SWIFTY by Irving Lazar

SWIFTY

My Life and Good Times
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KIRKUS REVIEW

 Fast-talking, name-dropping, and skin-deep posthumous memoirs, from the superagent and Oscar party host. Raised in a Yiddish-speaking household in Brooklyn, pint-size Lazar developed street smarts, fastidious grooming habits, and a voracious urge for success. A Brooklyn Law School classmate offered a way into MCA, the talent agency, and before long Lazar was booking bands into hotels and nightclubs and mastering the guerrilla salesmanship that fueled the business. In 1942 he enlisted and soon was producing a huge-deal Air Force benefit. He introduced himself to Moss Hart in a bar and finagled him into writing and directing Winged Victory, which garnered rave reviews- -and a high profile for Lazar. In 1947 Lazar opened his own Hollywood agency, specializing in playwrights from the Northeast. Describing himself as a ``pushy outsider,'' Lazar badgered his friends for introductions, picked up checks in restaurants, and assiduously buddied up to the talented and famous. His no-holds- barred business tactics included setting unprecedented prices, selling properties that he didn't represent, and unloading plays he deemed marked for failure onto unwitting producers before they opened and flopped. Anecdotes from his social life include accounts of catching his neighbor Frank Sinatra shooting a BB gun at portraits of Ava Gardner, of his role in Lauren Bacall's breakup with Sinatra, and of Humphrey Bogart's alcohol-induced bad behavior. Collaborator Tapert's clear-eyed epilogue stands in pronounced counterpoint to Lazar's breathless litany of aspiration and achievement: She recounts his emotional breakdown after the death of his wife and the isolation of his final year. Gossip and blow-by-blows of negotiating bouts offer tasty hors d'oeuvres, but those seeking introspection or insight into the relationship of old Hollywood to new will come away from this showy buffet still hungry. (75 b&w photos, not seen)

Pub Date: March 1st, 1995
ISBN: 0-684-80418-2
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15th, 1994