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This Time, This Place: My Life in War, the White House, and Hollywood Paperback – October 28, 2008
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From Publishers Weekly
Valenti, an "obscure owner of an advertising and political consulting agency in Houston," came under the national spotlight when, with little fanfare, he became a special assistant to President Lyndon B. Johnson. Valenti opens with Kennedy's assassination, right after which Johnson told Valenti, without warning, "I want you on my staff." After his arrival in Washington, Valenti jumps back in time, cruising through his Houston childhood, experience as WWII B-25 pilot and subsequent Harvard education. The dramatic arc works well, setting up nicely the book's weightiest portion, an insider's view of the Johnson White House, featuring a fascinating discussion of Robert McNamara's summer 1965 plan to increase U.S. military involvement in Vietnam. The last third chronicles Valenti's 38 years as chair and CEO of the Motion Picture Association of America, an organization with close ties to Washington politics; Valenti shares enlightening details of developing and implementing the MPAA's voluntary movie rating system, still in place today, as well as his relationship with numerous "icons of the silver screen" (Kirk Douglas gets the most space). Valenti's informal prose occasionally runs purple, but his life story, populated with Washington power-brokers and Hollywood royalty, is an absorbing one. 15 b/w photos.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.
About the Author
JACK VALENTI wrote numerous essays for the New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Reader’s Digest, Atlantic Monthly, Newsweek, Cox newspapers, and other publications. He was also the author of four other books of nonﬁction and one novel.
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Top customer reviews
Like the Reagen Diaries, I had been putting off reading this book. I guess the cover was not appealing, or maybe because the book was not recommended to me. I had bought it because at the time I was interested in reading biographies. It just sat there on my bookshelf collecting dust for over three years.
With a lack of books to read, I picked it up. Wow! What an amazing guy! Jack Valenti really did it all! He was a World War II pilot, fought the Germans in daring air combats, was an advisor to both JFK and President Johnson, and was head of the Movie Industry, acquainting himself with the biggest stars in Hollywood. Yet throughout his biography you never get the sense of an egotistical person; rather you revel in this humble and down to earth character.
Valenti talks about the war with the Germans, and his daring air sorties. He describes vividly his training days as a pilot to actual combat in France. Loving anything related to aviation I was very captivated by his account. Several times became close to death over France and Germany, but not once was his aircraft downed.
Valenti also describes how after the war he had to cross the Atlantic to return his aircraft to the USA. That account was also thrilling and read like a novel.
I always thought that President Johnson was a weak president, gaining the presidency only because JFK was assassinated. I also believed in the conspiracy theory that Johnson was behind JFK's assassination. This book set the record straight. You can almost say that this book is also a biography of President Johnson. Valenti writes extensively about him, and portrays him for who he really is: a humble and intelligent man who only acted on America's best interest and not his own. For example, he refused to run for second term because he thought that this would end the Vietnam War.
According to Valentin, Johnson gave up on life after his presidency. He neglected his health and became obese. The thought of death always loomed over him, and he always believed he would die in his sixties. It was a tragedy reading this after I had high regards and respect for this truly humble and just man.
Valenti also describes the day JFK was assassinated, and the somber mood of the nation and his aides during that tragic moment. He really manages to bring the reader back in time to relive those moments. He is truly a great writer, and this biography, albeit two biographies in one, reads like a novel.
The biography then continues on with Valenti's life in Hollywood. A lot of name dropping, such as Cary Grant, Kirk and Michael Douglas, Katherine Hepburn, Catherine Zeta Jones, Tom Cruise, Julia Roberts, just to name a few. He gives a good account of Cary Grant and Katherine Hepburn, and the reader will enjoy getting a glimpse, although brief, of their life. Cary Grant, for example, refused to act in later years so that he is frozen in time as this handsome young man. His chapters on Hollywood beat any Hollywood gossip magazines.
I really recommend this book. If you like reading biographies, then this book should be on your shelf.
I wish he didn't break the sections when he with the MPAA so oddly, but take a look at this book. Wonderful.
Such is the life of Jack Valenti, an always engaging personality on TV, this book backs up that persona in spades. After being a WWII pilot, the U of Houston grad gets in the Harvard MBA program which sets him on his course. After early life set-up the book focuses on his years in the White House and close relationship with Pres. Johnson before focusing more than half the book on Hollywood, his job and his relationships. At the end, he revisits his memories of famous people that he loved or admired: Jackie Kennedy, Warren Buffet, Lew Wasserman, Kirk Douglas, Tom Cruise, etc. The list is long and illustrious, and while very interesting, this is the one part of the book that suffers from massive name-dropping.
I can't recommend this book higher from a great American. If you have interest in politics or pop culture in the 2nd half of the 20th century, this book is a must read. But, if you want to read the life story of a truly engaging, friendly, family man then it is definitely for you. My condolences to the family on the unexpected death of Jack Valenti shortly after completion of the book.
It is the life story of a bright, ambitious man from the hinterlands who happened to be in all the right places and took full advantage of his career opportunities. He is the type of person who always has his eye fixed on the main chance ... and toward the most important person in the room.
The prose drips with sincerity and soars with hyperbole. Mr. Valenti said about his friendship with Don Imus and Bernard McGuirk (whose own careers cratered after this book went to press), he had instant fame from being on Imus In the Morning "...however fleeting!" I think Mr. Valenti's fame indeed will be fleeting since it is primarily derived from the reflection of others.