The Operator: David Geffen Builds, Buys, and Sells the New Hollywood

The Operator: David Geffen Builds, Buys, and Sells the New Hollywood

by Tom King
     
 

View All Available Formats & Editions

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

Overview

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.

Questions Answered in Tom King's The Operator: David Geffen Builds, Buys, and Sells the New Hollywood

  • How did Geffen get the coveted "Double Fantasy" John Lennon/Yoko album that every music company in the word was vying for?
  • Who was the first person Yoko Ono called to comfort her at the hospital after John was shot?
  • Why did Geffen reward Jackson Browne by arranging for the rights to his music to be reverted to Brown? And why didn't he do the same for the Eagles?
  • What did Geffen plan to give Cher as a wedding present? What did he say to her when she dumped him for Gregg Allman?
  • Geffen landed in jail thanks to a request by his client David Crosby. What was the request, and who bailed Geffen out of jail?
  • How did Tom Cruise get the starring role in Risky Business?
  • What did Geffen do that infuriated Mick Jagger?
  • What does Elton John have to say about David Geffen?
  • Why do people who profess to dislike David Geffen (like Don Henley) still do business with him?
  • How did David Geffen become the majority investor in the Broadway musical "Cats"?
  • On what subject did Geffen offer President Clinton a tutorial in the Oval Office?
  • What action did Barry Diller suggest Michael Ovitz take when Ovitz complained that Geffen would not stop badmouthing him?
  • How did Geffen get Steve Ross and Warner Communications to give him their 50% stake in Geffen Records, placing 100% ownership of the label in David's hands?
  • Was Geffen truly diagnosed with a cancerous tumor in 1976?
  • What did Bob Dylan say at the end of the last concert of "Tour 1974" that hurt Geffen and made him cry?
  • Whad did Geffen suggest George Michael do after Michael was arrested for "lewd conduct" in a Beverly Hills park men's room?
  • What did Geffen do that made Paul Simon crazy at the time of his Central Park reunion with Art Garfunkel?
  • Shortly after attending the off-Broadway revue "The Real Live Brady Bunch" together, Madonna stopped speaking to Geffen. Why?
  • What did Geffen swap with the Iranian government to get Willen de Kooning's "Woman 3," a masterpiece that had been owned by the Shah?
  • How did David Geffen save Calvin Klein from bankruptcy? What single suggestion did he make to revive Calvin's underwear business?
  • Who made bumper stickers that read, "Who is David Geffen and why is He Saying Those Terrible Things About Me?"
  • How did the rumors about Keanu Reeves and David Geffen start?
  • Why did David Geffen come to Sue Menger's aid in the late 1980's?

About the Author

Tom King has been a reporter at The Wall Street Journal since 1989 and has reported on the entertainment industry from the paper's Los Angeles bureau since 1991.

Editorial Reviews

bn.com
David Geffen and the Business of Hollywood

Barnes & Noble.com asked Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Michael Hiltzik, author of the acclaimed Dealers of Lightning, to tear through Tom King's The Operator at lightning speed. That didn't turn out to be a problem for Mike, who delved into this delicious read with great delight. Here's his review.

A Review of The Operator

David Geffen has already let it be known that he considers his cooperation with Tom King, the author of The Operator, to be the biggest mistake he ever made in his life, and it's easy to see why. An uncompromising look at one of Hollywood's leading moguls—albeit one whose star has faded—The Operator paints Geffen in all his brash, petulant glory as a dealmaker with a style all his own: erratic, obsessive, and almost wholly amoral. Tom King's book is fascinating for the parade of entertainment luminaries who pass through, some owing their careers to Geffen, others cursing him for the affronts and breaches of faith that curdled their friendships and alliances.

There are Jackson Browne, Laura Nyro, and Joni Mitchell, whom Geffen made into pop stars; and the four unknowns he assembled into the Eagles. We also encounter Bob Dylan, whom Geffen assiduously courted for Asylum Records but who fled the label after only two albums, and Mick Jagger, caught in mid-rant at the junior mogul over his "egomania." Then there are the women and men who helped him along on his sexual journey, including Cher, perhaps his greatest heterosexual love, who broke off their affair over what she considered his completely implausible plans for marriage.

If there is a flaw in the book it is in the subject. David Geffen is not, in the end, a very interesting figure on his own, and from the reader's standpoint certainly not good company. At times he comes off as little more than a bundle of neurotic tics, and the litany of deals, betrayals, and reconciliations Geffen works on the agents, artists, and tycoons who populate The Operator eventually loses its power to enthrall. King portrays him as a superior wheeler-dealer, rather than an impresario unearthing new talent through superior powers of artistic discernment. The intuition that allows this aficionado of show tunes to perceive a future superstar in unheralded performers like Joni Mitchell remains a mystery; by the time Geffen Records scores its greatest successes it's obvious that the hard work of scouting for talent is handled by Geffen's deputies. Often left unspoken is the fact that Geffen must have some remarkable reserves of personal charm, or he would never have been able to bend to his will such polished barons of the entertainment industry as Ahmet Ertegun of Atlantic Records or Warner Communications' Steve Ross.

Nevertheless, The Operator is an impressive tour of the entertainment industry during the past 40 years, as seen through the career of a man who never seemed content to be anywhere but at dead center.

Michael A. Hiltzik


Michael A. Hiltzik has worked for the Los Angeles Times as a financial, political, and foreign correspondent and as a technology writer and editor. He and fellow Times reporter Chuck Philips were awarded the 1999 Pulitzer Prize in beat reporting for their coverage of corruption in the entertainment industry. Hiltzik's critically acclaimed 1999 work Dealers of Lightning, a gripping retelling of the history of the technology innovations at Xerox PARC, was recently released in paperback.

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. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 10/1/99.]--Eric Bryant, "Library Journal" Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.\
From the Publisher
From The Operator

Geffen told Cher about the sexual encounters he had had with men and how he was struggling with his sexual identity. He hastily added that his relationships with men had been about sex and nothing more. He was afraid of the opposite sex, he told her, but said that he believed a relationship with a woman would offer him the best chance to find true love. Cher had been surrounded by gay men her entire professional life, and Geffen's confessions left her unfazed.

"What is it that you do?" Cher finally asked Geffen.
"I am the chairman of Elektra/Asylum Records," he told her.
"Oh, well, you don't look like it," she said. "You look just like a little schlepper."

Geffen was charming, offsetting his usual braggadocio with vulnerability. The two stayed up well into the night, exchanging the stories of their lives. Geffen told her he had become a millionaire more than five years earlier. He told her that he thought he had accomplished everything he wanted to achieve, but that somehow the fame and the money was unfulfilling.

"I'm not alone anymore," Cher thought to herself. She had never known anyone in her life who made her feel so comfortable.

During his therapy session the next day, Geffen made a startling admission to Dr. Grotjahn. "I think I'm in love with Cher," he said.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780679457541
Publisher:
Random House Publishing Group
Publication date:
03/07/2000
Pages:
688
Product dimensions:
6.49(w) x 9.58(h) x 1.47(d)

Read an Excerpt

Geffen told Cher about the sexual encounters he had had with men and how he was struggling with his sexual identity. He hastily added that his relationships with men had been about sex and nothing more. He was afraid of the opposite sex, he told her, but said that he believed a relationship with a woman would offer him the best chance to find true love. Cher has been surrounded by gay men her entire professional life, and Geffen's confessions left her unfazed.

"What is it that you do?" Cher finally asked Geffen.
"I am the chairman of Elektra/Asylum Records," he told her.
"Oh, well, you don't look like it," she said. "You just look like a little schlepper."

Geffen was charming, offsetting his usual braggadocio with vulnerability. The two stayed up well into the night, exchanging the stories of their lives. Geffen told her he had become a millionaire more that five years earlier. He told her that he thought he had accomplished everything he had wanted to achieve, but that somehow the fame and the money was unfulfilling.

"I'm not alone anymore," Cher thought to herself. She had never known anyone in her life who made her feel so comfortable.

During his therapy session the next day, Geffen made a startling admission to Dr. Grotjahn. "I think I'm in love with Cher," he said.

Meet the Author

Tom King has been a reporter at The Wall Street Journal since 1989 and has reported on the entertainment industry from the paper's Los Angeles bureau since 1991.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network

     

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >