NEW YORK (Reuters) - For decades he has worked with everyone from Elvis Presley and Frank Sinatra to Brad Pitt and George Clooney, but now it’s Hollywood producer Jerry Weintraub’s turn to take center stage and shine like a star.
And as he promotes his page-turning memoir “When I Stop Talking, You’ll Know I’m Dead — Useful Stories from a Persuasive Man,” the Bronx kid turned movie mogul is not lacking in confidence.
Ask him his age, he says, “I’m 72, I look great for 72, right?” Tell him he has a nice smile and he quickly retorts, “You should see me when I get a check.”
Ask him what he would like inscribed on his tombstone and after a deep laugh, he says, “I was here and I did it.”
“I didn’t miss anything, I’ll tell you that,” he adds.
Published this week by Hachette Book’s Twelve imprint, the memoir tells of a hard-working, plucky New Yorker who through persistence and charm hit the big time at age 26 by convincing Colonel Tom Parker that he was the right promoter to take Elvis Presley back on the road for a nationwide concert tour.
“I have never heard the word ‘No,’ the only word I hear is ‘Yes,’” Weintraub says of his business philosophy.
As much as telling the story of his life, the memoir offers wisdom for others hoping to follow his path.
“I am an open book, I don’t try to hide anything, I’m not trying to fool anybody...and I don’t give up when I believe in something,” Weintraub said. “I have a couple of things right now that people think I’m nuts for doing, but I’m going to do them and if I fall on my ass, I fall on my ass.”
Among the projects the 72-year old is working on are a new Tarzan movie and a biopic of Liberace to be directed by Steven Soderbergh, starring Michael Douglas as the bejeweled pianist and Matt Damon as his boyfriend.
“I don’t know what else I would do,” Weintraub says when asked what keeps him going. “I play golf, but if I play more than twice a week, that’s lots.”
Weintraub has worked with a who’s who of showbiz. As a promoter with his company Concerts West, his roster included Sinatra, Bob Dylan, Led Zeppelin and John Denver. Later as a movie producer he worked with everyone from George Burns on the 1977 film “Oh, God!” to Clooney and Pitt on “Ocean’s Eleven.”
But when pressed about career highs, he remembers a simple connection with his father.
“He didn’t understand what I was doing for a living. He couldn’t understand how I was driving a Rolls Royce and had a mansion in Los Angeles. He said, ‘You were never that smart.’”
So Weintraub took him to breakfast across the street from Madison Square Garden where fans were lining up overnight waiting to buy tickets for $10 to see Elvis Presley. Weintraub recalls telling his father, “They’re going to buy tickets for Elvis and that’s my money — that’s what I do.”
“Then he got it,” he said. “That was a big deal — when my father understood what I did.”
The book is riddled with stories of a simpler time.
There’s the story in which he pays a sheriff to get prisoners to take seats from a concert hall so Elvis could believe every seat was sold, and the one where he paints cardboard boxes black, giving Led Zeppelin the illusion of more speakers and convincing them their music had been made louder.
And no memoir is complete without a sprinkling of religion and politics; he argues with Burns about whether God would wear a toupee and tells how, as a lifelong Democrat, he became firm friends with President George H. W. Bush.
Through it all, Weintraub details the story of a man who lived and worked by simple rules: ask if you don’t know, listen when someone else is talking, be honest, work hard.
“I’ve been very, very fortunate and I have worked very, very hard,” Weintraub said. “I was a kid from the Bronx, I didn’t have anything, I made it all work.”
“I’ve had a crazy kind of life.”
Reporting by Mark Egan, editing by Christine Kearney and Bob Tourtellotte