The author of "You'll Never Eat Lunch In This Town Again" is Julia Phillips, a female pioneer in the movie business. She produced The Sting and Taxi Driver, among other films, and she did yeoman work on Close Encounters of the Third Kind, only to be screwed over by Stephen Spielberg. She would be about my age now if she had survived the cancer of her 50s.
The book is long but shallow and gossipy. There is a genuinely clever line about every thirty pages, though she tries one on every page. She writes like a fourteen-year-old, badly.
She was an epic abuser of drugs and alcohol, but so apparently was most everybody in the movie business. Most often mentioned are Goldie Hawn, Richard Dreyfuss, and Robert Redford. Spielberg seems to have kept relatively clean.
The abiding impression is how much the entire movie business stinks. The product is junk, the production process is utterly corrupted by money, and the people are all hedonists and junkies who don’t know what to do with their vast riches. I had to wonder at various points what Phillips thought a good movie was. She claims to have been dedicated to making great film, but most of what she discusses is either ordinary or positively crap. To be fair, she is constrained by the need to keep making enough money to stay rich, to afford her huge appetite for drugs.
At some point in the past year, I read Hollywood Babylon, but I can’t recall a word of it. This book I think I will remember. Like the preoccupations of the Twitterverse, it makes me long for a different world.
It’s sad that someone so bright and capable ended on such a low note and died so young. Phillips was a huge presence for a while. Then she was basically drummed out of the business. It was partly her own doing. Things like chucking a baggie full of cocaine onto the table at the start of a production meeting. You have to be pretty big and probably male to survive that. She wasn’t.
Right now I have a grudge against movie producers in general, because they're the ones grinding down the writers who (last I heard) are still on strike.
My own favorite writer is the journalist Hanna Krall. Her few books in English translation are long- and short-form pieces about Polish Holocaust survivors. Poet & playwright Bertolt Brecht is a close second. The great historian of medieval Cairene Jewish social history, S. D. Goitein, would be next, and don't forget verismo master Giovanni Verga or the nameless authors of Icelandic sagas... I could go on...