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Hunting with Barracudas: My Life in Hollywood with the Legendary Iris Burton

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Hollywood?s famous child star agent Iris Burton launched the careers of the world?s current movie stars and celebrities including Drew Barrymore, Tori Spelling, River and Joaquin Phoenix, Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen, Johnny Depp, and Kirstin Dunst. But what was Iris Burton like to work for? Here now, her former employee Chris Snyder writes the true story of Hollywood?s most feared insider for the first time. Expect revelations, gossip, and the true seamy underside of Hollywood ...
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Hollywood’s famous child star agent Iris Burton launched the careers of the world’s current movie stars and celebrities including Drew Barrymore, Tori Spelling, River and Joaquin Phoenix, Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen, Johnny Depp, and Kirstin Dunst. But what was Iris Burton like to work for? Here now, her former employee Chris Snyder writes the true story of Hollywood’s most feared insider for the first time. Expect revelations, gossip, and the true seamy underside of Hollywood throughout the decades.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Filled with insider info, Snyder's engaging memoir also addresses his own struggles with his sexuality and his attempts to find a place for himself in the dog-eat-dog culture of Hollywood. (Booklist)”
Publishers Weekly

Iris Burton for years ran one of L.A.'s most aggressive talent agencies and maintained the town's biggest roster of child stars, helping to launch the careers of Drew Barrymore, Henry Thomas, the Olsens, River and Joaquin Phoenix, Tori Spelling, Kirsten Dunst, Fred Savage, Corey Feldman, Hilary Duff and more. In this vivid memoir, Snyder, Burton's executive assistant, tells his own story as he probes the lifestyles of actors, agents and producers, depicting a high-octane Hollywood with a desperate dark side that viewers of HBO's Entourage will find intriguing. Beginning with Burton's funeral in 2008, he intercuts flashbacks, recalling the day he was hired and began working for the woman who "had been the first agent to negotiate million-dollar deals for her underage clients." In the 1950s, Burton was on screen as a Paramount contract player, but life as a single mom led her to work as a saleswoman and a Playboy Club waitress, followed by a talent agency job. Developing clients and her reputation, she opened her own agency one year later. In spite of her tantrums and tirades, Burton had much empathy for her clients, and the heart of this book is a moving recreation of Burton and Snyder's final days with River Phoenix. Snyder has succeeded in capturing the humor and spirit of the woman who called herself "the legendary Iris Burton." (May 1)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Library Journal

Iris Burton, who died in 2008, built a successful talent agency on making children a "viable commodity" in Hollywood and is credited with being the first agent to negotiate million-dollar deals for minors. Snyder, who was her executive assistant for years, chronicles this selfish and occasionally funny woman as her agency and power declined. Burton clung to one of the last small publicity agencies in a ruthless atmosphere of larger agency recruitment and rivalries, within an industry that preys on people. Through a focus on two of Burton's more famous clients, River and Joaquin Phoenix, we see how the client's interest and value are measured in monetary terms, and relationships are portrayed only occasionally as guided by human concern and support. Snyder intersperses his stories of the difficulty of breaking away from the agency and his attempts to relieve stress and actively accept his sexuality. Suitable for public libraries with a population of Hollywood gossip aficionados.
—Lani Smith

Kirkus Reviews
Hollywood superagent's hubris-fueled downfall, as related by her long-suffering assistant. Debut author Snyder describes Iris Burton as "the last of the great development agents," the star-making virago behind the success of Henry Thomas (E.T.), Tori Spelling, River Phoenix, Kirsten Dunst and many others. Growing up in a small town in New York, Snyder always dreamed of hobnobbing with Hollywood royalty. After an internship at Warner Bros., he got an assistant job with Burton at the peak of her reign as the queen of child-actor representatives. But when Phoenix died in 1993, says the author, the end of an era was at hand. Burton became an increasingly bitter, dishonest, self-sabotaging monster. She began to care more about herself than her ever-diminishing clientele, who were steadily gobbled up by sharklike agencies such as CAA and ICM. When not on some paranoid, expletive-filled tirade, Burton filled her time with tummy tucks and liposuction. Worse, she refused to make Snyder a partner, even though he ended up single-handedly running the agency. Most notably, he placed Joaquin Phoenix and Josh Hartnett on the path to stardom. Snyder's loyalty eventually cracked in the face of high blood pressure, migraine headaches and diverticulitis. He quit the agency, but soon came back for a few more miserable years. In Snyder's hands, Burton is such a grotesque Hollywood cliche that she hardly qualifies as a "tragic" figure. The author fares better when he focuses on the mind games inherent in negotiating a deal or the intricacies of the Hollywood star system. When his attention turns to his life apart from Burton-specifically as a relationship-seeking gay man cruising a coldly promiscuous L.A.scene-the narrative becomes humorless and self-pitying. A competent but throwaway memoir, with possible appeal for movie-industry insiders and film buffs.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781602396623
  • Publisher: Skyhorse Publishing
  • Publication date: 5/1/2009
  • Pages: 320
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Chris Snyder worked for superagent Iris Burton in Hollywood for many years. He lives in Los Angeles, CA.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 2.5
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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted July 7, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Beyond "Entourage," a look at Hollywood agents from the inside

    Like many gay boys who grew up in a small town, Chris Snyder dreamed of being part of the excitement, glitz and fame of Hollywood. As he went through school, he came to the realization that his ideal role would likely be behind the scenes, as an agent, helping to find talent and guide them to their success. After an internship at Warner Brothers, he accepted a job as the assistant to the legendary independent agent, Iris Burton, a Hollywood icon who had guided the career of countless child stars for decades.

    Iris warned Chris that she was not easy to work for, an understatement that he would often live to regret for the next thirteen years in the 24/7 personal servitude-like employ of that sarcastic, self-possessed but often brilliant star maker. Chris did get a chance to see Hollywood from a vantage point that nobody else could offer, and to work with up and coming stars such as Joaquin Phoenix, Josh Harnett, Kirsten Dunst, the Olsen twins, and many others, and dealt with a myriad of Hollywood studios, publicists, managers and competing agents. The highlight of his career, and a primary focus of the book, was being witness to one major star's self-destruction: the gradual downfall and drug-related death of River Phoenix, a major event for both Iris and Chris, which signaled a definite shift in the operation of her agency. By this time, Iris was an industry fossil while most agents were half her age, and large, aggressive agencies had already eaten up or destroyed independent agencies like hers. They lost clients, Iris became more and more difficult to work for, and Chris - who had already resigned several times but had been lured back by the needy and persuasive Iris - knew he had to get out of there, for no other reason than what the stress was doing to his health. Chris had no life outside of the agency, other than occasional one-nighters with selfish guys he met at a bar or a bathhouse. Working with Iris had also let him see how the larger agencies worked, stealing clients from each other, making it clear to him that he needed to make some changes in his choice of career.

    If you enjoy HBO's "Entourage," you'll absolutely love seeing this look at stars relationships with Hollywood agents, currently and in the not so distant past. This memoir is well written, with genuine heart and soul evident in every detail about his love/hate relationship with Iris, and how it forced him to reassess what he wanted in his own life. I give it four dressing-room-door stars out of five.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 18, 2009

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