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The Operator: David Geffen Builds, Buys, and Sells the New Hollywood Paperback – Jun 2001

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Product details

  • Paperback: 688 pages
  • Publisher: Broadway Books; 1 Reprint edition (Jun. 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0767907574
  • ISBN-13: 978-0767907576
  • Product Dimensions: 14.5 x 3.8 x 22.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 197,760 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Fantastic book! Such a Machiavellan like character. His ambition and character might not be for everyone but for the ambitious type there is a lot to learn from David Geffen.
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By Richard McAneney on 25 Jan. 2015
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Received14th january
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 61 reviews
35 of 38 people found the following review helpful
A Spectacular Portrait of a Frightening Time 20 Mar. 2000
By Michael Crowley - Published on
Format: Hardcover
"The Operator" makes for compelling reading. King has done a tremendous job of capturing a frightening time in Hollywood, and showing readers what made it so frightening. This book is not just about Geffen but about all the lives he touched, helped and often ruined. Some of the icons of the 80s and 90s figure powerfully into this story--The Eagles, Neil Young, Michael Eisner, Spielberg, Katzenberg and Nirvana.
King's portrait of a man who was not afraid to burn bridges, betray his mentors, and ingratiate himself with people he loathed is a classic tale of the lonely but powerful maverick who has great skills but also severe character flaws. The tragedy of Geffen is that there is much to admire in this man, but it is impossible to overlook the pain he caused so many people who were apparently loyal to him.
The book is balanced; I understand why Geffen is upset by the book but I think an objective reader comes away with equal measures of fear and respect for the man. In a sense I think King has done Geffen a favor by allowing readers a glimpse of the human component behind the wealth and power. There is no excuse for some of the things Geffen has done, but there is a reason: without psychoanalyzing Geffen, King manages to infer a climate, and provide contour to this man's psyche, that would permit a successful man to behave, at times, with such impunity and disregard for the well being of others. The question at the core of this existential puzzle is: Why would a self-made man with everything do more harm than good? In this book Spielberg is portrayed as a man at the opposite end of the spectrum: a man who is grateful for his success, indebted to the people who helped him achieve it, satisfied with the money he has made, and eager to give something in return.
The richer Geffen became, the more good he did, but it is confounding that he hurt so many people in the process, not because they offended him personally but because they sought to be as good at dealmaking as he was. Geffen's most disturbing trait as relayed in this book is his willingness to sabotage the careers of others by manufacturing toxic and unfounded rumors. What is touching is that Geffen seems at points to realize that his best traits are undermined by his worst traits--greed and a vengeful spirit--but seems at a loss to change his behavior. There is a move towards redemption in the final portion of this book, but it is hard to gauge its sincerity.
King is a spectacular journalist and I hope he writes more biographies. My only criticisms are that 1) the last fifth of this long book is the weakest portion, not owing to King's prose but simply to the fact that that Geffen's life became less interesting after he sold Geffen, and 2) the book feels as if large sections of the manuscript were omitted, perhaps for legal or length reasons. I would love to see what King left on the cutting room floor.
The story of David Geffen is not yet finished and, like Michael Milken, his third act could be a spectacular feat of personal redemption. I think this book sits alongside "Wired," "Outrageous Conduct" and "High Concept" as a truly important book about a watershed but ultimately frightening period for Hollywood.
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
What Makes David Run? 3 Sept. 2002
By sweetmolly - Published on
Format: Paperback
This excellent biography well researched and beautifully written has but one flaw: the subject. David Geffen is so contradictory, no matter how much information about him is amassed; we are still baffled. In keeping with the rest of his personality, I understand this book was "partially" authorized. That is, when Mr. King began the project, DG was forthcoming and enthusiastic, only to totally reverse himself later on and be bitterly opposed to the undertaking.
David Geffen is a poster boy for ADD. He is frenetically active, but with a remarkably short attention span. He disliked school because it wasted his time. He can be a caring friend or an implacable enemy. He can be embarrassing intimate with almost complete strangers, yet distant as a north star toward his own family. He has lived a gay promiscuous life, yet fell hard for Cher and wanted to marry her. Easy going Cher recognized him as a "controller" and walked away. He shows great generosity personally and publicly; yet hasn't a qualm about financially ruining friend and foe alike for a perceived slight, and sometimes just for the hell of it.
No matter how much you thank your lucky stars that you never, ever have to do business with David Geffen, you cannot help but be awestruck at his genius as a businessman, visualizer and strategist. He is beyond compare, and in spite of Mr. King's admirable dissecting of various business deals, it is impossible to follow Geffen's leap of ideas and creativity to make things happen.
In spite of David Geffen's striving for the most money, the best deal, and the top of the financial ladder, I would not call him a materialistic man. Unfortunately for him, he doesn't feel an emotional bond to his beautiful artwork and homes. Name him a good price and he will sell it to you--as is. He has never had a sustained relationship, and now going on his 60th year, he has everything but someone to leave it to.
"The Operator" is a meticulous undertaking, and Mr. King has an easy writing style that is very balanced toward his multi-sided subject. I will look for other books by this author. A very enjoyable read.
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
One Way UP 25 Mar. 2000
By Tony Scafide,Tony Scafide - Published on
Format: Hardcover
I found King to be an intelligent and thorough writer. His writing keeps you glued to the page with anecdotes and suggested images to fill in the gaps. Direct writing with good facts makes this book a must read for anyone in the music and entertainment business.
Geffen is a legend who has not yet peaked. His struggle with his class background and achievement is on par with people such as Andrew Carnegie, and Cornelius Vanderbilt. To dismiss Geffen as a cheap opportunist and a hustler would be missing the point of this man's life and King's book.
The story is compelling, the facts are clear, and Geffen is still in the press. Love him or hate him, if you don't know about the man, you can't know about the entertainment business. Right on "KING DAVID".
19 of 23 people found the following review helpful
"The Operator" left a nagging dial tone buzzing in my ear. 11 Mar. 2000
By Development Executive - Published on
Format: Hardcover
If you're reading this book and it's never been your displeasure to navigate the rather circuitous studio system, you may find the offensive aspects of Mr. Geffen's behavior far too repugnant to appreciate the good aspects of his character. The reason you'll feel this way is because in every hood but Hollywood, loyalty, honesty and trustworthiness are valued, if not expected traits. If you automatically assume that these traits don't exist in your world, however, you're not offended when someone lacks them. It's like the pseudo-look-of-shock that a Pit Bull owner exhibits when his dog has just devoured his neighbor living in the trailer next to Hollywood, people only pretend to be shocked or offended so they can suborn sympathy and, if they're lucky, indebtedness.
What I found most curious about this story was not that Mr. Geffen was such a shrewd and savvy operator--which he is--but that so many around him weren't. Of course, that might be because some of the notables he hangs with, such as Speilberg and Katzenberg, are those rare exceptions; trustworthy and successful all at the same time. Let's face it, the people who gravitate toward Hollywood in their early twenties--which includes virtually everyone in town--rarely have what it takes to play hardball for something other than money...I'm talking real stakes like keeping a roof over your family's head or possibly getting dead. I just read an amazing and powerful book called "Inside Job: Deep Undercover as a Corporate Spy," and came to the sobering realization that me and my pals in Hollywood wouldn't survive out there if the competition didn't live in the 902-- zip code.. But then again, who wants to...this job's a freakin' blast, baby! If you want a balanced perspective, I suggest you read both books...especially if you're working in a place that begins at 10:00 AM and that uses such veracious expressions as "Here's the bad version," which means "I have no idea what I'm talking about," or "We already have a competing project," which translates, "We're stealing your idea, you unrepresented schmuck."
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Mogul Mania 20 Sept. 2000
By "electrontom" - Published on
Format: Hardcover
This is one of the better biographies around, whether or not you end up liking David Geffen (aka "the prince of pain"). It is full of great inside stories about legendary artists of the music business...Phil Spector, Dylan, the Band, Cher, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, Jackson Browne, the Eagles, Laura Nyro, Joni Mitchell, Linda Ronstadt, John Lennon, George Michael, Donna Summer etc., etc. King keeps the narrative flowing, and he provides plenty of authentic detail without ever falling into the biographer's trap of being too academic. Of course Geffen is a very interesting subject...having powered his way to the very top of the entertainment business through sheer drive and cunning...and without having the "golden ear" or creative judgement of his competitors. The stories about his interaction with(and abuse of)fellow moguls like Ovitz, Eisner, Ross, and Davis were jawdropping. I found myself shaking my head at the deals he cut, for example talking Steve Ross into giving him back his music label for free after Ross had bankrolled he whole thing! But don't get the impression that The Operator is all about The Dark Side of fact King balances the book nicely by reporting on the many philanthropic and other positive projects in Geffen's life. All in all, a very entertaining read, and well worth having on your shelf, especially if you're fascinated by the entertainment industry.
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