did, beginning at age 26 with Elvis Presley, whom he
took on the road with Colonel Tom Parker's help . . . through his
days with Frank Sinatra when he was at the height of his career . . . and
including his role in such hits as OH, GOD!, THE KARATE KID, DINER, and
OCEAN'S ELEVEN, TWELVE AND THIRTEEN.

Along the way, the author shares his experience with such other personalities
as George Clooney, Bruce Willis, George W. Bush, Brad Pitt, Bob Dylan,
John Denver, Bobby Fischer and a whole host of others too numerous to
name . . . but you don't get the feeling that he's merely name-dropping; rather,
it almost feels like you are having a one-on-one conversation with Weintraub.

I also liked the advice that he shared throughout the book, including:

* People will pay you to make their lives easier.

* Never get paid one when you can get paid twice.

* Every 10 years, something new is coming . . . a big hand comes down
and pushes the dishes off the table.

* An idea is only crazy until somebody pulls it off.

* To be successful, you need to have a certain "screw 'em" attitude . . . in
politics, entertainment, sports, etc.

There were some great stories, too . . . one I especially remembered
involved Weintraub having difficulty selling Presley scarves; i.e., until
he got Elvis to ask all those in the concert to wave their scarves
so he could see them better . . . the scarves sold like crazy during
an intermission.
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on July 21, 2010
I hate myself for spending hard-earned money on this book, money which ultimately will find its way into this blolviating gas bag's already stuffed and silk-lined pockets. Some of Mr. Weintraub's vignettes are mildly interesting, many strain credulity, others are just plain stupid, and all smack of egomania and smug self-importance. Because I paid for the book, I felt compelled to read it in its entirety (one of many personal flaws). When I mercifully arrived at the final page of Mr. Weintraub's "Ode to Me," I found myself overcome with the depressing realization that the entire exercise had been an utter and total waste of time -- not to mention hard-earned money... sigh.
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on April 21, 2010
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!
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on June 25, 2010
Jerry Weintraub spends an entire book bragging about himself and the friends he knows without really giving us any details about his supposedly storied career. He glosses over specifics, name-drops like crazy, and claims to have made everyone around him a huge success, without really telling us much of anything.

The first tip is to skip the first 70 pages--he says nothing about his early years that are worth reading. Then there are a few good stories about Elvis and Sinatra, but who knows if you can believe them? Some of what he claims is so hyped that after awhile you just think he's telling another one of his whopper stories that end up being much ado about nothing (like giving back a $500,000 check he is told to keep. Ya, right.).

He also gets a number of "facts" mixed up in his retelling of how he created people's careers. John Denver in particular gets shafted here, with Weintraub claiming that Denver only had one hit before Weintraub got him to release a greatest hits CD (go check it out--it isn't true). He talks about President Jimmy Carter in the "early 1970s," when in reality Carter was elected in 1976.

Then he brags about lying repeatedly to make deals, becoming friendly with the mafia, faking a heart attack to get the rights to a Broadway show and claiming back problems to get out of lunch with Jimmy Carter. He seems to lie more than he tells the truth, so why would anyone believe anything in this book?

A lot of questions get raised that aren't answered. For example, how is this guy best pals with George H. W. Bush? That connection alone should make the reader suspicious. And the fact that Weintraub admittedly has ties to the mob should raise questions about any Bush connections as well.

If you are looking for insight into any of his projects you won't find it here. He quickly summarizes the last 25 years of his life in the final 25 pages, leaving the Oceans movies a couple of pages at the end with literally no insight into how they were produced.

Worst is his shockingly cavalier attitude toward cheating on his wife (whom he of course claims to love) and his current lifestyle of having a wife and a girlfriend. Yes--he dedicates his book to both of them. He says his kids and grandchildren are fine with his two-woman arrangement. With his type of money they had better be okay to his face, but it's hard to believe anyone would accept the arrangement.

Who does this guy think he is? His ego is gigantic and there's nothing here to substantiate it other than non-stop bragging. He is full of himself and full of it.
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on July 17, 2011
Interesting stories here, but one is entirely off the mark. He has a story about Elvis Presley and the movie "Harum Scarum." The movie was sold to Elvis as a Rudolph Valentino type adventure. That part is true. However Weintraub claims that Elvis had no idea who Valentino was (may or may not be true). Once Elvis researched Valentino and discovered the silent screen star was a high maintenance diva, then Elvis supposedly took on that same difficult persona himself. There's where the story is 100% off the mark. The truth is Elvis was sick of all his corny, cookie-cutter movies. The studio was aware of this and sold "Harum Scarum" to Elvis as a high quality action adventure like the classic Rudolph Valentino films. When Elvis read the script and discovered it was another grade-B formula movie -- arguably one of his worst -- THAT'S when Elvis lost his cool. That's the reason why Elvis was "difficult", late to the set, etc. He was lied to, told he was going to do a Grade A movie like the classic Valentino films... when in fact it was a Grade B - or Grade Z - formula movie. The notion that Elvis was arbitrarily being difficult just to follow the lead of a past star is way off the mark.
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on April 11, 2010
Everybody knows a guy who knows a guy who knows a guy -- but Jerry Weintraub knew or knows EVERYONE. He managed Elvis AND Sinatra before he was thirty; he made John Denver a star; he produced Led Zep's first U.S. concert tour; he made George Burns 'God' and he pals around with two other Georges: Clooney and G.H.W. Bush.

This book's not only a Who's Who -- it's a How To. It's the story of how this kid from the Bronx used a combination of hard work and luck and charm and King Kong-sized cojones to make it to the top of both the music and the movie biz. It's funny, it's engaging -- an effortless read -- and let's hope this is just Volume I -- I want to hear more of this guy's stories.
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on March 7, 2012
The book is all about the self-perceived greatness of Weintraub. Obviously he is an extremely successful man with amazing stories to tell. However this book does not scratch the surface of the man. The stories shine up his successes, but never expand beyond these glimpses of greatness. There are some interesting moments in the book that can be thought-provoking and inspiring, but those moments end abruptly and never offer objectivity. In some cases you wonder what the truth really is.
All in all, this book was a disappointment. Decent read if you have some time to waste, and want something light.
In retrospect I would have avoided this book and cannot recommend.
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VINE VOICEon December 17, 2010
This memoir starts out strong with how a brash guy works the angles and knows how to seize every opportunity to make deals and sell. Then we have some interesting parts about clients who have died, like Elvis, Sinatra and John Denver. After that, his clients tend to be still alive, so there's not much of interest he can tactfully say and the second half of the book is as vague and full of words of gratitude, and as boring, as an after dinner speech when you win an award. He had a very strange assortment of friends and cronies, and apparently got along with everyone and everyone was willing to cut him in on millions of dollars to make things happen. A lot of these reviews must be as planted as you would expect from a Hollywood agent, because the book is not all that fabulous after the halfway point. Too diplomatic. And he really doesn't catch the personalities of anyone he writes about. They all talk and act just like him in his retelling of events. But you'll probably find no one else willing to say as many nice things about Col. Parker.
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