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Tom Brook Monday, 13 March, 2000, 10:07 GMT
Geffen biography stirs Tinseltown
 Steven Spielberg, Jeffrey Katzenberg and David Geffen
Business partners: Spielberg, Katzenberg and Geffen
By BBC News Online Entertainment Correspondent Tom Brook

At the corner of Sunset Boulevard and Doheny Drive in West Hollywood a huge billboard proclaims David Geffen Is The Operator.

It is a bold advertisement, in the midst of a neighbourhood that used to house David Geffen's headquarters, for a scalding new biography of one of America's biggest media moguls.

The eagerly awaited book, which is called The Operator: David Geffen Builds, Buys and Sells The New Hollywood, has already been published in the UK under a slightly different title, but it only went on sale in America this week.
Tom King
King's book set to be a bestseller
It is the first major biography of the 57-year-old billionaire, a founding partner of DreamWorks SKG, which produces films, TV shows, books, games and toys.

Dreamworks' films include one of this year's Oscar's favourites, American Beauty, as well as the 1998 blockbuster Saving Private Ryan.

From an impoverished childhood in Brooklyn he has become one of the richest men in America.

Geffen has moved between movies, music and theatre, where he has worked as agent, promoter, and manager to some of the biggest names in the business - everyone from Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell to John Lennon, Tom Cruise and Elton John.

At Book Soup, a small West Hollywood book shop heavily patronised by the movie industry, 215 copies of the biography were sold within two days of its publication.

Erik Johnson, who works at the store, says: "That's very impressive, I can't think of the last book that sold that many, it's huge. I think people are wanting to see if they're in it, if they're mentioned".

Warts and all

The heavyweight tome by Wall Street entertainment reporter Tom King chronicles many of Geffen's bitter showbusiness battles and it paints a none too pretty portrait of a man often willing to destroy a friendship in pursuit of a business deal.
David Geffen
The Operator depicts Geffen's temper
Public interest in the book has been piqued by reports that Geffen is fuming over its publication.

Geffen stopped cooperating with Tom King halfway through his research, because he felt that the author was compiling a salacious tell-all book rather than his stated plan to write a serious biography.

The book has had Tinseltown in a state of extreme anticipation, and its impending publication received attention in serious newspapers and some magazines.

Influential

But several American TV entertainment shows, which normally cover Hollywood ad nauseum, have hardly mentioned the biography, which perhaps attests to the enormous influence Geffen still holds over an industry where many are scared to do anything that might provoke his wrath.

His furious temper is legendary and amply documented in the book.

To many Americans the biography serves as an indictment of Hollywood's shark-infested ways, rather than Geffen himself.

But Geffen's carefully crafted campaign to destroy his friendship with a record company chief to secure a negotiating advantage by humiliating his wife has brought particular pangs of disgust.

The book has also generated interest because it reveals Geffen's close relationship with President Clinton, who has turned to him for advice on handling the media.
David Geffen
Geffen rose to fame out of Brooklyn
King even reveals how Geffen, who is openly gay, once took a boyfriend, Todd Mulzet, to an Oval Office meeting where the president sought his counsel on spinning the media.

Geffen left the session grinning and turned to Mulzet and - according to the book - said "I did that for you", implying that he had given the president advice largely to impress his partner.

Although the book depicts Geffen in harsh terms, it does show that he has been an extremely generous philanthropist and a loving friend.

Steven Spielberg, who has been disappointed by Geffen's behaviour in the past, rallied to his defence telling the Los Angeles Times: "He knows so much about people and how and why they behave that his personal counsel feels almost parental".

Geffen has reportedly told friends that cooperating on the book was one of the worst mistakes of his life.

But he is such a master at spinning the media that it is quite possible, despite protestations to the contrary, that he doesn't really mind all the negative publicity that the book is generating.

Although it paints an unflattering portrait, the biography does serve to further mythologise an American media giant - and that perhaps is exactly what Geffen wants.

See also:

02 Jul 99 | Entertainment
20 May 99 | The Company File
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