Hollywood always prefers its fiction a clef, so if there's a vaguely gossipy quality to Dangerous Company, Peter Bart's collection of interrelated short stories, that just means the author knows his target demo.
Unless Bart, editor in chief of Variety and author of several books about the movie biz (The Gross; Shoot Out; etc.), plans to put out a companion volume of "Light Tales," the 13 interconnected stories in this entertaining, cutting collection will stand as consummate cautionary tales about why not to work in Hollywood. Many of the men and women Bart observes here with a clear eye are venal and vain, nearly monstrous but for the foibles, frailties and pettinesses that reveal their deep, flawed humanity. The connective tissue is provided in the first story, "The Founder," in which a real estate agent explains how she transformed a neglected residential corner of Hollywood into Starlight Terrace; the following tales feature residents of that gated community, and two of the stories bring many of them together for neighborhood association meetings. In the longest entry, "The Ghostwriter," a young female William Morris agent learns that the new screenplay by her up-and-coming writer was in fact penned by his arrogant father, who plans to use the son as his face for youth-obsessed Hollywood; the agent decides to endorse the deception. In the next tale, "The Makeover," a 52-year-old actress whose visage has been frozen by Botox injections is about to lose a starring gig until her manager proves that she can still emote by driving her into a towering rage and videotaping her fit. And so it goes, as Tinseltown types maneuver, backstab, manipulate and cajole, some with compassion, many not, in stories that are brisk, smartly told, penetrating and, at times, clever enough to seduce the reader into schadenfreude, as in "Power Play," in which an Ovitz-like entrepreneur gets his comeuppance. Bart knows Hollywood like nobody's business, and he exposes it here in all its glorious bizarreness. (Nov. 26) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
In this collection of interconnected tales, Bart, editor in chief of moviedom's bible, Variety, chronicles events in the fictional hilltop enclave of Starlight Terrace, Los Angeles. The homeowners' association is a who's who of actors, attorneys, producers, directors, financiers, and agents, and the stories serve as a microcosm of their tightly linked, roller-coaster lives. Included are a surreal screenwriting scandal, a mysterious late-night filming on the gated drive, a dark secret surrounding questionable adoptions, an agent's painful attempt to reveal his homosexuality, and a death reminiscent of Sunset Boulevard. Bart's job has, no doubt, provided him with rich material. Following recent works by other Hollywood insiders (e.g., Robert Cort's Action! and Steven Bochco's Death by Hollywood), this book should appeal to audiences eager for Tinseltown tell-alls. Recommended for popular fiction collections.-Susan Clifford Braun, Aerospace Corp., El Segundo, CA Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Variety editor Bart's first foray into self-identified fiction is a cycle of stories featuring the residents and hangers-on at Hollywood's fashionable Starlight Terrace. "This is Hollywood . . . everything's a little on the bogus side," says Zsa Zsa Gabor-inspired realtor Evan Vaine, n�e Vajna, inventor and promoter of Starlight Terrace. And indeed nothing could be more bogus than the screenwriting talents of Sidney Garman, the former golden child who's fronting for a surprising collaborator, or the Botox-inhibited facial expressions of Denise Turley, whose 52-year-old face has lost more than its lines in her latest desperate bid for a role. Todd Plover, coming out to the production company he serves as co-president, is greeted by sympathy as shallow as it is widespread; Tom Patch, the heartthrob who's trying to bury his dread approach to the big Four-O by flirting with still another flight attendant, is ludicrously insincere; a son of Middle America gets a trendy ethnic makeover only to be rejected as "too ethnic"; and every drink scalawag agent Justin Braun shares with his ex-partner only sinks him deeper into trouble. Occasionally, Bart touches deeper chords, as with the conflicted censor determined to take an indiscreet shot out of an indie film that moved her or the two adopted teens who share more than a sex life and a congenital medical problem. For the most part, though, he hugs the surface so resolutely that the stories' main hook is their teasing intimation of real-world models from Kevin Costner to Lew Wasserman. Only "Hard Bargain," in which a producer's theft of a down-and-out film doctor's lover conceals a twist dangerous to all hands, stands on its own as a successfulstory. Proof that truth must indeed be stranger than fiction, since tales like these, for all their brisk, sad veneer, couldn't stand on their own for a minute without the tabloid promise of real-life prototypes.