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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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.