DreamWorks cofounder David Geffen, as portrayed by Wall Street Journal
reporter Tom King, is in various ways a saint, a visionary, and an absolute maniac. In his saintly mode, Geffen both raises and gives record-breaking sums of money to AIDS foundations, advises and supports the President and progressive causes, and races to visit old friends stricken with grief or illness (even the washed-up agent Sue Mengers, whose friendship could do him no earthly good).
As a visionary in the music, movie, and Broadway theater industries, Geffen orchestrates the sale of his record companies, which made him a billionaire, and brings you Laura Nyro; Cats; Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young; Tom Cruise; the Eagles; Nirvana; Bob Dylan; John Lennon; Guns N' Roses; Saving Private Ryan; and Joni Mitchell (who immortalized his deepest yearnings in her tune "Free Man in Paris").
But the most impressive and detailed portion of King's landmark biography is Geffen's performance as an entertainment entrepreneur, and in this capacity he is apparently a visionary and a maniac at the same time. Not only does he discover all manner of talents and works of art and hire the best hit-sniffers in the business, he also masters the fine Hollywood art of the Machiavellian tantrum. Geffen allegedly softens up his prey in a business deal by offering up disarming gossip about his own life--his traumatic courtship of Cher, or Marlo Thomas, perhaps, or the male prostitute he is said to have boasted about being in bed with the night John Lennon was shot. At some point, minutes or decades into an apparent friendship, Geffen is shown betraying anyone, even best friends and mentors, in his relentless quest for winning a deal. King's book provides a ringside seat; it's fascinating to watch Tinseltown's titans slug it out in championship bouts, maneuvering, lying, reuniting, and seizing power like crazed Renaissance princes.
In one memorable encounter, Geffen protests that Sid Sheinberg of MCA is displeasing his DreamWorks colleague, Steven Spielberg. "David, stop screaming," says Sheinberg. "I'm not screaming!" Geffen screams. "David, you know what would make me happy?" says Speilberg. "Stop screaming." It turns out that Geffen doesn't even know the details of the deal in question. But nobody knows how to strike a deal--with mind and maniacal heart--like David Geffen. --Tim Appelo
From Library Journal
It's easy to see why David Geffen hates this book. King, who has written about the entertainment business for the Wall Street Journal for nearly ten years, portrays Geffen as a mixed-up, tantrum-prone, greed-driven, Machiavellian huckster. King clearly got a good deal of access to friends and past associates as well as Geffen himself before the mogul decided to withdraw authorization from the project. And Geffen apparently has plenty of enemies willing to tell tales of infantile and brutish behavior. King carefully orders these to reveal the chronology of Geffen's rise and subsequent manipulations; and plentiful personal anecdotes will satisfy readers looking for cocktail-party small talk. It may all even be true; but truth is not the only measure of biography. King's journalistic training is his biggest problem. His unnuanced, just-the-facts style does not sustain interest through more than 500 pages of narrative, and his insistence on resolving inconsistencies and explaining behavior with formulaic psychology results in a cardboard cutout of his subject. Most surprisingly from a WSJ reporter, Geffen's skills as a deal-maker are left relatively unexplored beyond retellings of who were the players and who got what out of the deal. There will be demand for the book, and King's early access means it will be the most fully researched source on Geffen for years to come, but most libraries can make do with a single copy of this workmanlike effort.---Eric Bryant, "Library Journal"
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.