Synopses & Reviews
InWhen Hollywood Had a King,the distinguished journalist Connie Bruck tells the sweeping story of MCA and its brilliant leader, a man who transformed the entertainment industry businessman, politician, tactician, and visionary Lew Wasserman. The Music Corporation of America was founded in Chicago in 1924 by Dr. Jules Stein, an ophthalmologist with a gift for booking bands. Twelve years later, Stein moved his operations west to Beverly Hills and hired Lew Wasserman. From his meager beginnings as a movie-theater usher in Cleveland, Wasserman ultimately ascended to the post of president of MCA, and the company became the most powerful force in Hollywood, regarded with a mixture of fear and awe. In his signature black suit and black knit tie, Was-serman took Hollywood by storm. He shifted the balance of power from the studioswhich had seven-year contractual strangleholds on the starsto the talent, who became profit partners. When an antitrust suit forced MCA's evolution from talent agency to film- and television-production company, it was Wasserman who parlayed the control of a wide variety of entertainment and media products into a new type of Hollywood power base. There was only Washington left to conquer, and conquer it Wasserman did, quietly brokering alliances with Democratic and Republican administrations alike. That Wasserman's reach extended from the underworld to the White House only added to his mystique. Among his friends were Teamster boss Jimmy Hoffa, mob lawyer Sidney Korshak, and gangster Moe Dalitzalong with Presidents Johnson, Clinton, and especially Reagan, who enjoyed a particularly close and mutually beneficial relationship with Wasserman. He was equally intimate with Hollywood royalty, from Bette Davis and Jimmy Stewart to Steven Spielberg, who began his career at MCA and once described Wasserman's eyeglasses as looking like two giant movie screens. The history of MCA is really the history of a revolution. Lew Wasserman ushered in the Hollywood we know today. He is the link between the old-school moguls with their ironclad studio contracts and the new industry defined by multimedia conglomerates, power agents, multimillionaire actors, and profit sharing. In the hands of Connie Bruck, the story of Lew Wasserman's rise to power takes on an almost Shakespearean scope.When Hollywood Had a Kingreveals the industry's greatest untold story: how a stealthy, enterprising power broker became, for a time, Tinseltown's absolute monarch.
"Much more than a celebrity-studded tale, Bruck's work offers a look at the corporate machinations behind the film industry's myths." Publishers Weekly
"[An] absolutely riveting account of power-broking in Tinseltown...the most revealing look at the business of Hollywood since Robert Evans." Booklist
"A monumental piece of work, stuffed to the gills with both clean and dirty secrets" Kirkus Reviews
"He helped me become president, he helped me stay president, he helped me be a better president." Bill Clinton
"At a time when the general image of business executives is not sterling, Lew Wasserman is the gold standard." Barry Diller
"I'm a very simple man." Lew Wasserman, to President Lyndon Baines Johnson
Includes bibliographical references (p. 483-494) and index.
In the hands of Bruck, the story of Lew Wasserman's rise to power takes on an almost Shakespearean scope. "When Hollywood Had a King" will finally tell the industry's greatest untold story: how a stealthy, enterprising power broker became, for a time, Tinseltown's absolute monarch.
About the Author
Connie Bruck has been a staff writer at The New Yorker since 1989; she frequently writes about business and politics. In 1996, her profile of Newt Gingrich won the National Magazine Award for reporting, her second. Bruck is the author of Master of the Game and The Predators' Ball. She lives in Los Angeles.