Books by Jefferson Graham

AARON SPELLING by Aaron Spelling
BIOGRAPHY & MEMOIR
Released: Aug. 1, 1996

From The Mod Squad to Dynasty to Melrose Place, the world's most prolific producer tells his story, anecdote by anecdote by anecdote. If you sat down right now to watch every hour of the TV shows and movies that Aaron Spelling has produced, it would be a full 125 days later before you were finished. This is assuming, of course, that the human mind could safely survive such an extended dose of Spelling's wares: the endless parade of beautiful vixens and roguish millionaires, hipster PIs and ripe teenyboppers, pervasive pap and ubiquitous fluff. To his credit, Spelling is a modest man. He makes few grand claims for his oeuvre beyond that of entertainment (with an occasional gesture toward social consciousness). As you might expect from his shows, his own story goes from rags to riches. Fleeing pogroms, his parents ended up in Dallas, where the young Spelling struggled with anti-Semitic bullying and the shame of poverty. Books and movies were his only friends, and like many poor Jews of his generation, he believed that the entertainment industry offered a front-row ticket to success. Acting led to directing, which led to writing, then finally to producing. It was here that Spelling found his forte as he, along with various partners, produced an almost uninterrupted string of long-running hits. (It doesn't take a Freudian to realize that pervasive themes of many of these shows—wish-fulfillment, escapism, social acceptance—have strong autobiographical connections.) While Spelling (with USA Today TV reporter Graham) tells a lot of great showbiz stories, he dishes little dirt. In fact, he has almost nothing unkind to say about anyone. Problem actors, double-dealing executives, obstreperous writers—all are treated with a rare tact and courtliness. Perhaps, sometimes, nice guys don't finish last. Professionally done, with many enjoyable moments, but not quite an Emmy-winning performance. (16 pages b&w photos, not seen) Read full book review >
THE SALESMAN OF THE CENTURY by Ron Popeil
BIOGRAPHY & MEMOIR
Released: Oct. 13, 1995

This autobiography of the inventor and pitchman of Mr. Microphone and the Ronco Electric Food Dehydrator has virtually nothing to say, and its amusing moments are primarily of the laughing-at rather than laughing-with variety. A familiar face to most American TV viewers, Popeil has experienced a fascinating series of triumphs and setbacks on his way to becoming the king of the hucksters. Employing a mix of chutzpah and charisma, he has peddled an unbelievable assortment of cockamamie contraptions to the tune of $1 billion in sales. This should have been a good book. The products themselvesfrom the smokeless ashtray to GLH Formula #9 (spray-on hair)have all the comic impact of an old Honeymooners episode. And Popeil's rise from poverty-stricken peddler on Chicago's Maxwell Street to prolific inventor and dashing infomercial host packs a powerful Runyonesque punch. But this telling of the saga (despite the help of USA Today TV columnist Graham) is so disorganized and badly written that any sparks are quickly extinguished. The choppy, declarative style allows only for a catalog of ``this happened, then that happened,'' with absolutely no introspection. To be sure, there are funny moments (Popeil's brother hawks wise in Woolworth's: ``You want one and the lady wants one in the rear. . . ``), and Popeil is endearingly impervious to the fact that many consider his wares the epitome of junk. But wait, there's more! By the time the book descends into its second part, in which Popeil shares with budding entrepreneurs such intimate ``Key Points'' as ``Shop around and get several bids,'' clever readers will have put it down in favor of the Home Shopping Network. Don't add this to the list of useless whatchamacallits that Popeil has already bamboozled you into obtaining. (b&w photos, not seen) Read full book review >