Variety senior editor Hofler (The Man Who Invented Rock Hudson: The Pretty Boys and Dirty Deals of Henry Willson, 2005, etc.) presents the gaudy career of flamboyant Hollywood and Broadway producer Allan Carr (1937–1999), a strong contender for the most tasteless tyro in show business.
Caftan-clad, morbidly obese and publicly gay in an era when, even in the entertainment industry, flaunting one’s homosexuality was still very much taboo, Carr cut a curious figure among the beautiful people of Hollywood. He cultivated an outrageous public persona and marshaled his gifts for promotion to create a series of extravagantly themed parties that brought together old-school Hollywood royalty, rock musicians and the gay demimonde in sybaritic soirees with names like “The Mick Jagger Cycle Sluts Party.” The parties were hits, but as a producer, Carr’s record was rather mixed. His sensibilities synched up perfectly with the stage musical Grease, and he shepherded the massively successful film adaptation in 1978. Lightning struck again with his Broadway musical adaptation of the French farce La Cage aux Folles (1983), a long-running hit that also broke boundaries in bringing its gay subject matter to a mainstream theater audience. But Carr’s debit column is a doozy, containing the legendarily tacky and inept Village People vehicle Can’t Stop the Music (1980) and gauche cinematic non-events Grease 2 (1982) and Where the Boys are ’84. Most damning, though, was the 1989 Academy Awards broadcast, a fiasco of epic proportions that reached its nadir with a tone-deaf Rob Lowe warbling “Proud Mary” to Snow White. The Oscars telecast effectively ended Carr’s career, and the ailing producer retreated to his pleasure palace of a house and succumbed to his chronic health problems, ultimately dying of liver cancer. Does this tawdry legacy warrant a book? That’s debatable, but Hofler delivers a hell of a tour of Hollywood egotism, crassness and gross excess. Carr would have approved.
Fast-paced, funny and occasionally horrifying portrait of a compulsive personality and the culture of excess that both created and destroyed him.