Friday, August 08, 2008

Exclusive excerpt: A meeting with Bernie Brillstein

Legendary Hollywood manager and producer Bernie Brillstein is dead at 77. Nikki Finke made the announcement with a loving tribute this morning, and we were reminded that Bernie has a wonderful cameo in the book, Tabloid Baby.

To set the stage: It's 1993. Tabloid television producer Burt Kearns and reporter Rafael Abramovitz have a meeting with Brillstein to pitch a reality TV show that would take viewers behind scenes of tabloid news stories. Rafael is "hot," thanks to a feature in the current GQ magazine called "Sleazy Does It." The meeting has been set up by their agent, Ari Emanuel of the Inter Talent agency.

Now, on to this exclusive excerpt, to page 258 of Tabloid Baby:

In the big building on the edge of Beverly Hills at 9200 Sunset Boulevard, we had an audience with Bernie Brillstein, the man who managed the original Saturday Night Live stars and went on to produce some of their most successful movies and TV shows. Brillstein was a legend, and not only as “The Man Who Killed Belushi” for supplying him with money his last week on earth.

Ushered past the picture of “Client of The Month” Garry Shandling and posters for movies like
The Blues Brothers, Ghostbusters and Wayne’s World in the reception room, we met Brillstein, a big bear with white hair and a goatee, settled behind a big desk in a big corner office with big views straight out to the big ocean. At either corner of the desk, a round fishbowl containing a live fish faced us and our obligatory black coffees.

“I know you, I know your work,” Brillstein said to Raf, and settling back he looked at me and wagged a finger. “And you, you look exactly like John Hughes.”

I wracked my brain to think who John Hughes was. John Cusack, Andrew McCarthy— was he a Brat Packer?

“A young John Hughes. It’s amazing.”

I thought some more. Then I realized who he was talking about. John Hughes, the guy who produced
Home Alone. A fat guy with owly glasses. Great.

“I like tabloid TV and this reality TV, Brillstein went on. “I have a a good friend, he’s fucked a lot of women, he told me the best he ever had, the one he was proudest of doing, guess who it was?”

“You got me.”

“Fawn Hall.” He was talking about Rob Lowe.

“Yeah. Fawn Hall. With the tooth,” I said.

“I’ve always admired her for using her underwear to transport secret documents,” Raf said.

Brillstein was male bonding. I could picture him with Belushi, rhapsodizing about how he’d like to give that skinny Larraine Newman a shot in the ass. “I’ll tell you, in all these Amy Fisher movies, you know who I’d like to fuck?” His assistant, whom we’d not noticed— I was looking at the fishies— nodded as if he’d heard it all before. “I’d like to fuck that Drew Barrymore. Oooh.”

E.T., yeah,” I said, thinking, well, it took three years but we were in. This was Hollywood: a powerful fat man with a commanding view of the city, fantasizing about fucking a seventeen-year-old.

Yet Brillstein listened carefully to the pitch, interrupting every few sentences for clarifications. He was amused when Raf’s rap was interrupted by a page from Joey Buttafuoco. Even though I thought it was a bullshit attempt to make an impression until Raf asked for a phone to call him back. While Raf spoke with Joey on one line, Brillstein called the agent Arivon the other. “I love these guys,” he said with enthusiasm. “We’re gonna do something together.”

When they hung up, he spoke again. “I like your ideas. Just get them down on paper. We can make lots of money, lots of money on a one-hour reality show. Come back with specifics on paper and we’ll go to a network with it.”

It was as simple as that. Bernie Brillstein was good to go.

It was even simpler. Raf let it slide. Our Brillstein meeting led to naught and I never got to that second meeting to find out if old Bern got to fuck Drew Barrymore.


Defamer said...

Brillstein needed three memoirs just to sort his stories out; as such, we don't even know where to start on our favorites here.

Or it could be any number of the other stories referenced and cross-referenced between Variety, a particularly fun tribute at Tabloid Baby ("I’d like to fuck that Drew Barrymore. Oooh.”) and Nikki Finke, who notes that Grey and Lorne Michaels are arranging a memorial service for Brillstein next week. Consider this our own: Thanks for the memories, Bernie — even Hee Haw. You'll be missed.

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