Complex, contentious, and blessed with the perfect-pitch ability to find the next big talent, David Geffen has shaped American popular culture for the last three decades. His dazzling career has included the roles of power agent, record-industry mogul, Broadway producer, and billionaire Hollywood studio founder. From the beginning, though, Geffen's many accomplishments have been shadowed by the ruthless single-mindedness with which he has pursued fame, power, and money. In The Operator, Tom King--the first writer to have been granted full access to Geffen and his circle of intimates--captures the real David Geffen and tells a great American story about success and the bargains made for it.
The extent of Geffen's accomplishments is extraordinary. As a manager in the 1960s, he made the deal for Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young to appear at Woodstock. He discovered 1970s superstars Jackson Browne and the Eagles and masterminded Bob Dylan's famed 1974 tour; Joni Mitchell, Geffen's roommate for a time, memorialized him in her song "Free Man in Paris." He produced Risky Business, the movie that made Tom Cruise a star, and was the moneyman behind Cats, the longest-running musical in Broadway history. One of the most brilliant dealmakers ever to work in Hollywood, he became a billionaire shortly after selling Geffen Records in 1990, and he made movie history when he founded, with friends Steven Spielberg and Jeffrey Katzenberg, DreamWorks SKG, the first new Hollywood studio in fifty-five years. And Geffen's influence has extended far beyond show business and into the worlds of Wall Street, art, real estate, and politics.
Geffen's personal journey is as compelling as his business machinations. Although he knew from an early age that he was gay, he hid his true sexual urges and for years attempted to lead a heterosexual life. In the mid-1970s, he dated--and almost married--Cher. Not until 1992, when being honored for his extraordinary financial contributions to the fight against AIDS, did he open the closet door. His coming-out was national news.
Beneath this phenomenal life story has always been a ferocious drive to succeed, a blind ambition that has left onlookers astounded. Geffen learned from his earliest days in the William Morris mailroom that he could cheat and lie his way to the top, and he has ever after lived unconstrained by traditional notions of right and wrong. Geffen has demonstrated time and again that he is willing to sabotage any relationship, business or personal, to get what he wants.
At his best, David Geffen is a fiercely devoted friend and a bountifully generous man, both privately and publicly. At his worst, he is a vindictive bully who lashes out at loved ones and colleagues with irrational screaming fits that leave his victims shaking and sweating. And though he has periodically attempted to better himself through psychotherapy and self-help programs like est and Lifespring, he seems always able to find new enemies to rage against.
For years, David Geffen has managed his own life story and rewritten history. But in The Operator, Tom King has set the record straight. Written with Geffen's cooperation--though not his authorization--The Operator is an explosive, illusion-shattering story that details the mogul's indisputable contributions to entertainment history while also baring the man behind the legend.