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on June 2, 2002
In her Oscar acceptance speech for Best Picture, Julia Phillips described herself as a "nice Jewish girl from Great Neck." Well, she got 2/3 of it right. But nice? No way.
This book is one of the greatest acts of literary self-immolation ever published. It's hard not to feel sorry for Phillips at first, suffering as she does from a toxic mother, a workaholic father, insomnia and a Talmudic intellect.
But you get over that feeling in a hurry, as Phillips bullies, maneuvers, sleeps and stomps her way to the top, winning an Oscar for The Sting at the unheard-of age of 29. Her motto: overcompensate; overachieve. If you can't be best, be first.
As she notes, no young person is ever ready for massive success, and her career crashed just as quickly. After being more or less fired from Close Encounters by Steven Speilberg, her life became a broken record of drug abuse, failed relationships, financial problems and closed doors gleefully slammed by those she used and abused on the way up. Through it all she makes it all seem like a big game, but the human wreckage strewn across the landscape will give the reader pause.
It's hard to know whether Phillips' broadsides at anyone and everyone with whom she had contact are simply through spite, or whether we'd all be better off if Hollywood simply disappeared in the next big quake. Phillips claims that she's just being honest, but snide remarks about a crewmember's physical deformity make her seem only nasty.
Hate it as she did, Phillips revelled in the politics, the backstabbing, the lies and shallowness, the feeling of power that came with the title of Producer. She learned fast ("Always negotiate the height and WIDTH of your [on-screen] credit," she advises, after her on-screen credit for The Sting is "willow thin.") Her films (Taxi Driver, The Sting, Close Encounters, among others) were good, though one gets the sense it was in spite of her take-no-prisioners approach.
One wishes at the end that Phillips would "get it," but instead she reaps what she sews. There was to be no Hollywood redemption for her. Phillips' death this january was untimely, but no human being could possibly survive for long carrying around so much bile. Very much worth the read, even only as a cautionary tale.
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on March 25, 2002
I recently picked up "You'll Never Eat Lunch in This Town Again" at my local Store ...after all, I like a change from the fantasy of novel reading, to the fantasy of stars and their satelites. If it's cheap enough. I enjoy the irony of the tales of wealth and excesses of people who have (& abuse) so much, while we mere mortals are stressing over the next rent payment, thankful we aren't among the homeless and hungry.
I expected standard Hollywood dirt-dishing. I was unprepared for the vengeful & venomous whining from a woman who'd once set a new standard for women in 'the industry', yet never saw she'd helped create the viper's nest she later exposed in over 600 paqes of difficult to read complaining.
Yet I read it all. I thought the bitter and mean-spirited texture of the book, with it's raw self-revelation/loathing theme, would have some gentler conclusion, message, or lesson learned by the author. It didn't. As tough as Julia Phillips was, she never beat her addiction...to Hollywood.
Julia lost sight of the fact that though she was singular in a particular era of film making, she was not unique in the battle with the temptations of self-medication, or the quest for happiness we all make. This "but I'm so special as a woman" sexist vein is the glue that held this book together, and would have been acceptable to the reader if we could feel at the end that Julia ever really "got it". I found the book drew me into the nastiness, though it seemed obvious the fine details of every deal or friendship were written for insiders. Name- dropping as the weapon of choice.
We all love the movies; have our favorite actors and directors; we like to believe there really is some impossible magic, and that true artistry will win out and be noticed in a flood of wannabes. Julia tells us that's not the case. One must admire the uncompromising dog-fight honesty of her book, if not the mercenary sour grapes.
Last night, watching the 2002 Oscars, I learned that Julia had died. And I saw Robert Redford's moving speech, with his plea for freedom of expression. I hope that is possible; Julia's book makes me fear it's not. Is Sundance still as unsullied as at its original conception?
Julia would not have missed the irony of me finding her book in the [local] store, in barely read condition.
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on December 6, 2007
A girl brought up in New York in the 1940s and 1950s by liberal, educated parents comes of age during the dawn of youth culture and the rock and roll era. She matriculates from Mount Holyoke College, finds work in magazine publishing and soon makes a lateral move into the film industry. As half of a husband-and-wife production team, she co-produces "The Sting," "Taxi Driver" and "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" and later becomes a studio exec. Never secure in her unique male-dominated business/creative Hollywood environment, she divorces her co-producer, spends heavily, and spirals into drug addiction with a series of financially dependent live-in boyfriends.

There are a number of things to like here. Julia Phillips was bright, witty and articulate. We learn something about how business is done in Hollywood, how egos are flexed and about the junior high social games and power plays, such as deliberately showing up late for scheduled meetings: for all the mirror gazing done by people in the industry, there is little seeing of oneself, she explains. Insights about Redford, Coppola, DeNiro, Beatty, Madonna, Penn, Scorsese, Spielberg, Geffen and author Erica Jong (and, bizarrely, an evening with G. Gordon Liddy and Timothy Leary) are compelling. When published in 1991, this book was overhyped as an expose'. Nothing here rises to the level of shock (except that she hid her cocaine freebasing, and the substance abuse of her live-in boyfriends, from her ex-husband for years as she retained custody of their young daughter). Ms. Phillips bluntly criticizes some well-known, powerful people in her book, but never without an explanation, and without sparing herself. (Rumor has it that Jong refused to spare Phillips, portraying her as the detestable "Britt Goldstein" in her novel "How to Save Your Own Life.")

While apparently a talented manager and hard worker, Ms. Phillips had the arrogance of a New Yorker and a directness that alienated some of her business associates. Her directness unfortunately does not translate to her narrative. The style overwhelms the story, to the point of obscuring what exactly is going on, and unclear prose keeps this biography safely out of the "can't put down" category. For example, she drops far too many first names of unknown casual friends and business associates, without ever developing or illustrating their importance to her story, if any, until she enlightens us later...sometimes. Certain passages ranging in length are set apart and told in a detached third person. Still other, shorter portions are formatted like a movie script. Much better writers can use these kinds of narrative shifts only with difficulty. At least this story is mostly chronological. The hardback edition (573 pages) should be at least 150 pages shorter. Ms. Phillips' story, a good story, is not particularly well-told.

Superior reading may be found in Robert Evans' "The Kid Stays in the Picture" and in Joe Eszterhas' "Hollywood Animal." (2.5 stars)
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on January 8, 2011
I first saw Julia Phillips on a Phil Donahue episode, sometime back in the early '90s. If I recall correctly, she was there to promote this book at the time. Julia's on air presence was so intriguing, I wanted to buy the book. It was some thirty years later, I actually did so, but the wait didn't disappoint. This book reveals more than just some hollywood gal arm candy making statements about who's who in Bollywood. Julia Phillips stood out because she was a woman,who, in spite of her oftentimes self destructive habits...she was a woman who had a brain and wasn't afraid to use it. This book also reveals a woman who was trying hard to learn from her own mistakes...a woman who also wanted to help others along the way. Julia Phillips could be cold as ice, tough as nails, but could crumble at a moment's notice as well. Her wit rivaled the old seasoned comics like Groucho Marx or Lenny Bruce. This book is also worth reading because of Julia's sensitivity to social issues of equality. This is not a book to skim through and you'll find yourself pulling it out time and time again, recalling a name and situation here and there. Oh, and about the namedropping in this book...try to keep up, lol.
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on September 2, 2014
Depressing tale from a woman who did her best work while she was married to a man she would later divorce because she was no longer in love with him and preferred drugs and dumb boyfriends to raising her child with a man who loved her. I won't bother talking about how she treated her own parents. A good example of how easy it is to be deluded by resting on one's laurels and forgetting about all the people who helped you on your way up the ladder of success.
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on May 3, 2013
I found the read annoying, as she slips from 3rd person to 1st person. It seems to me that should have been caught by the editor. She's like a little kid that ate the cookies with all the neighborhood kids, and decides to tattle on herself, BUT, she's going to tell on all the other kids too. In my opinion, this book is a waste of ink and trees. I wanted to read it because I expected telltale, but, silly telltale, NOT drugs. I don't care who did drugs. That's their business. I don't want anyone checking out my refrigerator to see what we eat, if we eat healthy or not. She sounds like a spoiled brat, who needed money for whatever reason and she knew this kind of book would make a lot of money for her. I remember when she went on the tv circuit promoting it. I was looking forward to reading it, thought it would be full of who's not speaking to whom. Who had a dinner party and didn't invite .......(?). Who got slapped for some unknown reason. Get this book at the library, don't bother spending your hard earned money on it.
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on December 18, 2006
Poor Ms. Phillips. The voice of this memoir comes across as brutally honest - perhaps too honest. The book is too long. I found the author's meteoric rise to fame fascinating and it proves the belief that the road to fame and fortune is often quirky to say the least. How many magazine editors reach the top of the heap in Hollywood? - not many I would guess. She was a fast learner but she must have also possessed charm. I kept thinking, these people don't even go to lunch unless they're stoned. I must lead a sheltered life as I had no idea the drugs were that rampant. But they destroyed her in the end. Anyway, the lesson to be learned is that the movie business is not for the faint of heart. The fact that it's full of phoney, disloyal, back-stabbing people is nothing new so there is a banal feeling throughout the book. After all, they aren't inventing a cure for cancer - they are just grossly overpaid people who create stories to be watched on a screen so that the masses can escape their dreary lives. She does go on and on about her friendship with Steven Spielberg - she obviously idolized him. It's too bad she was an addict because it certainly derailed her career prematurely.
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on September 30, 2015
A classic! Sometimes hard to follow, and maybe a bit too long at over 650 pages, but worth it.

It's one long single chapter, which makes for reading frustrating. I get it that this was an artistic device, but I don't like it as an artistic device.
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on August 30, 2013
This book is brutally honest and compelling, truly un-put-down-able. The drugs are more evilly destructive, the sex-and-feuds-and-chaos more amazingly tempestuous, the rise and fall more precipitous. If you ever thought something is perhaps not quite right with Hollywood, these two books will forever confirm your suspicions. Phillips spares herself nothing in telling her amazing and painful story, leaving nothing out and letting the chips fall where they may. Along the way, she produced such great films as "The Sting", "Taxi Driver" and "Close Encounters of the Third Kind". She won the Oscar for "The Sting" at the age of 29, can you imagine? This book is a rather bitter cautionary tale, but a rip-snortingly good read. Enjoy it without guilt, perhaps even with a bag of potato chips at the beach. Or even popcorn.
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on April 16, 2007
Julia Phillips wallows in being part angel, part devil, and that makes for a terrific story. This is the best insider's look at the Hollywood of today that one could wish for. Just goes to show why so much Hollywood output is dreck, and it's a miracle that a worthwhile film is ever made and often in spite of the creators. If you've ever had a dream of walking the red carpet, READ THIS!
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