DANGEROUS COMPANY: Dark Tales from Tinseltown

Peter Bart, Author . Miramax $22.95 (194p) ISBN 978-1-4013-5190-8

Unless Bart, editor in chief of Variety and author of several books about the movie biz (The Gross; Shoot Out; etc.), plans to put out a companion volume of "Light Tales," the 13 interconnected stories in this entertaining, cutting collection will stand as consummate cautionary tales about why not to work in Hollywood. Many of the men and women Bart observes here with a clear eye are venal and vain, nearly monstrous but for the foibles, frailties and pettinesses that reveal their deep, flawed humanity. The connective tissue is provided in the first story, "The Founder," in which a real estate agent explains how she transformed a neglected residential corner of Hollywood into Starlight Terrace; the following tales feature residents of that gated community, and two of the stories bring many of them together for neighborhood association meetings. In the longest entry, "The Ghostwriter," a young female William Morris agent learns that the new screenplay by her up-and-coming writer was in fact penned by his arrogant father, who plans to use the son as his face for youth-obsessed Hollywood; the agent decides to endorse the deception. In the next tale, "The Makeover," a 52-year-old actress whose visage has been frozen by Botox injections is about to lose a starring gig until her manager proves that she can still emote by driving her into a towering rage and videotaping her fit. And so it goes, as Tinseltown types maneuver, backstab, manipulate and cajole, some with compassion, many not, in stories that are brisk, smartly told, penetrating and, at times, clever enough to seduce the reader into schadenfreude, as in "Power Play," in which an Ovitz-like entrepreneur gets his comeuppance. Bart knows Hollywood like nobody's business, and he exposes it here in all its glorious bizarreness. (Nov. 26)

Reviewed on: 09/29/2003
Release date: 11/01/2003
Genre: Fiction
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