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When I Stop Talking, You'll Know I'm Dead: Useful Stories from a Persuasive Man

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Overview

Here is the story of Jerry Weintraub: the self-made, Brooklyn-born, Bronx-raised impresario, Hollywood producer, legendary deal maker, and friend of politicians and stars. No matter where nature has placed him—the club rooms of Brooklyn, the Mafia dives of New York's Lower East Side, the wilds of Alaska, or the hills of Hollywood—he has found a way to put on a show and sell tickets at the door. "All life was a theater and I wanted to put it up on a stage," he writes. "I wanted to set the world under a marquee ...

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When I Stop Talking, You'll Know I'm Dead: Useful Stories from a Persuasive Man

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Overview

Here is the story of Jerry Weintraub: the self-made, Brooklyn-born, Bronx-raised impresario, Hollywood producer, legendary deal maker, and friend of politicians and stars. No matter where nature has placed him—the club rooms of Brooklyn, the Mafia dives of New York's Lower East Side, the wilds of Alaska, or the hills of Hollywood—he has found a way to put on a show and sell tickets at the door. "All life was a theater and I wanted to put it up on a stage," he writes. "I wanted to set the world under a marquee that read: 'Jerry Weintraub Presents.'"

In WHEN I STOP TALKING, YOU'LL KNOW I'M DEAD, we follow Weintraub from his first great success at age twenty-six with Elvis Presley, whom he took on the road; to the immortal days with Sinatra and Rat Pack glory; to his crowning hits as a movie producer, starting with Robert Altman and Nashville, continuing with Oh, God!, The Karate Kid movies, and Diner, among others, and summiting with Steven Soderbergh and Ocean's Eleven, Twelve, and Thirteen.

Along the way, we'll watch as Jerry moves from the poker tables of Palm Springs, to the power rooms of Hollywood, to the halls of the White House, to Red Square in Moscow-all the while counseling potentates, poets, and kings, with clients and confidants like George Clooney, Bruce Willis, George H. W. Bush, Armand Hammer, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Bob Dylan, Led Zeppelin, John Denver, Bobby Fischer . . .well, the list goes on.

And of course, the story is not yet over . . . As Weintraub says, "When I stop talking, you'll know I'm dead."

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble

"Ocean's Eleven Producer Can't Stop Talking" is how NPR headlined its transcript of its radio interview with producer Jerry Weintraub, the author of this book. (The book is co-written by Rich Cohen, a top-selling author in his own right.) Fortunately, Weintraub's stories are as riveting as they are numerous. With gusto, he describes his eventful rise from managing fledgling music groups to producing major films and running United Artists. Along the way are reminiscences so ripe that they need to be read in the original about Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra and Rat Pack, George H.W. Bush, George Burns, Bobby Fischer, Brad Pitt, Bob Dylan, Robert Altman, John Denver, Led Zeppelin, Whoopi Goldberg, and many, many more. Now in paperback and NOOK Edition versions. One great read.

People Magazine
"This is a guy who can tell a story. And boy does he have stories to tell."
Entertainment Weekly
"Weintraub knows a thing or two about placing bets. And his latest venture sounds like a sure thing-an autobiography, pithily titled When I Stop Talking, You'll Know I'm Dead: Useful Stories from a Persuasive Man . . . [it's] a gripping personal story."
Nicole LaPorte
"Old chestnuts from this journey are lovingly, and often hilariously, burnished in Weintraub's new memoir, When I Stop Talking, You'll Know I'm Dead . . . The book, which is in no way a scandalous, showbiz tell-all, but a good-humored, and often self-deprecating romp of outrageous will and amazing fortune, also paints a picture of uncanny bliss."
Nathaniel Rich
"It reads at times like a screenplay: a rags-to-riches tale complete with stunning reversals of fortune, punchy dialogue, and star cameos galore . . . Even the lows are enviable."
Rick Warner
"As the title of the book indicates, Weintraub loves to talk. And the 72-year-old impresario has some amazing stories to tell . . . All the stories are told in Weintraub's shooting-the-breeze voice. Credit for the easy-to-read style goes to Rich Cohen, a contributing editor at Vanity Fair magazine who turned Weintraub's tales into a breezy first-person narrative."
Don Imus
"Jerry has made a fascinating career for himself by finding ways to put on a show and sell tickets at the door. Jerry has bloomed wherever he's been planted. His life has put him in the company of greats like Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, The Rat Pack, Robert Altman, and Steven Soderbergh, to name a few. Jerry's story chronicles his journey that involved a lot of improvising, love, and of course, luck. This story isn't just for music or movie lovers, or entrepreneurs....it's for everyone. So, pick up your copy of When I Stop Talking, You'll Know I'm Dead by Jerry Weintraub... If there was a Mount Rushmore of legendary show business figures, he'd be one of them."
RJ Smith
"When I Stop Talking is anything but a rote, let-the-record-show memoir . . . Although it's packed with stories he's surely been telling at dinner forever, the book is also a modest set of guidelines for how you too can be a successful mogul . . . it's written with stealth and style, doubtless shaped by his co-writer, Rich Cohen . . . The book, really, is a performance, a monologue by a guy comfortable hanging with Armand Hammer at Leonid Brezhnev's funeral or with Joey Bishop at a deli. It's a show based on horse pucky on braggadocio."
From the Publisher

"Now, I could tell you stories about Jerry, but Jerry is the first and best to tell them. He's funny and grumpy and perfectly inappropriate. When it comes to work, nobody works harder. When it comes to charities, nobody guilts better. And when it comes to friendship, he has no peers. That's Jerry's great talent. He doesn't just light up a room, he lights it on fire. He's a great producer, a great organizer, a great friend, and truly the greatest showman on earth.—George Clooney

"Edgy and honest but refreshingly spare in his criticism of stars, colleagues and family . . . With a bold voice, a storied career, and a cast of superstars, Weintraub's memoir makes a rousing insider tour of some five decades in the entertainment industry."—Publisher's Weekly

"As the title of the book indicates, Weintraub loves to talk. And the 72-year-old impresario has some amazing stories to tell . . . All the stories are told in Weintraub's shooting-the-breeze voice. Credit for the easy-to-read style goes to Rich Cohen, a contributing editor at Vanity Fair magazine who turned Weintraub's tales into a breezy first-person narrative."—Rick Warner, Bloomberg News

"It reads at times like a screenplay: a rags-to-riches tale complete with stunning reversals of fortune, punchy dialogue, and star cameos galore . . . Even the lows are enviable."—Nathaniel Rich, VANITY FAIR

"Jerry has made a fascinating career for himself by finding ways to put on a show and sell tickets at the door. Jerry has bloomed wherever he's been planted. His life has put him in the company of greats like Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, The Rat Pack, Robert Altman, and Steven Soderbergh, to name a few. Jerry's story chronicles his journey that involved a lot of improvising, love, and of course, luck. This story isn't just for music or movie lovers, or entrepreneurs....it's for everyone. So, pick up your copy of When I Stop Talking, You'll Know I'm Dead by Jerry Weintraub... If there was a Mount Rushmore of legendary show business figures, he'd be one of them."—Don Imus

"When I Stop Talking is anything but a rote, let-the-record-show memoir . . . Although it's packed with stories he's surely been telling at dinner forever, the book is also a modest set of guidelines for how you too can be a successful mogul . . . it's written with stealth and style, doubtless shaped by his co-writer, Rich Cohen . . . The book, really, is a performance, a monologue by a guy comfortable hanging with Armand Hammer at Leonid Brezhnev's funeral or with Joey Bishop at a deli. It's a show based on horse pucky on braggadocio."—RJ Smith, LA Times

"This is a guy who can tell a story. And boy does he have stories to tell."—People Magazine

"Weintraub knows a thing or two about placing bets. And his latest venture sounds like a sure thing-an autobiography, pithily titled When I Stop Talking, You'll Know I'm Dead: Useful Stories from a Persuasive Man . . . [it's] a gripping personal story."—Entertainment Weekly

"Old chestnuts from this journey are lovingly, and often hilariously, burnished in Weintraub's new memoir, When I Stop Talking, You'll Know I'm Dead . . . The book, which is in no way a scandalous, showbiz tell-all, but a good-humored, and often self-deprecating romp of outrageous will and amazing fortune, also paints a picture of uncanny bliss."—Nicole LaPorte, The Daily Beast

Publishers Weekly - Library Journal
Hollywood power player Weintraub, now 72, is always in control and goes to great lengths to prove it: besides having managed musical legends like Presley, Sinatra and John Denver ("I cooked him from scratch"), Weintraub once closed a deal by faking a heart attack, and won the respect of one of Chicago's most powerful men, Arthur Wirtz, when he cursed Wirtz out for making him wait (Wirtz would go on to become one of Weintraub's mentors). Weintraub's also produced plays, TV shows, movies (from Nashville to the Ocean's 11 franchise), and more, summing up his talent simply: "When I believe in something, it's going to get done." Edgy and honest but refreshingly spare in his criticism of stars, colleagues and family, Weintraub can be forgiven for glossing over speed bumps in his career (one failed business lost $30 million before it closed in the mid-'80s) and occasionally showing his age with wandering rumination. As Weintraub repeatedly states, he is not a star, which perhaps that explains the disappointing omission of photos. Still, with a bold voice, a storied career, and a cast of superstars, his memoir makes a rousing insider tour of some five decades in the entertainment industry.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
George Clooney
"Now, I could tell you stories about Jerry, but
Jerry is the first and best to tell them. He's funny and grumpy and perfectly inappropriate. When it comes to work, nobody works harder.
When it comes to charities, nobody guilts better. And when it comes to friendship, he has no peers. That's Jerry's great talent. He doesn't just light up a room, he lights it on fire. He's a great producer, a great organizer, a great friend, and truly the greatest showman on earth."
Elliott Gould
"He's somebody from another age."
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780446548168
  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
  • Publication date: 3/23/2011
  • Pages: 304
  • Sales rank: 196,231
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Jerry Weintraub has spent more than five decades in show business, in the process earning a reputation as one of the savviest negotiators, smartest producers, and shrewdest film investors of our time. He has been praised and honored for his philanthropic work and, as UNICEF's Man of the Year, was presented the organization's Danny Kaye Humanitarian Award.

Rich Cohen, a contributing editor at Vanity Fair and Rolling Stone, is the author of five books, including the bestsellers Tough Jews, The Avengers, and Israel Is Real. He lives in Connecticut with his wife, his dog, and many masculine children.

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Table of Contents

Introduction xi

The Star of Ardaban 1

The Red Jacket 15

Everything but the Girl 23

Because I Wouldn't Wear Tights 29

Stay Off the WATS Line 37

Being P. T. Barnum 49

Fun with Jane 61

All the King's Men 73

Old Blue Eyes 99

Firing Ferguson 117

Jerry Weintraub Presents 129

The Grand Master 151

The Death of the King 159

Making Movies 163

Family 171

The Producer 179

Leaving on a Jet Plane 197

Knowing Which Calls to Return 203

Arm and Hammer 213

The Peanut Farmer 229

Dancing with the Rebbe 235

If You Find Something You Love, Keep Doing It 243

Playing Myself 249

A Ride in the Hills 253

Farewell to Sam and Rose 261

Oceans 267

Acknowledgments 271

Curriculum Vitae 279

About the Authors 281

Index 283

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First Chapter

When I Stop Talking, You'll Know I'm Dead

Useful Stories from a Persuasive Man
By Weintraub, Jerry

Twelve

Copyright © 2010 Weintraub, Jerry
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780446548151

The Star of Ardaban

I have a philosophy of life, but I don’t live by it and never could practice it. Now, at seventy-two, I realize every minute doing one thing is a minute not doing something else, every choice is another choice not made, another path grown over and lost. If asked my philosophy, it would be simply this: Savor life, don’t press too hard, don’t worry too much. Or as the old-timers say, “Enjoy.” But, as I said, I never could live by this philosophy and was, in fact, out working, hustling, trading, scheming, and making a buck as soon as I was old enough to leave my parents’ house.

When I was ten, Robert Mitchum was arrested in the coldwater flat across the street from our apartment in the Bronx. I remember Robert Mitchum as the husky, sleepy-eyed actor who played all those noirish roles that told you there was something not so squeaky clean in Bing Crosby’s America, but Mitchum got those parts only after the arrest, in which he was caught in bed with two girls in the middle of the day smoking dope. No small scandal. In those days, merely staying in bed till 9:00 A.M. was considered suspicious. It would have been the end of his career if not for some genius movie producer who realized all that public disgust could be harnessed by repackaging the actor into a dark, interesting, complicated character.

When the story broke, the parents in my neighborhood went wild. The schanda! This matinee idol picks our block to engage in his immorality? The yentas went up and down the street, wailing. One of the mothers on Jerome Avenue grabbed me by the collar and said, “Jerry, you’re the younger generation, an American boy, what do you think of this actor with his chippies and his Mexican cigarette?”

I smiled with my hand out, because I had just made a delivery and was waiting for a tip. “I’ll never see another one of his movies,” I told her. “He has shamed not just our neighborhood, but all of the Bronx.”

Then, to tease her, I said, “And did you hear? He’s Jewish!”

“No! It can’t be, you’re joking.”

“No joke. My brother Melvyn says they pulled tefillin and a prayer book out of that dirty little room.”

“Oh, God, I’m going to faint!”

“Not yet,” I said, waving my hand. And the purse came out, followed by a few well-circulated nickels.

Of course, I wasn’t really disgusted by Robert Mitchum’s behavior. I was awed. What did I think? I applauded the man. In bed with two women in the middle of the day? That’s the dream! That’s Hollywood!

I was born in Brooklyn, raised in the Bronx. When people ask where I’m from, I always say Brooklyn, though I spent only my earliest years in the borough. Brooklyn because when you hear the Bronx you think baseball, vacant lots, tenement fires, whereas, when you hear Brooklyn, you think guys. In my oldest memories, I am on the street, with a roving pack of kids. We hung out beneath the Jerome Avenue El, where the shadows made complicated patterns. The sidewalks were lined with Irish and Italian bars. On my way to school, I would see the drunks at their stools, having their first shots of the day. We stayed out there for hours, talking about what we wanted. We played stickball and stoopball, the Spalding bounding off the third step of the brownstone, arcing against the beams of the elevated. When a train went by, it rained sparks. If you listened to us, you would not have understood half of it, everything being in nicknames, slang, and code. My brother Melvyn was (and is) my best friend, two years younger, not a resentful bone in his body, though he had to pay for my sins in school: Mel Weintraub? Jerry’s brother? You sit in back and keep your mouth shut.

The neighborhood was bounded by big roads to the south and the Hudson River to the west, with a distant view of the Palisades. Manhattan was just a twenty-minute subway ride, but a light-year, away. At night, when the IRT train went over Jerome Avenue, its windows aglow, I dreamed of going to the city. I was impatient to see the world. Now and then, tired of gray days in the classroom, I cut school and instead caught a train to Times Square, where I sat through two features and a floor show at the Roxy or the Paramount or one of the other grand show palaces. The velvet curtains, the plush aisles, the stars and stage sets and glamour—this is where I fell in love with movies. Back to Bataan with Robert Taylor; Pursued with Robert Mitchum; Here Comes Mr. Jordan with Robert Montgomery; Fort Apache with John Wayne; The Beautiful Blonde from Bashful Bend with Betty Grable, with that body and those legs, each insured for a million dollars by Lloyd’s of London. This was not a theater; it was a synagogue. Everything I wanted was up on the screen.

There is nothing better than coming out of a movie on a summer night when the sun is still in the sky. I would take the train back to 174th Street and wander through the neighborhood, past the Chinese laundry, druggist, newsstand, smoke shop, deli, with scenes from the movie flickering in my mind—gun battles, chases, immortal bits of dialogue. I’ll get you, you dirty rat. I would toss off my coat as I came in the door, overwhelmed by the smells from the kitchen, where my mother was cooking one of her great Eastern European dishes. It gave me so much, just knowing she was back there, at home, worrying and waiting; a sense of security; a sense that the world has order, and will continue tomorrow as it is today.

When I was very young, we lived in an apartment house at 47 Featherbed Lane. Later, when my father made some money, we moved to a place on the Grand Concourse. Once a month, the landlord drove up in his Cadillac to collect the rent. There were very few cars on the streets in those days, the causeways and lanes being left to hooligans and mothers and rollicking kids. Which made the arrival of the landlord, this scary man in the long black car, as dramatic as a scene in a movie. I mean, there we were, out playing ball, when all of a sudden, here it comes, shiny and metallic black, a block long, with the landlord inside. He was a German and spoke with an accent. We could see him through the glass, with his account books and change purse, puffed up with this huge, godly ability to collect and reject and toss you out of your house. He may have been the nicest man in the world, but we feared him. At the first glint of his grille, we ran into our homes and hid under our beds.

We lived on the second floor because my mother was afraid of heights. I spent hours on the fire escape watching the traffic, the people in the street. I had relatives all over the neighborhood. I used to lie awake after bedtime, listening to my uncles tell stories about the legendary gonifs and bootleggers who ran the Bronx long ago. I had one grandfather who was a communist. He used to stand on a soap box in Union Square decrying the fat cats and was arrested once a week. I had another grandfather who was a union organizer. He wore a suit and a tie and smoked a cigar. All my relatives talked all the time but it was always the same story: the old country, the crossing, the struggle, the dream.

My mother’s name was Rose. She had reddish-brown hair and looked Irish. (I used to tell people my real name was O’Hara, that Weintraub had been invented for business purposes.) She grew up in Brooklyn, where she had been as cloistered as any of the nuns at St. Mary’s. I don’t think she had been anywhere or done anything before she met my father. Like a lot of the Jewish women of that era, she went straight from the house of her parents to the house of her husband. The first time she ate a lobster—I remember my father bringing the forbidden sea monsters into the house—she tried to crack the shell and sent a claw sailing across the room. What did she care about delicacies? Protecting us, keeping us from the suffering of the world, that was her task. She did not want us to know about the existence of hospitals, let alone mortuaries. If I had a relative who suddenly stopped coming to the apartment and I asked, “Where is Uncle Dave?” She would say, “Dave went on a trip.” Then, three years would go by and I would ask, “What happened to Uncle Dave?” And she’d say, “Oh, Uncle Dave died years ago.”

She was a beautiful woman, with all the magical powers we boys attribute to our mothers: She was always there, watching and praising, supporting, loving, beaming. She was parochial, scared of a lot of things, but fought through her fear for our sake. She was afraid of heights, as I said. She was also afraid of cars, airplanes, restaurants, basically the whole world beyond New York City. Her struggle—the battle between her fear and her desire to raise sons who were without fear—was dramatized on a trip we took out West, when my father decided we should take the tourist train to the top of Pike’s Peak in Colorado. We got our tickets, took our seats, and around and around we went, up Jacob’s Ladder to heaven. My mother was smiling and nodding the entire way, but her knuckles were white and tears streamed down her face. It said something about human will, or about a mother’s love, or maybe it was really about the stubbornness of my father, who said, “We’re doing this, and that is all there is to it.”

His name was Samuel, and he was the perfect match for my mother. Where she was parochial and nervous (most comfortable inside the apartment), he was worldly and sophisticated (most comfortable out in the world). He was a salesman, and had been on the road since he was fourteen. She worked as a secretary in his office. He had crossed the country a half dozen times before they met, had friends in dozens of states, was welcomed everywhere he went. He used to return from trips with stories and souvenirs. Postcards, trinkets, tchotchkes—the romance of these things lingered in the apartment. If I caused him trouble later on, if I banged into him while trying to get free—and believe me, I was a big, mischievous pain in the ass—my father can blame himself. He was the one who filled me with dreams of the greater world. I simply wanted to see what he had seen.

My father was in the jewelry business. He bought and sold gems. Following years of struggle, he started to do okay after World War II, when refugees began to arrive from Europe, many with a stash of jewels they needed to sell. My father began as a kind of middleman, but ultimately built a thriving business.

I remember him leaving for India, Paris, Ceylon. He would hunt the markets and bazaars for rubies, sapphires, diamonds. He had a beautiful suitcase and was a fantastic packer, shirts and pants folded into special compartments, pockets for papers, pockets for notebooks and cigars. He would hug Melvyn before he left, then say, “Take care of them, Jerry. You’re the man of the house now.”

When I was eight years old, my father returned from a trip with the largest star sapphire in the world. It was a piece of junk, picked up from a secondhand dealer. He polished it, then did something that made an impression on me. He named it. He called it “The Star of Ardaban.” Why give a name to this old piece of nothing? Because it’s not the gem a person buys. It’s the story behind the gem. It’s the romance. He had a special case made for the Star of Ardaban, the sort of case you might carry handcuffed to your wrist. He took a trip, traveling with the Star of Ardaban across the country. In each town, he was met at the train station by armed guards, a Brinks truck, and a local reporter. A few days later, after the story appeared in the local paper, he would invite all the jewelers to his hotel room to look at the Star of Ardaban. Then, as they were examining the Star of Ardaban, he was selling them everything else in his jewelry case. At the end of the tour, he donated the Star to the Smithsonian. It’s there to this day.

This is a Bible story in my family, a foundational myth—it explains everything you need to know about my father’s business and about my own. Though he was selling rubies and sapphires and I am selling Clooney, Pitt, and Damon, the trick is the same: packaging. You might have the greatest talent in the world, but it doesn’t matter if you can’t sell it. Am I Richard Rodgers, Stephen Sondheim, Saul Bellow, Ernest Hemingway? No. I can’t write a novel. I can’t write a play. I can’t write a song. But I can help the artist get that book or song or play noticed by the public. And that’s packaging. When you dig through all the craziness of my life, you’ll see that I’m just a guy from the Bronx who knows how to attract a crowd. I can get people to notice the sapphire, so it’s not lying in a cellar where it might be found in a hundred years, long after the man who mined it has died. That is my talent. If I had been around with Van Gogh or Melville, they would not have had to wait so long for fame.

When I was nine, my father took us to California. He wanted to show me and my brother the world outside the Bronx, and he wanted my mother to see Hollywood. She was crazy for the movies, one of those ladies you would see in an empty theater on the Grand Concourse, a box of tissues on her lap, weeping. (She named my brother not after some long-lost shtetl-dwelling ancestor but for one of her favorite actors, Melvyn Douglas, a star of Captains Courageous.) We loaded up the car and crossed the George Washington Bridge into America. Route 22 to 15, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Illinois. I pressed my face to the window, watching the towns go by. We slept in motels, ate in diners, visited tourist traps. I saw cowboys, horses, and distant peaks white in the smoky freight-yard dawn. I was a baby but already felt the pull of forces greater than myself, older even than my grandparents, a feeling that is with me even when I am alone. We stopped in Las Vegas. This was soon after the war. The town was nothing, a desert nowhere in which midcentury hoodlums were sketching plans for palaces. I would later spend much of my life there, with Elvis, Sinatra, the Colonel, put on so many shows and ink so many deals, and here I was, years earlier, ghosting through this nothing place. I was a child and Vegas was a child, but we would grow up, and meet again.

We arrived in LA at dawn. My father was driving, window open, sleeves rolled back. “Jerry, wake up—you’re gonna want to see this.” I opened my eyes as we came over the hill. I could see the buildings of downtown, the hills behind them, the ocean behind that. The light was so pure it was white, catching the tops of the towers, which glowed in the sun. It would be great if you could preserve the first vision of a place that would become important to you, but later experience gets tangled up with memory until what came later changes what came before. You can never really save anything. We stayed in the Roosevelt Hotel on Hollywood Boulevard, across from Grauman’s Chinese Theater, where the stars have their hand and footprints in cement. I spent an afternoon there, measuring myself against Humphrey Bogart, Jimmy Stewart, Gregory Peck, all of whom, for whatever reason, had surprisingly small feet.

About three years ago, after Ocean’s Thirteen premiered, the people who run Grauman’s said they wanted the stars of the film—Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, George Clooney—to put their prints in the cement. Clooney said, “Look, we’ll do it, but Jerry has to do it, too.” As a rule, Grauman’s only honors actors, but they really wanted these guys, so they relented. As I was putting my hands in the cement, I looked up and saw the very window in the Roosevelt Hotel from which, all those years ago, I had looked out at Hollywood. While I was thinking about this—how strange to return to the same place, only now on the other side of the glass—I noticed the men next to me, my friends, were laughing.

A few days earlier, Clooney had called Pitt and Damon and said, “You know how when you go to Grauman’s the footprints always look so small? Well, you don’t want a kid out there, years from now, saying, ‘Oh, God, look at Brad Pitt and Matt Damon—they had baby feet!’ Tell you what. I’ll pick us up size fourteen shoes, three pairs. Jerry? Oh, well, let’s not mention it to Jerry.” So these friends of mine have clown shoes, while I’m the guy with the tiny feet on the walk of fame. And you know what they say about small feet.

My father drove us all over LA. One night, we waited in front of a spot on Sunset Boulevard where the stars showed themselves. I think it was Ciro’s. You have to understand what it was like back then. There were few cars on Sunset, no high-rises. It was still woods and wilderness, cactus fronds from the last joint all the way to the ocean. Beverly Hills was a country town. The clubs on Sunset sat in the middle of all that wilderness like a string of pearls. This was before TV, before anything. It was olden times, when the studio bosses, in need of publicity, would scheme their way into the news, which usually meant dressing their stars in finery and sending them, in matching couples, before the flashbulbs along the red carpets of Sunset.

So we stood in front of Ciro’s, with the sun going down. The cars rolled up and the stars walked the carpet, frozen in the light of the flash, pop, pop, pop. The door opened and I caught a glimpse of smoke and swells and bubbles, a look inside the genie bottle. (I thought I had died and gone to heaven.) Standing out there, on the wrong side of the rope, seeing the stars disappear into the velvet interior—well, if that doesn’t make you ambitious, nothing will.

I remember Joan Crawford coming out with her head down, throwing her arms up, turning it on, slipping into her car, a boat of a thing. There was a boyfriend, but she was driving. I remember Mickey Cohen, too, the gangster who ran the underworld. He was a pug of a guy, rough looking but shedding more wattage than any of the film stars. Mickey was shot soon after. (He recovered.) My father showed me the story in the paper. As I read the story, I imagined the strutting strongman, grinning in the paparazzi flash. That was Hollywood to me—starlets and gangsters, glamour and menace and a snubnose .38 going blam blam blam.

There was a guy named Delmer Daves, a fascinating guy, a movie guy, a writer and director and producer, who started in the business as a prop boy on a silent called Covered Wagon. I won’t go into tremendous detail about Delmer Daves, except to say he was a Stanford-educated lawyer, lived with the Hopi Indians, made a half dozen classic films, and was interested in jewelry, which is how he came to know my father. When he heard we were in LA, he invited us to lunch at the Fox studio. I remember the day vividly. Driving to the gate, the guard checking the list for “Weintraub,” the thrill of being on that list, our name among the names of actors and movie people. The lot was a hubbub of activity—these were the days of the old studio system, when everything important happened on those few acres. It was a circus, with extras in cowboy hats and chaps and conquistador helmets and spurs, starlets in gowns, cameras and microphones and the machinery of show business. And the sets, little glimpses of Paris and New York, alleys and stoops rebuilt to the smallest detail—the street lamp, the park bench, the window from which your mother calls—so perfect beneath the clean, Pacific sky.

We ate in the commissary. Daves talked with my father. Everywhere I looked, I saw stars. At one table, Betty Grable was in costume, killing time as the cameras were moved for the next shot. She wore a sheer dress, and, of course, my eyes went straight to those beautiful legs. She was eating a sandwich, drinking a soda. I could not take my eyes off her. As she was eating and drinking, and as I was watching, she belched. It might sound like nothing, but to me it came as an epiphany. Those beautiful legs. And she belched! It upset me, and elated me, too. It meant these big stars were just people, normal human beings. It meant I could live here someday, be one of them. I told Betty Grable about this years later, that my career was made possible by her belch—I don’t think it thrilled her. She smiled and said, “Well, Jerry, I’m glad I could help.”

My father took us to Beverly Hills so we could see where the movie stars lived. It was nothing then, just a sleepy little town, as I said, filled with mom-and-pop stores. We went through the roads above Sunset Boulevard, where mansions clung to the cliffs. In my memory, every house is midcentury Spanish with porticos and overlooks and guest cabanas and side porches where the desert wind blows through the Joshua trees and cypress. I live in one of these houses now. I’ve had it remodeled, but you can still see the bones of old Beverly Hills. (Imagine a madcap silent screen star wandering in the halls, getting drunk on champagne, wrecking her coupe then calling the studio head to keep it out of the papers.) I bought it in the early 1970s, in a moment of success. It is just the sort of place I imagined an old-time studio great might live, Harry Cohn, David O. Selznick, or Irving Thalberg. It’s where I’m writing these pages, telling these stories, each on its own an anecdote, but together the life of the kid with a dream looking back when the dream has come true.

I graduated from P.S. 70 a few weeks before the trip, and had brought along my autograph book, which is what we had instead of a yearbook. I waved it at every celebrity I met—on the carpet at Ciro’s, on the Fox Lot, in Beverly Hills. I carried it to the doors of several mansions. Just walked right up and rang the bell. (If you tried this today, you’d be “neutralized,” a burlap sack would be thrown over your head and you’d be hurried off to a secret location.) I still have that old autograph book. It’s like something from another age, small, green, filled with signatures—some from teachers, some from classmates, some from movie stars. Carmen Miranda, Bette Davis, Paul Douglas, each of whom added a few words of encouragement. “Keep going, Jerry!” “You’ll make it, Jerry!” “You’ll be great, Jerry!” Years later, when I met some of these people again, I showed them the book. And they laughed. Betty Grable wanted to take a pen and add, “You’re welcome for the belch, Jerry.” I told her not to do it. You really shouldn’t tamper with a historical document.



Continues...

Excerpted from When I Stop Talking, You'll Know I'm Dead by Weintraub, Jerry Copyright © 2010 by Weintraub, Jerry. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Customer Reviews

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 77 Customer Reviews
  • Posted July 26, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Interesting Anecdotes

    It's hard to see how anyone can give this book a five star review. There is nothing special about the writing, and nothing particularly illuminating about the man. It's a collection of anecdotes, yes, mostly interesting ones, apparently dictated for a writer to put in book form. If you give 5 stars to this, you leave no room for the better books, well-crafted by good authors, who take us to new places and discover new ways to communicate universal truths and ideas. An enjoyable book does not necessarily mean 4 or 5 stars.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 15, 2010

    Good light read

    When I Stop Talking, You'll Know I'm Dead by Jerry Weintraub and Rich Cohen is fun easy reading. I picked up the book at Barnes and Nobel after hearing Jerry Wientraub on PBS radio. Jerry comes across as a wheeler dealer salesman who is quick, funny and good hearted. The book consists of stories from his years managing big name musicians and making films. The stories insight into a man who often lies, but with the best intentions. You can't help but like this man, even though he is a trickster! I laughed out loud at times.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 16, 2010

    What a fabulous Conversation....

    The story is told as if you are caught in an elevator with a man who begins to tell his story and you are hoping the elevator does not get fixed. A glimpse into the world of entertainment that is inspirational. There are moments when you sweat because Weintraub is making firm deals on yet to be formulated ideas. Other moments when you hear the pop of the champagne and feel the joyful celebration and taste the bubbly. A comfortable, enjoyable read. I kept putting it down because I did not want it to end. And it doesn't.....Weintraub is still making deals ! Can't wait to hear the rest of his story!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 15, 2013

    I read this autobiography in between two 700 page tomes to get s

    I read this autobiography in between two 700 page tomes to get some ligher fare - but was so happy I picked it up when looking for another non-fiction book to read. If this life story of a completely self made man who turned his dreams into reality don't inspire you - you're dead. I find it absurd that people offering comments below this found book boring/uninteresting. Jerry Weintraub should be a role model for anyone in life who maybe wasn't handed a silver spoon but still wanted to pursue greatness. His entire life was one miracle after the next which were mostly created by hard work, determination and an uncanny ability to not listen to the word "no". Kudos to him and all the people he touched along the way - the measure of a man is did he leave the world a better place than when he was born - in this case the answer is a resounding yes. Get this book and enjoy his many fascinating stories of a life filled wothout fear.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 11, 2013

    Best biography I've ever read. If you want to know the real ins

    Best biography I've ever read. If you want to know the real inside story of the man behind the many others like George and Elvis then this is the best kept hollywood entertainment secret.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 4, 2012

    This was a pretty good book and had a good collection of stories

    This was a pretty good book and had a good collection of stories that Weintraub has collected over his years in the entertainment business. Nothing very in depth and the last 50 pages are just lists of people he has worked with & productions he has been involved with. An interesting look into the entertainment business although it never gets very deep into any part of it. Guess I was hoping for a bit more than this.

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  • Posted January 29, 2011

    Excellent read

    Well written and very entertaining. This book is hard to put down.

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  • Posted October 22, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Cool insider's report: Promoter Jerry Weintraub recalls his star-filled career

    Jerry Weintraub loves Jerry Weintraub and believes that Jerry Weintraub has led a fascinating life. As a result, Jerry Weintraub loves to tell stories about Jerry Weintraub. Here, Jerry Weintraub tells a lot of them, about promoting stars and making deals. Most are quite short. Many are compelling. Weintraub dispenses show business gossip, Mafia talk, family tales, accounts of rock music and movie excesses, and instructions for a successful career in promoting, agenting, managing and producing, all of which he carried out with astonishing success. getAbstract recommends Weintraub's insider yarns and finds that mostly what Weintraub presents is his joy at being Weintraub. That this delight remains for the most part charming underscores a continuing theme: His charm allowed Weintraub to pull off career moves few others would have dared.

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  • Posted October 22, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Was more like having a conversation than listening to a book.

    A review copy of this book was provided by Hachette Audio.

    I liked this book. I had heard the name Jerry Weintraub before but I never really knew who he was. After hearing all of the things he has accomplished in his life I now realized that I've probably heard his name a million times but since he's not the star of anything I've never really paid that much attention to who he was.

    This book is like sitting with your grandfather listening to the stories of his life and taking in all the advice he has to give. It was very enlightening. Jerry never really had a formal education, he just had the mindset that if he wanted something he was going to get it. His entire life he made things happen for himself, weather he was "prepared" for them or not. I wish I would have kept a pen and paper near by while listening to this one as there were so many nuggets that I can't even begin to remember them all.

    I think this without realizing it this book has started to make subtle changes in my life. Since I've finished this I've had a bit more of a positive outlook and have been stepping outside my comfort zone to get things accomplished. Jerry says throughout the book that if a kid from the Bronx can do it... And while I don't think being from the Bronx is a detriment in life I do get what Jerry is trying to say. That he's nothing special, he's just another person, and if he can accomplish these things there is no reason that anyone else wouldn't be able to reach their goals.

    What I really liked was that Jerry has such a great sense of humor. There were so many times in this one where he was able to laugh at himself. Even though he is a millionaire and has worked with Sinatra, Elvis, John Denver, Bob Dylan, Led Zeppelin, Brad Pitt, and so many others he gives off the feel that he is a truly humble person.

    As I first started listening to this book I thought Jerry's voice would get a bit irritating, but the longer I listened the more I was endeared to Jerry because of his voice. I know it was his story, but he read the book like he was just sitting down and having a conversation. You could hear the emotion in his voice as he talked about the moments that really changed his life. He made a great narrator.

    I really liked this book. It made me want to meet Jerry. And I keep calling him Jerry because after spending 8 hours with him and his life story I feel like I know him. I feel like if I were to be given the chance to speak with him it would be like catching up with a long lost friend.

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  • Posted July 13, 2010

    Enjoyable book and a quick read

    I really liked his book - it told his story but didn't go into overbearing detail - great stories and you'll walk away with a good overview of his life - he touched on topics such as his drug use; unique marriage but didn't dwell too much on either. I thought it was very well done and well written.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 22, 2010

    Fantastic!

    What a wonderful life he has had. It was very funny interesting and kept me reading!

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  • Posted May 16, 2010

    This is an amazing book by an extremely intelligent man>

    This man is a genius. Every second of this book was enjoyable. His writing was so fluid that I felt like I was listening to him tell me his life story instead of me reading it. His life is ridiculously interesting and you can't help to think how it's possible to know/be friends with so many people that us "common people" could only imagine. I'm surprised that with all the things that he has accomplished in life he isn't more egotistical. Because he doesn't come off as a person who thinks he's better than everyone else, the book is more enjoyable to read because you don't feel animosity towards him or his accomplishments.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 15, 2010

    Entertaining book

    From start to finish, Jerry Weintraub weaves a fun, insightful and entertaining web of stories from his early start to the present.

    From his days on the road with Elvis and The Colonel, to his work on the Oceans' movies, this book was a fun read start to finish.

    There really wasn't a dull story in the batch. My only wish was maybe a little more detail on some of the stories behind the stories - but that's just me. The pace was quick, light and I got through it on one flight and layover.

    Anybody that likes history of the entertainment industry and likes stories from the people that shaped portions of that history will enjoy this book.

    I feel Jerry has some more webs to weave and hopefully author will become the latest chapter in this fascinating individual's life.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 15, 2010

    very entertaining

    It was a very difficult book to put down. Jerry Weintraub is a very interesting guy. He knows & has known all the greats. Through it all he has kept his prospective & sense of humor. I would highly recommmend this book.

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  • Posted May 8, 2010

    Gave it as a gift and he read it without stopping

    Loved the stories - whether they are all true is not important. You knew all the names and that made it lots of fun and made you think you had some inside information. Lots of humor. I know this because he felt compelled to read half of it to me as he was reading!!

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  • Posted May 5, 2010

    POOLSIDE READING

    Interesting for it's celebrity content but little else. Jerry Weintraub is a successful talent and he is well aware of it. Imagine having all that money, celebrity ands two beautiful women who love him. He must be doing something right. Helen Morgan is a treasure. I'm sure that there are thousands of men who would love to have her on their arm while Jerry is canoodling with his girlfriend....me included.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 5, 2010

    Enjoyable reading!

    Weintraub describes this as a book that reads more like a conversation over drinks on a lazy Sunday afternoon and I couldn't agree more. A very simple narration of a very extraordinary life. Would have never known that so much in the entertainment industry is attritable to or somehow touched by this man. I thought it was very good read.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 12, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted June 21, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted April 10, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

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