The Operator: David Geffen Builds, Buys, and Sells the New Hollywood Hardcover – Mar 7 2000
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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.
Top Customer Reviews
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.
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.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
This book is almost impossible to put down. Geffen's life has been truly extraoridinary and it provides an excellent story. Read morePublished on June 15 2003 by H. B. Vess
I think Tom King did a Good Job here bringing out the Many Sides of David Geffen.you name it in Hollywood&Geffen has done it&done it with alot of Success. Read morePublished on April 24 2002 by MAXIMILLIAN MUHAMMAD
My friends and I sometimes have conversations debating if you have to be a manipulative, take no prisoners, hard charging bully to make it to the top in the business world. Read morePublished on April 19 2002 by John G. Hilliard
I knew very little about David Geffen before I read this book. I only knew of Geffen Records prior to reading this book. Read morePublished on Sept. 21 2001 by John F. Kerry
Tom King presents an in-depth portrait of Hollywood powerhouse David Geffen, one of the three founders of DreamWorks SKG, the first new Hollywood studio in 55 years. Read morePublished on Aug. 15 2001 by Rolf Dobelli
Great inside story about David Geffen with loads of references to other Hollywood players as well. Although the book focuses on Geffen, I feel I have a better understanding of the... Read morePublished on Aug. 9 2001 by marketingandmediareviews
If you are considering the entertainment business, as a path to riches then you must own a copy of Tom King's well-written book. Read morePublished on Aug. 2 2001 by Devon Harris
Great book. Real interesting read. If you are interested in Hollywood and the personalities behind Hollywood this is the 1 book you cannont miss. Read morePublished on July 5 2001 by Bhavin V Merchant
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