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BILLY ROSE: Manhattan Primitive by Earl Conrad

BILLY ROSE: Manhattan Primitive


Pub Date: Jan. 15th, 1967
Publisher: World

Billy Rose always a publicity hound, would nevertheless roll over in his gilded mausoleum at this biography which portrays him as a ruthless plagiarist, pusher, hustler; a calculating opportunist of ""unparalleled nerve,"" who dominated in ""the world of grab and hold that was, in the last analysis, his central ethic."" Certainly there are few good words here from any of his acquaintances including ex-wife Fanny Brice who labelled him ""the most evil man I have ever known."" But Billy, as the author maintains, is a peculiarly American product and his very interesting life story is an exercise in unethical ingenuity. A high school drop-out, he nevertheless parlayed a geniusfor shorthand into a post at the side of Bernard Baruch during the war years in Washington where he watched power at work; something he was to keep in mind when he took over Tin Pan Alley. Next he made lucrative arrangements with the mobs during the Prohibition Era, operating estaplushments like the Back Stage Club which started Helen Morgan. He reached his heights with extravaganzas such as Jumbo, which filled the Hippodrome, and the Aquacade, biggest splash at the world's fair. By now he was known as the ""Bantam Barnum of Broadway."" Yet his unhappy personal life (once tagged ""the War of the Roses"") and his genius for making enemies left him at the last, a defiant, pathetic loner. A ""Bantam"" Broadway epic.