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The Mailroom: Hollywood History from the Bottom Up Paperback – 1 Feb 2004


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Product Description

Review

"Entertaining, instructive, and irresistible . . . Readers will feast on plenty of name-dropping . . . and hair-raising accounts of backstabbing."
--"Variety
""A TERRIFIC BOOK . . . Loaded with great stories, unusual insights, and laugh-out-loud humor. You will love this one."
--LARRY KING
"FASCINATING . . . A bracing lesson in the acquisition and exercise of power . . . with a big emphasis on the maxim that what doesn't kill you will make you stronger."
--"Los Angeles Times
"""THE MAILROOM" IS A BLAST TO READ. This is the way Hollywood operates--the fun, the giddy high, the espionage, and the wrenching twists of luck and disaster. David Rensin is a master at eliciting the truth nobody else captures."
--CAMERON CROWE
"SHAMELESS SCHMOOZING, casting couch know-how, plotting and hustling are all detailed in "The Mailroom.""
--"The New York Post" (Required Reading)
"FASCINATING . . . ["THE MAILROOM"] REALLY DELIVERS."
--"People
""A-LIST HONCHOS . . . DISH ON THEIR RISE FROM PEONS TO POWER PLAYERS."
"--US Weekly
""This is indeed Hollywood history, more specifically a cogent account of how talent agencies have evolved since [William] Morris was ruled by executives in size 36-short suits. Rensin's clever use of personal memories as mosaic pieces, arranged in patterns to form an industrywide portrait, is history for grown-ups."
--"Variety
""Coming from the William Morris mailroom as I have, [I found] this book [to be] the truth of what I experienced. . . . It's hilarious, a bit crazy, and it should make anyone wonder why people put their careers in the hands of these idiots . . . and remember, I'm one of them. If you have a child, make sure he or she reads this before starting at the bottom--anywhere."
--BERNIE BRILLSTEIN
Founding partner
of Brillstein-Grey, WMA 1955
"A riotous history of all the Hollywood movers and players who came into the industry through the mailrooms of the big talent agencies."
--"The Globe and Mail" (Toronto)
"A worthy successor to Studs Terkel, Rensin delivers not only a riveting history of one of the most powerful springboards in Hollywood but a must-read for anyone with grand ambitions."
--CATHERINE CRIER
Author of "The Case Against Lawyers
"
"A THOROUGHLY ENTERTAINING ORAL BIOGRAPHY OF A TINSELTOWN INSTITUTION."
"--The San Francisco Examiner
""Here is the quintessential Hollywood Roshomon. . . . David Rensin has impossibly and heroically channeled Studs Terkel and Harold Robbins all at once. This is a pinball machine clanging secret truths that move and careen as brashly as the movers who blurt their guts onto every shockingly entertaining page. And the best part is that we learn that people who are now very, very rich were forced to do very, very humiliating things to achieve such. What a refreshing equalizer for all of us."
--BILL ZEHME
Author of "The Way You Wear Your Hat:
Frank Sinatra and the Lost Art of Livin'
""David Rensin's book offers a fascinating look at some of the most powerful people and institutions in Hollywood. It's packed with entertaining anecdotes . . . cautionary tales, and survival tips for those who dare to try their luck in one of the world's most unpredictable businesses."
--KIM MASTERS
Author of "Keys to the Kingdom
""As the maven of the mailroom, David Rensin puts forth an often-hilarious glimpse of life at the bottom."
--PETER BART
Editor in Chief, "Variety
"
"Rensin captures the ambition, manipulative plotting, and hustler mentality . . . in this series of raunchy, realistic interviews . . . making [the] book an uncompromisingly truthful tell-all of what it takes to make it in the movie biz. . . . The stories are amusing, intriguing, and sometimes horrifying, but Rensin, to his credit, never dilutes sordid details."
"--Publishers Weekly
""An oral history of a crucial Tinseltown institution, related by some folks who make Machiavelli look like a pussycat . . . Edgy, frenetic, and entertaining reports from the room that launched a thousand deals."
--"Kirkus Reviews
"

Entertaining, instructive, and irresistible . . . Readers will feast on plenty of name-dropping . . . and hair-raising accounts of backstabbing.
"Variety
" A TERRIFIC BOOK . . . Loaded with great stories, unusual insights, and laugh-out-loud humor. You will love this one.
LARRY KING
FASCINATING . . . A bracing lesson in the acquisition and exercise of power . . . with a big emphasis on the maxim that what doesn t kill you will make you stronger.
"Los Angeles Times
" "THE MAILROOM" IS A BLAST TO READ. This is the way Hollywood operates the fun, the giddy high, the espionage, and the wrenching twists of luck and disaster. David Rensin is a master at eliciting the truth nobody else captures.
CAMERON CROWE
SHAMELESS SCHMOOZING, casting couch know-how, plotting and hustling are all detailed in "The Mailroom."
"The New York Post" (Required Reading)
FASCINATING . . . ["THE MAILROOM"] REALLY DELIVERS.
"People
" A-LIST HONCHOS . . . DISH ON THEIR RISE FROM PEONS TO POWER PLAYERS.
" US Weekly
" This is indeed Hollywood history, more specifically a cogent account of how talent agencies have evolved since [William] Morris was ruled by executives in size 36-short suits. Rensin s clever use of personal memories as mosaic pieces, arranged in patterns to form an industrywide portrait, is history for grown-ups.
"Variety
" Coming from the William Morris mailroom as I have, [I found] this book [to be] the truth of what I experienced. . . . It s hilarious, a bit crazy, and it should make anyone wonder why people put their careers in the hands of these idiots . . . and remember, I m one of them. If you have a child, make sure he or she reads this before starting at the bottom anywhere.
BERNIE BRILLSTEIN
Founding partner
of Brillstein-Grey, WMA 1955
A riotous history of all the Hollywood movers and players who came into the industry through the mailrooms of the big talent agencies.
"The Globe and Mail" (Toronto)
A worthy successor to Studs Terkel, Rensin delivers not only a riveting history of one of the most powerful springboards in Hollywood but a must-read for anyone with grand ambitions.
CATHERINE CRIER
Author of "The Case Against Lawyers
"
A THOROUGHLY ENTERTAINING ORAL BIOGRAPHY OF A TINSELTOWN INSTITUTION.
" The San Francisco Examiner
" Here is the quintessential Hollywood Roshomon. . . . David Rensin has impossibly and heroically channeled Studs Terkel and Harold Robbins all at once. This is a pinball machine clanging secret truths that move and careen as brashly as the movers who blurt their guts onto every shockingly entertaining page. And the best part is that we learn that people who are now very, very rich were forced to do very, very humiliating things to achieve such. What a refreshing equalizer for all of us.
BILL ZEHME
Author of "The Way You Wear Your Hat:
Frank Sinatra and the Lost Art of Livin
" David Rensin s book offers a fascinating look at some of the most powerful people and institutions in Hollywood. It s packed with entertaining anecdotes . . . cautionary tales, and survival tips for those who dare to try their luck in one of the world s most unpredictable businesses.
KIM MASTERS
Author of "Keys to the Kingdom
" As the maven of the mailroom, David Rensin puts forth an often-hilarious glimpse of life at the bottom.
PETER BART
Editor in Chief, "Variety
"
Rensin captures the ambition, manipulative plotting, and hustler mentality . . . in this series of raunchy, realistic interviews . . . making [the] book an uncompromisingly truthful tell-all of what it takes to make it in the movie biz. . . . The stories are amusing, intriguing, and sometimes horrifying, but Rensin, to his credit, never dilutes sordid details.
" Publishers Weekly
" An oral history of a crucial Tinseltown institution, related by some folks who make Machiavelli look like a pussycat . . . Edgy, frenetic, and entertaining reports from the room that launched a thousand deals.
"Kirkus Reviews
""

From the Inside Flap

It's like a plot from a Hollywood potboiler: start out in the mailroom, end up a mogul. But for many, it happens to be true. Some of the biggest names in entertainment--including David Geffen, Barry Diller, and Michael Ovitz-- started their dazzling careers in the lowly mailroom. Based on more than two hundred interviews, David Rensin unfolds the never-before-told history of an American institution--in the voices of the people who lived it. Through nearly seven decades of glamour and humiliation, lousy pay and incredible perks, killer egos and a kill-or-be-killed ethos, you'll go where the trainees go, learn what they must do to get ahead, and hear the best insider stories from the Hollywood everyone knows about but no one "really knows. A vibrant tapestry of dreams, desire, and exploitation, "The Mailroom is not only an engrossing read but a crash course, taught by the experts, on how to succeed in Hollywood.

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Amazon.com: HASH(0x913a654c) out of 5 stars 39 reviews
48 of 49 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x913ca150) out of 5 stars Read this book before heading to Hollywood 29 April 2006
By ReaderZ - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
I'm a former talent agency trainee. I worked at one of the majors. This book tells it like it is, and I wish this book was published before my talent agency stint. If you have ever seen the show "Survivor", you can get an idea of what it's like to climb the agency, or Hollywood ladder. There are very few spots, and there many people clambering for those spots. And those people who want it the most will do whatever it takes. It's very cutthroat. An agency with 100 agents, has 100 assistants, all of whom want to be agents. Maybe 10 of them will make it. Family members of Hollywood VIP's most probably WILL get promoted to agents (but after that it's still sink or swim..you'll read the story of Peter Guber's daughter in this book...she sunk). Same goes for Harvard grads...deep Harvard connections in Hollywood. Many trainees quit. The attrition rate is huge. It's a crazy business, and nearly impossible to have a balanced life as a trainee (or agent, or for anyone else in Hollywood). It's no walk in the park for new agents either. They start with a tiny salary (although more than a trainee)and must perform or they're out.

Before going to Hollywood, be real with yourself and determine if you're cut out for it. This book gives you a good glimpse into those who make it. Unless you are highly extroverted, and an extremely high energy person, than don't choose this career. If you are a person who needs downtime to collect their thoughts, than don't choose this career. If you are a person who needs their 8 hours of sleep a night, than don't choose this career (you may never sleep again!). If you aren't a highly social person, than don't choose this career (i.e. does your phone ring off the hook in your personal life?). Are you politically savvy, or do you put your foot in your mouth? Can you handle egomanic clients? (and agents). Can you handle being screamed at on a regular basis? Can you handle the pressure of doing more work in one day than most people accomplish in two weeks, including juggling several hundred phone calls? I'm convinced that those agents that make it to the top, are people who'd make a fortune in any business. They're natural salesmen, born with charisma; have endless energy, and can win people over with a glance.

Also, determine if your morals/values are congruent with Hollywood. You might have to do some nasty things to people on your way up the ladder to success. In Hollywood, nastiness is embraced, not frowned upon. In Hollywood, real world morals and values are turned upside down. Believe it or not, many people in Hollywood are so egomanical that they consider people who don't work in Hollywood to be, "losers", or "the little people" (unless you're an internet billionaire or the equivilent). They believe they are the chosen ones. Even if you made a couple mil a year manufacturing cardboard boxes, they'd turn their nose up at you. It's a very snobby club.

Does all this bring people happiness? For some I guess. It seemed to me that many agents were very unhappy and perpetually stressed out.

Although my experience was interesting, had I realistically assessed my personality, which I would have, had I read this book, I would never have set foot in Los Angeles. Other than that, this book is a very entertaining read on the ins and outs of a ruthless business.
15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x913ca1a4) out of 5 stars Witty, informative anecdotes of the low rung on the ladder 28 Mar. 2003
By Rick Spell - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I love entertainment business books and this one does not disappoint. Unless you're in the biz, which I'm not, almost all of the names will be unfamiliar. This book has no story. It's a known fact that a way into the entertainment industry is to work in an agency's mailroom, eat sh*t, and hope for your break. This book is a series of interviews with the former mailroom attendees on the good, the bad, and the mental make-up of the wannabes struggling to get out of "mailroom jail". It's funny, informative, and one of those books you can't put down.
Many industries have a proving ground. In investment banking we put them on as a trading or sales assistant hoping they will pick up the lingo and learn on the fly. But the agency mailroom seems to be about feeding egos of senior agent's with much more screaming, yelling and attention paid to personal chores. They do mention many of the nice agents as well as the agents who were best at teaching the mailroom guys. My favorite stories are about CAA because it is next door to my favorite hotel the Peninsula and because of the Mike Ovitz aura. Mike doesn't come off particularly well in the book but partner Ron Meyer does come off as a particularly sharp and nice guy.
The positives and negatives of the mailroom run from taking your bosses stool sample in the doctor to having nude actresses answer the door. I also enjoyed the stories of the CAA mailroom which had a particularly high level of paranoia. I had met media mogul and former agent, Mike Medavoy so it was interesting seeing his son's quotes who was eventually fired due to information leaked to his father.
If you have any interest in the business side of Hollywood, you'll like this book. Other books of interest would be "Wannabe" about an MBA's attempt to succeed at the low levels of Hollywood, and Lynda Obst's book "Hello, He Lied" about her journey from journalist to producer.
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9218d5e8) out of 5 stars FAST, FUNNY, OUTRAGEOUS MUST-READ 5 Feb. 2003
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I haven't even finished reading this book and already I love it. I know Hollywood isn't like any place else in America, and this just makes what it's like to start at the bottom in Tinseltown all the more fascinating. At the same time, these kids who went through the mailroom share much with all of us. Everyone has to start somewhere, and in the end the experience isn't all that different.
You won't believe some of the crazy stuff these kids had to endure and survive while learning how to play the game. I love the story about delivering the, uh, stool sample. And the one about how David Geffen kept from getting fired by faking a letter from UCLA saying he graduated. And the ones about hoping to deliver stuff to pretty young actresses, or crashing the company cars out of total frustration. It's endless. And mind-boggling. And really frank. A history of Hollywood also comes through. In the beginning, behind-the-scenes people got into show biz for the glamour, to rub elbows with the stars and be dazzled; then it became about the power and money and business. Or maybe it was always like that, only the perks became accessible to more than just the top layer, which is why Harvard law grads and Wharton MBAs began to forgo huge corporate salaries to push a mail cart for $400 a week -- or less. The Mailroom paints a stunning picture of ambition -- with lots of humor and humanity -- and best of all, the author just lets the people speak for themselves in this oral history. It's truly a book that shows instead of tells.
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x913ca36c) out of 5 stars This is why books need editors 4 July 2008
By Eric A. Reitman - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
The book is a collection of anecdotes, a collection that is far larger than it needs to be. The author seems desperate to show us how comprehensive he can be, putting in everything he possibly could instead of culling out the mundane.

For every anecdote that is interesting, insightful, entertaining, etc...--in other words, worthwhile--there are half a dozen that all read like this:

"How did I get into the business? I don't know, let me see. I wasn't doing anything with my life, but my aunt knew a guy at [insert agency here]. I interviewed. They said there was no way they could offer me a job. A week later they offered me a job. I took it."

Now if the interviewee is a Hollywood big shot, o.k., but if not....

Basically it's a nice rough draft for the book it could have been had someone applied a stronger editorial hand and produced a much tighter, "punchier" work.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x913ca5dc) out of 5 stars The Mailroom: Hollywood History from the Bottom Up 26 Feb. 2003
By Lisa Kusel - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
I've always had an interest in the backrooms of Hollywood and assumed all the power people who are there got there because they knew someone, or through typical nepotistic routes. While this may be true some of the time, we learn in this absorbing, funny, and insightful book that there are more ways than one to skin a cat in the business of Hollywood. Rensin definitely did his homework and then some. He tells us in the introduction that his aim is to tell the stories of how the big-timers got where they are today, and he does so with fanfare; there are fireworks on every page. The book is organized by decade and agency so you don t have to go back and forth trying to remember who is who and who came first. This is a great oral rendering of the movers and the shakers of tinsel town. I look forward to this writer's next topic.
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