Customer Review

21 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Velvet Jaws, June 4, 2003
This review is from: When Hollywood Had a King: The Reign of Lew Wasserman, Who Leveraged Talent into Power and Influence (Hardcover)
Long ago, I recall someone suggesting that diplomacy is "letting others have it your way." (I forget who said it.) As I read Bruck's holograph (it's more than a portrait) of Lew Wasserman, I was reminded of that observation. According to her account, Wasserman had a special talent for achieving his objectives while preserving cordial relationships with a wide and diverse range of potential antagonists. For example, with the heads of various studios with whom he aggressively negotiated on behalf of MCA's clients; with James Hoffa from whose union Wasserman hired 15,000 members; and with other talent agents after MCA became a major producer of films and television programs. As I completed reading this book, I felt gratitude for the brilliant presentation of the material about Wasserman but I was also favorably impressed by Bruck's demonstration of skills which we normally associate with a cultural anthropologist. As we all know, "Hollywood" is far less significant (if significant at all) as a place than it is as a state-of-mind. Bruck appropriately establishes Wasserman as the gravitational center of her book but she also probes deeply into basic sources of power and influence within the evolving culture of the entertainment industry, sources which remain long after Wasserman was no longer actively involved. For me, the entertainment value of Bruck's book is derived much less from the glitz and glamor of stardom of "Tinseltown" than it does from her examination of all manner of business issues, relationships, and conflicts. It is impossible to understand who Wasserman was and to appreciate what he achieved without correlating his personality and career with the history, economics, art, politics, and psychology of the empire over which he reigned for so many years. Bruck makes such correlations with consummate precision while preserving, throughout her examination of Wasserman ("a shark you almost had to admire as he circled you") the nuances of his multi-dimensional humanity.
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Robert Morris
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Location: Dallas, Texas

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