The book begins with author Chip Jacobs’ boyhood memories of a tyrannical mogul, his Uncle Gordon, whom he’d despised. When a Southern California brush fire destroys a family heirloom, it also uncovers secrets Jacobs hadn’t known -- about his big-shot uncle and the family. The up-and-coming newspaper reporter side-steps his career to investigate his shadowy predecessors. Along the way, he uncovers family murders hidden for 50 years, the gritty ambitions of his grandfather and uncles who made and lost fortunes in early movies and TV, the unappreciated heroism of his discarded grandmother, and, the hitherto unspoken story of his own mother’s forsaken ambitions, silently lost, as well, to Uncle Gordon’s recklessness.
If the old saw holds that behind every successful man there is a woman, it is triply true for every successful victim of spinal chord injury. Jacobs started out to tell the tale of Gordon’s rise from helpless invalid to fast-talking, Hollywood player, and found another story behind it: the unseen saga of the mother, sister, and wife who got Gordon there, and at what price to themselves.
Set in the rough and tumble world of Ed Wood Jr.'s B-movie Hollywood and the brash free-for-all of early network television, author Jacobs takes the reader behind the scenes of hit series from Wild Bill Hickok to Gentle Ben and Woody Woodpecker. It was a world filled with characters behind-the-camera who were even more outlandish than those in front of it, and Jacobs brings them back to life in all their wise-cracking, hi-jinx-loving zest. None were more outrageous than the twisted man in a wheelchair: Gordon Zahler and his overworked entourage of family and friends.
|Publisher:||First Person PR|
|Product dimensions:||6.30(w) x 8.98(h) x 0.81(d)|
What People are Saying About This
"Readers looking for a glamorous Hollywood story or a tale of gentle uplift should be warned: This is not that book. Instead, Chip Jacobs has written something far better."
author of MY VIETNAM
"This amazing book is all heart."
author of EVE DIAMOND mystery series
"The raw courage and almost unbelievable stamina of Gordon Zahler - abetted by both love and luck - turns this irresistible biography into a page turner."
author of BOB HOPE: A LIFE IN COMEDY
"FDR's body and Sammy Glick's brain? No, but close - and better. Mon Oncle d'Amerique has nothing on Chip Jacobs' Mon Oncle d'Hollywood, the picaresque, quadriplegic Gordon, who is at least as good a story as anything he helped to put on film."
award-winning columnist, commentator and author of RIO L.A.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
It is unusual to find an unlikely protagonist such as Gordon Zahler, Chip Jacobs didn¿t have far to dig for this character, Uncle Gordon was always a topic of conversation at family gatherings. Now Chip introduces Gordon to the rest of us. He was a complex and inspiring character. Go Chip!
¿Wheeler-Dealer¿ is a wonderful and cavorting tale about Gordon Zahler, the most unlikely of Hollywood players. His boyhood foreshadowed the rip-roaring life this soon-to-be quadriplegic would live. Every stop sign said ¿go.¿ Every warning sign signaled an opportunity for a fresh surge of adrenaline. Then a gymnastics accident broke his neck at age 14. The prognosis was death. But Zahler was both too stubborn to die and too stubborn to let the wheelchair that would become his life-long attachment keep him from living with the fullness he considered his birthright. Cut off from the sense and pleasure of the rest of his body, Gordon Zahler lived entirely within the confines of his head. With little to do but think, wheelchair-bound Zahler rolled into Hollywood on the strength of his father¿s considerable collection of musical compositions. After several fits and starts, he eventually broke into Tinseltown in earnest, parlaying his father¿s musical collection into business relationships with the likes of horror-movie director Ed Wood. Intoxicated by his success, Zahler wanted more influence, riches and notoriety. In time he built the most active post-production movie and TV house in Hollywood. He and wife Judy¿s traveled the world and hosted cocktail parties attended by the A-list likes of Sidney Sheldon, Jerry Lewis and Nat King Cole. He also dreamt up many harebrained schemes that belly-flopped or never got off the ground. Not all of these recollections are endearing. Zahler was a skinflint, paying his people miserly wages even as his own fortunes piled up. His parsimony ultimately drove away devoted longtime employees. Even those who handled Zahler¿s most basic human functions were subjected to his volcanic temper. That included his demanding and acidic treatment of his care-giving mother. ¿Wheeler-Dealer¿ also deals with family bonds, broken loyalties, cold-blooded murders and lost fortunes, right up to its heartbreaking finish. Author Chip Jacobs, Gordon Zahler¿s nephew, bares his insecurities regarding his own membership in a chromosomal lineage that gave rise to his eccentric uncle and a retarded brother ¿ even writing of his own accidental entrée into the world. This is the book Jacobs vowed he was never going to write, despite his mother¿s exhortations. Uncle Gordon¿s dying days were a freak show to the young Jacobs, making him about the most unsavory character he could imagine chronicling. Then the 1993 fire that swept the Altadena hills above Los Angeles turned a key Zahler family heirloom to ashes. Three years later, Jacobs covered the Malibu Canyon fire for the Daily News of Los Angeles and had an epiphany in its aftermath. A confluence of timing and events set his own imagination ablaze with the recognition of just how improbable and amazing a life his Uncle Gordon had led. The family lore was captured in newspaper clipping, oral histories, police records and legal documents that attested to the stamp Gordon Zahler put on Hollywood and the people around him. First-time author Chip Jacobs tends to over-throttle the language in the first 25 pages, but the book quickly settles into solid storytelling with remarkable and engaging scenes, punctuated with endless bursts of energetic and artistic wordplay. I¿m already looking forward to this author¿s next book, which will tackle the history of smog. There is a hot new pistol in the publishing industry, and its name is Chip Jacobs.
But in Chip Jacobs' inner search the outcome is one of courage and inspiration. Jacobs uncovers the true story of how his quadriplegic Uncle used smoke and mirrors to turn a shrivled up life into the greatest show on earth. In 1941, the subject of this sizzling novel, Gordon Zahler a 14 year old boy living the Hollywood dream, son of a film composer with nothing but blue skies ahead, takes a swan dive off a piece of gym equipment and breaks his neck, paralyzing him for life - or what's now been predicted to be left of it. The entire Zahler family gets swallowed whole by this tragedy, losing their life savings, marriages and dreams. Living on borrowed time, their home lost and not a penny left, the young Zahler, Uncle Gordon, reads an article in the Hollywood Reporter that loads of new television shows need music and lots of it. Gordon's father, now passed on, was once a well respected film composer. The rights to all that music have reverted to Zahler's mother - his new business partner. With help from friends that never left Gordon's side, Zahler starts a licensing company. Rarely leaving his tiny office, for fear word would leak out that the owners of the fastest growing music publishing and licensing company in Hollywood, the company supplying music for Ed Wood's 'Plan 9...,' hit television shows of that time, like 'Tarzan' and 'Gentle Ben,' were a gimp and an old woman, Zahler did his business by phone. And what a business it was - within five years the Zahler fortunes had turned. Sure Gordon was a quadriplegic and sure every year the doctors told him time was running out, but you'd never know it by listening to him. This man took his never-ending dreams and turned them to reality - a beautiful wife, home in the Hollywood Hills, movie-star pals... You name it, Gordon Zahler got it. Ironic then, that this tale of triumph was born from a dark seed. Author Chip Jacobs gets started on this geniology of sorts, by a jab from his mother, Gordon's sister. As it turns out, Jacobs couldn't stand his uncle - associating everything with him to the smell of hospitals, decay and eventual death. Jacobs was a hot-shot journalist on his own journey. He didn't want to dust off old tales about his crippled Uncle - wildly rich and unconventionally successful, or not but his mom persisted. And so, dutifully, the author dug in. And just like any great journalist, what he uncovered was enough dirt to tell a hundred Hollywood tales - murder, extortion, cover-ups, infidelities, all with the backdrop of Tinsel Town. Jacobs continued to dig and found more - he found that through all the strife and struggle there was a family history being created with a through-line made of grit, courage, intelligence and integrity. Unsure of his stock, before the adventure of writing this novel began, it becomes perfectly clear that the author finds his place and his family by the end of this epic story. It made me laugh, cry and wonder how I could accomplish so little with all my appendages in perfect working order. It also gave me hope that if you want something badly enough and are willing to overcome every obstacle to get it, no matter the size, the dream will be yours. It was Gordon Zahler's and he passed it on to his nephew, author Chip Jacobs, through the ink and paper that built this book. It's a marvelous yarn - the type movies hit movies are made of... a man against all odds... I loved it. I hope others pick it up and are as equally awed and inspired to 'live life while ya got it..'
``Wheeler Dealer'' is about the strangest Hollywood kingpin you'll ever meet. The main character is Gordon Zahler -- a man who overcomes disability to win wealth and fame in the Darwinian circles of movies and television. It is also full of other amazing characters, including the tragic tale of a great composer who compromises himself to make ends meet. On top, it has one of the most compelling commentaries on the burden of motherhood I have ever read. One of the things you will like about this book is that it is brash and daring. Each chapter begins with a natural storyteller's confidence. You won't put it down. The author, Chip Jacobs, displays a historian's careful attention to detail and a journalist's knack for separating fact from fiction. That's another reason this book works. If you enjoy books about survival, the challenge of confronting family history or stories set in Los Angeles, this book is for you. And, for anyone who has ever dreamed of conquering Hollywood or been inspired by someone above the challenge of disability, this is also a must read. An avid reader of new titles, I think ``Wheeler-Dealer, the Rip-Roaring Adventures of My Uncle Gordon, a Quadriplegic in Hollywood'' is the best non-fiction book published so far this year. It sets the bar high, and flies above the rest.