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03/30/2005 - BOOK REVIEW - "They Can Kill You - But They Can't Eat You"

"They Can Kill You - But They Can't Eat You" - By Dawn Steel

I hazard to guess you don't read many book reviews for a book that was published over ten years ago. And I also figure that the book being reviewed possibly isn't one that was purchased at a Dollar Store for, yes, One Dollar. But that's the review and I'm sticking to it.

The book is "They Can Kill You - But They Can't Eat You" by Dawn Steel. Dawn Steel was one of the first women executives who rose up through the Hollywood ranks to eventually run a studio (Columbia) in the late 80's and early 90's.

In some ways the book is your typical: "Pull yourself up by the bootstraps" story of a shy girl from the East making her way in "Tinsel Town." Starting out selling shoes while in high school, learning to market, of all things, sex related products for Penthouse Magazine, moving on to creating and marketing "printed on toilet paper" and eventually marketing "Star Trek - The Motion Picture" for Paramount. It was through that very successful marketing campaign that opened doors for her.

Dawn's story continues through her rise, and fall, at Paramount and what makes reading a book that is over ten years old unique, is all the names that float to the surface. Frank Mancuso, Ned Tanen and David Putnam who alienated half the city of Hollywood, etc. A veritable "Where are they now?" of power execs who, in the 70's and 80's held Hollywood in their grasp. There are other names, such as friends Jeffrey Katzenberg and Michael Eisner who she noted fled to Disney when there was power shift at Paramount (and we all know what happened at Disney).

What is surprising about this book is the honesty upon which Dawn stands. Though I wished for more in regards to her feelings about this and that (such as the story where a producer/director came on to her and exposed himself - and they stayed friends) or running into her former boss Ned Tanen at a Airport and he confided that Frank was the one who wanted her fired - she doesn't delve much into these core feelings. She admits she was a terrible boss, yelling and screaming and making the lives of her assistants miserable. She is honest in her opinions about her friends and the support she got from them. Though I feel she probably made as many enemies as friends.

But if you read this book and don't know much about Dawn Steel going in, do know one thing: She died of a brain tumor 4 years after the book was published. There's a part of me that wished she had written about that. Did the "Men-Only" Bosses ever apologize to her. Did she find the eventual happiness she searched for for so long? What happened in those five years? It's a sequel to an autobiography that will never be written.

This is a very good book. Well worth the dollar I paid for it and a very interesting look into the film business from the late 70's to early 90's.


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