Brutal honesty from a Hollywood insider. Now, that’s something to celebrate. Brillstein’s memoir, an exercise in narcissism, is filled with clichés, abounds in shameless name-dropping, and dishes dirt sanctimoniously—but it is nonetheless delightful. The longtime movie-star manager, whose clients over the years included Jim Henson, Jim Belushi, and most of the comics associated with the heyday of Saturday Night Live, writes this tell-all from the perspective of retirement. Interspersed with his history are wonderfully quirky asides from today—moody ruminations on being too old and unhip to compete in the present market. Brillstein’s company is currently run by his protégé, Brad Grey, and it handles most of the top comic talent in the country. Brillstein’s account of how he got to that zenith is a haphazard tale that is often hilarious. He was a fat kid from a crazy New York Jewish family connected to the vaudeville world. He started in the mail room at the William Morris agency and worked his way up, ever so slowly, until he hit the big time in the 1970s. As much as he is overblown about his own talents as a go-getter, he is self-deprecating about his social skills and weakness for women and gambling. The tone is colloquial, rife with curse words, and often prone to rants about those who Brillstein thinks have wronged him, such as agent Mike Ovitz. Brillstein’s narrative is at its most ineffective when he tries to rationalize how he handled Belushi’s drug problem. It takes a lot of hemming and hawing to come to the conclusion that he probably couldn’t have done anything to prevent the man’s death. The author is at his best when describing the loving and supportive relationship he had with Henson. Brillstein rightly stops short of taking credit for anything his clients did while under his protection, but any man who made it possible for Kermit to come to life has got to be worth some attention. (16 pages photos)

Pub Date: Nov. 3, 1999

ISBN: 0-316-11885-0

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1999


The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006



Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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