A lively and colorful biography of Hollywood's first superagent - one of the most outrageous showbiz characters of the 1960s and 1970s, whose clients included Barbra Streisand, Ryan O'Neal, Faye Dunaway, Michael Caine, and Candice Bergen.
Before Sue Mengers hit the scene in the mid-1960s, talent agents remained quietly in the background. But staying in the background was not possible for Mengers. Irrepressible and loaded with chutzpah, she became a driving force of Creative Management Associates (which later became ICM), handling the era's preeminent stars. A true original with a gift for making the biggest stars in Hollywood listen to hard truths about their careers and personal lives, Mengers became a force to be reckoned with. Her salesmanship never stopped. In 1979 she was on a plane that was commandeered by a hijacker who wanted Charlton Heston to deliver a message on television. Mengers was incensed, wondering why the hijacker wanted Heston when she could get him Barbra Streisand. Acclaimed biographer Brian Kellow spins an irresistible tale, exhaustively researched and filled with anecdotes about and interviews more than 200 show-business luminaries. A riveting biography of a powerful woman that charts show business as it evolved from New York City in the 1950s through Hollywood in the early 1980s, Can I Go Now? will mesmerize anyone who loves cinema's most fruitful period.
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A little long.
Sue Mengers: The Life of a Miserable Person
Nope: This book portrays a woman who lacked genuine friends, was coarse and aggressive, sweet only in order to get what she wanted (speaking in a baby voice, no less), and had no artistic imagination or appreciation. The book portrays Sue Mengers that way in the first hour and that's how she remains throughout her life. Her nickname was Mengele: that should give you a sense of how coarse and humorless she actually was. She wasn't at all political and didn't appreciate how momentous the times were in which she lived. She was fixed in a top-down vision of what Hollywood was all about, and kept foisting the same bland, supposedly A-list actors (Burt Reynolds??) into bland movies at a time when the whole world seemed to be opening up to a more creative approach. Most of the movies she was involved with were boring and forgettable; occasionally she lucked into a great movie when she happened to sign one of her clients onto a great picture, as she did with Faye Dunaway and Chinatown. But that was unusual for her.This book explains why agents are loathed and distrusted by actors, studio heads and other agents. It doesn't explain what made Sue Mengers a great agent, if indeed she was.
The only reason I listened to this from beginning to end is that I love books in this genre: Peter Biskind's books; You'll Never Eat Lunch in This Town Again; Bob Evans' memoir. I love the insider stories and learning more about how great movies are made. And Sue Mengers was legendary. She might have been awful but there must have been something special about her awfulness and I expected this book to reveal what it was. The result is that I have no idea why anyone would want to have anything to do with her. She had no interest in finding new talent, only in bagging the A list actors, and didn't seem to appreciate great innovative film making when it was going on around her. The book also doesn't capture Sue Mengers or any of the homes or other characters with physical details. One exception is a ghastly anecdote about her showing up to a meeting not wearing underwear and perching unattractively on her chair to reveal as much. That detail makes the book sound juicier than it actually is. But the anecdote does provide a vivid image and reveals how coarse, chutzpah-y and self-involved she was. If there had been other telling details like that, even if less juicy, the book would have been far more successful.
The narration was clear but her accent was a bit plummy. No reader should have to rely only on herself, though, and the producers let her down by not informing her that Jacqueline Bissett is an English actress, not French! Unfortunately Suzanne Toren read all Bissett's lines with a French accent. Not only that, her French and English accents were peculiar. Audiobook producers should try to find other ways for readers to handle foreign accents if they can't pull them off -- somehow just suggest the accents rather than actually try to speak in them.Publishers and writers: make sure the producers of your audio books do their due diligence! This happens so frequently and spoils a read. People who like an audio book tell their friends who then go buy the "real" book -- so invest in quality productions! I had the feeling towards the end of the book, too, that Suzanne Toren felt very exasperated with the nasty Sue Mengers. Perhaps the writer did, too. But that might have been my own thoughts projected on the narrator!
No, please don't.
I am still trying to figure out why I hung in there to the bitter end. Perhaps to see how bitter the end would actually be? I probably gave too many stars to the book but that's in part because I feel sorry for the writer. He probably didn't realize how unappealing his biography subject was until he had used up the publisher's advance and had to keep on chugging! Must say, he made Tuesday Weld sound truly fascinating and worth getting to know, so I will find out more about her, thanks to this book!
- Jenny Jenkins