Where Did I Go Right? is the written recollections of the last forty years in show business as told through the eyes of Bernie Brillstein.
Who the Heck is Bernie Brillstein?
Don't worry, I didn't know either. Though you think living in Southern California I would have heard of him at some point in my lifetime. I guess I am just a big old square.
Bernie Brillstein is the founding partner of the Brillstein-Grey Entertainment Company, which is a successful celebrity management partnership. It seems when Mr. Brillstein turned 65, he decided to hang up his coat and sell his half of the business to his partner, Brad Grey. Bernie has had a long, interesting life in show business dating back to the 1940's. Teamed with David Rensin, Mr. Brillstein has written Where Did I Go Right? in order to document his life as it parallels the many faces of stardom.
Now you may be thinking, Who really cares? This guy is only a manager, not a REAL star.You will find, though, that Mr. Brillstein has been behind the scenes for decades, and he has some great stories to tell. He knows the stars better than they know themselves.
Mr. Brillstein has documented his life in five sections.
Growing Up and Choosing a Life
Laying the Groundwork
Making the Money
Screwing It Up However I Like
Where Did I Go Right?
In the first section, Mr. Brillstein talks about his first job in the entertainment industry. At 24 years of age, he got a job in the mailroom at the William Morris Agency in New York. This position was in the bottom of the barrel, but it was also the best way to get to the top. Brillstein also speaks of his family in this section, so you can get an idea of where he comes from. He has roots in show business, as his uncle was a big comedian in the radio days.
This was the least favorite section for me, because I wasn't familiar with all the names mentioned. I chalk that up to me being born too late. It's no fault of the author. What is important about this section is how it describes the entertainment business in the 1950's. When you compare this first section to the final section, you realize just how screwed up this industry has become.
In the section titled Laying the Groundwork, Brillstein begins his ascent up the William Morris ladder. He talks of how he showed up early for work to get noticed by the boss. He also admits that he steamed open the mail he was assigned to deliver, as that was the best way to learn anything and everything about the business.
Brillstein also speaks of an early meeting with Elvis as well as his introduction to Jim Henson of Muppets fame. Henson would eventually become one of Brillstein's biggest clients.
This section also documents Brillstein's early marriage and his ultimate exit from William Morris.
In the third section of the book, Bernie discusses his first meetings with Lorne Michaels and the background to getting Saturday Night Live on the air. Bernstein has titled this section Making the Money, because this is where he literally did make the money. He represented John Belushi, Gilda Radner and Dan Aykroyd.
I found this part of the book very interesting because I was really too young to appreciate these comedians when they were in their prime. To hear the stories behind their successes was fascinating.
The fourth section of the book details the horrendous politics of being a big name manager in Tinseltown. There were mergers, break-ups, deception and lies all in the name of money. Brillstein's company stood out from the others because he has a genuine interest in his clients, rather than their money.
What is clearly evident in this section is Mr. Brillstein's opinion of industry god Mike Ovitz. Apparently, Mr. Ovitz is an absolute jerk, which doesn't surprise me. Though Brillstein put Ovitz through the ringer in this book, I got the feeling that others would have loved to do the same thing. The meetings between these two alone make this book worthy of a read.
If you're looking for a celebrity dirt dishing tell-all book, you will be disappointed. Where Did I Go Right? is about Mr. Brillstein himself. However, as he shares his life, he does tell some amusing and fascinating stories about the clients that he managed and other famous names.
Overall, I think Bernie Brillstein must be a pretty classy guy. He could have easily played the victim here and blamed his childhood for the way he is. This is a favorite excuse among celebrity memoirs. Brillstein, however, tells it like he sees it. More than once in the book he admits his own mistakes and regrets. He mentions times when he was wrong and others were right. He's on his third marriage, but had some really nice things to say about his two ex-wives.
The celebrities and industry giants are described honestly and, for the most part, favorably. The two who weren't described to favorably were Mike Ovitz and Garry Shandling. I have a feeling these two are worse than Brillstein indicates, and he was really holding his tongue.
I recommend this book to anyone expressing an interest in the behind the scenes action in the entertainment industry. It is a refreshingly honest book written by someone who knows the ropes, those you can climb and those that will hang you.
This book also explains the role of a celebrity "manager" which can entail anything from babysitting and counseling to a good old fashioned game of hardball. The most important thing I learned from this book is that there isn't enough money in the world to pay me to do this job. All the more power to Mr. Brillstein, in my opinion.
I realize my review can't do this book justice. I hope that you can at least get a picture of Where Did I Go Right? and it is of interest to you. It is a fascinating look at the entertainment industry, and worthy of a read.