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The Operator: David Geffen Builds, Buys, and Sells the New Hollywood Hardcover – Mar 7 2000

3.8 out of 5 stars 50 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 688 pages
  • Publisher: Random House; First Edition edition (March 7 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679457542
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679457541
  • Product Dimensions: 24.3 x 16.5 x 3.7 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 907 g
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars 50 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #566,299 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

From Amazon

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.

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Long before he flung open the closet door back in 1992 and declared his homosexuality, David Geffen made news. Big news. Really big news. His is the life --- from college drop-out to mailroom clerk to founder of record labels and a movie company --- that makes a biography such as the one Tom King has written so lengthy ... and often lumbering. King had access to Geffen and hundreds of people in and outside of Geffen's circle of power. This is Superman as Supermogul: Saving pal Calvin Klein from bankruptcy (it was Geffen's idea to out Marky Mark in that series of memorable underwear ads), paying for experimental surgery for dying pal Dawn Steel, wooing (and almost marrying) galpals Cher (whom King says was Geffen's "first fully-functional heterosexual relationship") and Marlo Thomas to finally settling boy with assorted boytoys, unselfishly donating some of his $3 billion to fight AIDS. So many details, so little substance. This is a meticulously researched, though ultimately superficial, look at the bravo and bullying, the temper and talent that have made David Geffen the builder, buyer and seller of the New Hollywood.
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Format: Hardcover
I burned through the nearly 600 pages of The Operator: David Geffen Builds, Buys, and Sells the New Hollywood in a couple of weeks. The book is a very quick read. It easily holds the interest of anyone who enjoys books outlining business deals and relationships...especially in the entertainment sector. Not only does it introduce readers to all of the big power players in Hollywood, but also provides much insight as to how one man interacted with the participants of this business, in order to make his own fortune.
I found the book to be great, in terms of providing a detailed history of Geffen's business dealings. It gave just the right amount of personal information as well in order to convey the human side of Geffen.
What was bothersome about the book was its overly negative attitude towards Geffen. It was painfully obvious that the writer was not an enormous David Geffen fan by 50 pages into the book. By the end, such negativity became cumbersome. It begs the reader to ask: `If Geffen was such a terrible guy, why did people continue to deal with him time after time after time?' I would say that that was the only negative aspect of the book.
Other than that, if you are interested in David Geffen, or just the business of entertainment, then I would highly recommend this one.
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Format: Hardcover
You have to wonder how a reporter...from The Wall Street Journal, no less, can be so adept at cliche slinging and say so little about character and motivation in so many pages. If you read this book, you'll read it because you already know a little about Geffen and are curious as to how he got where he is. You'll find out about the "how", but you won't find out about the "why". You'll read about Geffen's clever and frequently dishonest deal making, but you won't know why he was compelled , or driven, to do what he did. Instead of providing some analysis of this type, the author seems more concerned in employing cliches such as "catapulted to...." or "rocketed to..." or "shot up the list...." etc. etc... on to the point of annoyance. This is a complex story that should not have been told so simply and, in fact, patronizingly. It gets three stars from me only because it does supply the details. But it annoyed me while I was getting them.
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Format: Paperback
This excellent biography well researched and beautifully written has but one flaw: the subject. David Geffen is so contradictory, no matter how much information about him is amassed; we are still baffled. In keeping with the rest of his personality, I understand this book was "partially" authorized. That is, when Mr. King began the project, DG was forthcoming and enthusiastic, only to totally reverse himself later on and be bitterly opposed to the undertaking.
David Geffen is a poster boy for ADD. He is frenetically active, but with a remarkably short attention span. He disliked school because it wasted his time. He can be a caring friend or an implacable enemy. He can be embarrassing intimate with almost complete strangers, yet distant as a north star toward his own family. He has lived a gay promiscuous life, yet fell hard for Cher and wanted to marry her. Easy going Cher recognized him as a "controller" and walked away. He shows great generosity personally and publicly; yet hasn't a qualm about financially ruining friend and foe alike for a perceived slight, and sometimes just for the hell of it.
No matter how much you thank your lucky stars that you never, ever have to do business with David Geffen, you cannot help but be awestruck at his genius as a businessman, visualizer and strategist. He is beyond compare, and in spite of Mr. King's admirable dissecting of various business deals, it is impossible to follow Geffen's leap of ideas and creativity to make things happen.
In spite of David Geffen's striving for the most money, the best deal, and the top of the financial ladder, I would not call him a materialistic man. Unfortunately for him, he doesn't feel an emotional bond to his beautiful artwork and homes. Name him a good price and he will sell it to you--as is.
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