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NEWS, NOTES AND TRENDS ON L.A.’S ENTERTAINMENT INDUSTRY

“The Operator,” a new and mostly unflattering biography of DreamWorks SKG co-founder David Geffen, has become a best seller and received critical praise around the world from publications like The Times of London and South China Morning Post.

“It’s phenomenal; it’s blowing out of the stores,” a Random House spokesman said. “It’s going into a second printing.”

The New York-based publisher did a first printing of 80,000 copies but declined to reveal sales figures.

The unauthorized biography, written by Wall Street Journal columnist Tom King, will debut in the No. 11 slot on The New York Times best-seller list on March 26. It’s already on the Wall Street Journal and Los Angeles Times lists.

Amid all the attention, it’s interesting to note that network morning talk shows, which usually rush to take advantage of celebrity topics, have avoided the book. So have syndicated entertainment shows like “Entertainment Tonight” and “Access Hollywood.”

Publishing sources believe many of the shows stayed away for “political reasons,” fearing they might anger the studio executive and his Hollywood friends, thereby losing future celebrity bookings.

While the network talk shows have avoided King and “The Operator,” KTLA-TV Channel 5’s “Morning News,” National Public Radio, CNBC, MSNBC, Fox News and a number of Los Angeles-based syndicated entertainment services have not. Excerpts from the book have appeared in The Wall Street Journal and People magazine.

Geffen has not commented publicly on the book, except to issue a statement quoting the poem “If” by Rudyard Kipling: “If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken, twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools, you’ll be a man, my son.”

Geffen, however, reportedly has been on the phone complaining to the head of Bertelsmann, the German media conglomerate that owns Random House, and met with the chairman of the publishing company. A spokesman for Random House said Geffen has characterized the biography, which initially had his cooperation, as “dishonest, offensive and inaccurate.”

In “The Operator,” Geffen emerges as real-life version of Sammy Glick, the ruthless anti-hero of “What Makes Sammy Run,” Budd Schulberg’s chilling novel about a Hollywood hustler.

While acknowledging Geffen’s dazzling talents as a gifted show-biz executive, as demonstrated in his investments in “Cats,” King gives an unflattering glimpse of how the potentate got to the top.

“There are a number of similarities between David Geffen and Sammy Glick, the back-stabbing cheat who saw nothing wrong with lying and kicking people off the ladder as he was ascending to the top,” King said.

King reported that Geffen once faked a resume saying he was a graduate of UCLA so he could get a job in the mailroom of the William Morris Agency. Geffen later intercepted a letter from UCLA saying it wasn’t true and altered it, according to King. “Most people would be ashamed of that story,” King said. “David was proud of his resourcefulness.”

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