From veteran Hollywood coauthor Rensin (Tim Allen’s Don’t Stand Too Close to a Naked Man, 1994, etc.), an oral history of a crucial Tinseltown institution, related by some folks who make Machiavelli look like a pussycat.
Since the day they filmed The Squaw Man, the only way to become an agent, with all the appurtenant expense account rights and backstage privileges, was to start in the mailroom wearing a 36-short suit. Of course, you had to have a close relative in the industry. Now, to be a suit to the stars, any size suit (or even a dress) will do. Nepotism, though, is still a good thing. Oppressive work conditions have continued at William Morris, MCA, ICA, CCA, Intertalent, and wherever else the new guys dream of delivering scripts to naked actresses. (A few are lucky; others encounter Charles Grodin in boxer shorts.) Drive Mrs. Lastfogel, steam open the mail, fill a theater seat and the agent’s fountain pen, eavesdrop on every phone call, get coffee, score drugs, squirm until you get everything right, and you may earn access to the Hillcrest and the best clubs on both coasts. It’s all part of the training program Rensin’s schmoozing, spritzing interviewees went through, working their way from dispatch to assistant’s desks and eventually becoming agents in the Nightclub, Band, Variety, TV Guest, or Literary departments—or quitting. The talk is fast and frank. One agent is characterized as “a prick of pricks,” another as “a pompous prick and petty despot.” A thought for another: “May he rot in hell.” Mailroom alumni include Wally Amos, David Geffen, Barry Diller, and The Great Ovitz, often confused with The Great Oz. Entertainment industry junkies may enjoy taking an armchair meeting with these people—no stepping into Ovitz’s Guccis, but no fear of getting fired either.
Edgy, frenetic, and entertaining reports from the room that launched a thousand deals.