A post-mortem of Hollywood’s lawless decade, rife with lawsuits, debauchery and some of the world’s worst films.
Books about Hollywood come in lots of guises. Stadiem’s (co-author: Dear Senator: A Memoir by the Daughter of Strom Thurmond, 2009, etc.) combines the dual drawbacks of dull subjects and sketchy research. Usually, the author ghostwrites or co-authors autobiographies of the flamboyant (e.g., George Hamilton) or those smallest players who walked in the shadows of stars like Frank Sinatra and Marilyn Monroe. Here, the author mines every scrap of Hollywood gossip he gathered about the 1980s, situating the book as an in-depth investigation of the narcissism, greed and competition that created such movies as Flashdance and Howard the Duck. Instead, Stadiem delivers a high-pitched, mildly personal screed against the industry’s power players and mind-numbing stories about lawyers to the stars. Will readers care that Jeffrey Katzenberg wouldn’t shake the author’s hand or that Jon Peters started his career as a pubic-hair colorist? Is it revealing that one of the book’s key subjects is infamous madam Alex Adams, whose autobiography was co-written by Stadiem? The author does make the occasional salient point. “One of the hardest realities that an aspiring screenwriter had to adjust to in the 1980s was that your target reader must be not Pauline Kael, but rather P.T. Barnum. Or Caligula,” he writes. “Your target reader was not a reader. Therein lay the great paradox of Hollywood creativity, intrinsic to the foundation of the movies themselves.” Otherwise, the same old stories are all here: Don Simpson’s coke, Eddie Murphy’s vanity, Michael Ovitz’s ambition and the tracksuits of Golan and Globus.
A dull, gossipy rendering of days past, bereft of candor or narrative verve.