“When I Stop Talking, You’ll Know I’m Dead” Quotes

I recently re-read (without realizing it!) “When I Stop Talking, You’ll Know I’m Dead: Useful Stories From A Persuasive Man” by Jerry Weintraub with Rich Cohen. Below are the quotes I found most interesting. If you like them, buy the book here.

“A person is a kind of memory machine. You collect, and sort, and remember, then you tell.” (xi)

“It was the beginning of my life as a working man. I got the jacket, of course, wore it till I lost it, but, by then, the jobs I had taken to buy the jacket had become more important to me than the jacket itself had ever been. At some point, you forget the object, and the means becomes the end. You work for the joy of the work. My father must have known this would happen.” (16)

“Over time, the neighborhood took on a different aspect for me. I saw it with new eyes. It was no longer just streets and stores: It was needs and opportunities, money to be made. Once you see the world this way, things are never the same.” (19)

“This much I knew: As soon as you feel comfortable, that’s when it’s time to start over.” (27)

“These are people (artists and actors) who do not make a product, perform an essential service, or, as my father would say, have an inventory, so even the most successful of them are haunted by the following thought: “Who really needs what I’m making?”” (33)

“An artist who attempts to get into business – to do what I do, produce or deal or whatever – is an artist who has stopped being an artist.” (34)

“Do not get attached to the world as it is, because the world is changing, something new is coming, every ten years a big hand comes down and sweeps the dishes off the table.” (38)

“Grunt jobs are often the most instructive – they allow you to flow through an organization unnoticed.” (39)

“The job of an agent is, in part, anyway, to bullshit and schmooze: How better to find talent than by seeing who can talk his way into a career? From usher to mailroom to secretariat pool to my own office.” (42)

“I have a theory. If you act like you’re in charge, no one will stop you.” (59)

“I go up to this security guard with a piece of paper in my hand and ask him a bunch of questions – “How long is your present shift?” “Did you find your training adequate to the task?” say, “Thanks, you’re doing a great job,” pat him on the shoulder, then walk past him to the elevators.” (59)

“I asked Mr. Disney what he was drawing. It was not Micky hitting Goofy with a club. It was a design for the bathing suit Deborah Walley would wear in Bon Voyage. He did not have a costume designer do it. He did it himself. The man was intense, but in an admirable way. He believed he had to control his product, utterly, as the product was really just him in another way.” (62)

“Nothing is more important than a relationship. It trumps politics, party, club. People are what matter.” (68)

“I am still the same kid who ran away from the Bronx. Life is strange – you travel so far, do so much, but the people you look for at the end are often the same people you looked for at the beginning.” (70)

“The man who rides in style often rides away with the big contract.” (74)

“When the man says no, pretend you can’t hear him. Look confused, stammer, say, “Huh?” Persistence – it’s a cliche, but it happens to work. The person who makes it is the person who keeps on going after everyone else has quit. This is more important than intelligence, pedigree, even connections. Be dogged! Keep hitting that door until you bust it down! I have accomplished almost nothing on the first or second or even the third try – the breakthrough usually comes late, when everyone else has left the field.” (76)

“The Colonel once scolded me, saying, “To you guys from the coasts, the country is New York and LA. Everything in between is just the blur you fly over. But I’ll tell you, that blur is where the audiences lives and where you make your money.” (80)

“To understand this country, you must understand the paintings in the Whitney Museum in New York, or know how to pretend to, but you must also understand the flamingos in Colonel Tom’s garden.” (80)

“Elvis was older than me. He was also the biggest star in the world. Yet he called me sir. It’s how he was raised. He was uneducated and country, but really, in many ways, a true gentleman.” (82)

“Let the other guy save face with his people, but keep score.” (98)

“Once you’ve established yourself, you can, to some extent, let business find you. You become a beacon, a door into a better life. “Can you do for me what you did for Elvis?” In other words, people seek you out.” (99)

“This is another part of the job: being able to cross frontiers, move from culture to culture, making everyone believe you are a fully committed citizen of each.” (103)

“Dean worked as a blackjack dealer in the Beverly Hills Club in Cincinnati. Dean’s whole philosophy was that everybody on the other side of the table is a sucker. Whoever he was dealing to was by definition a sucker. And when he got on stage, everybody in the audience was a sucker, too. That’s why he sang the way he did, cocky and nonchalant – because he was singing to the suckers. He couldn’t believe people actually paid to hear him.” (106)

“What had started as a ploy to snap Frank out of his depression had turned into a major deal – handled wrong, it could turn into a major embarrassment. At such times, I become obsessed with details. That’s where God is, so that’s where I go, with my notebook and phone numbers and head full of ideas.” (111)

“Sinatra taught me about spontaneity that night – this, too, helped me as a film producer. Live, let it happen. There’s never a better take than the first: Sinatra knew that in his bones.” (114)

“I sat and listened. John Denver made a connection immediately. That’s how it was with him – his talent. With each song, you felt he had opened his chest and was showing you his beating heart.” (119)

“You can evolve and grow but you should never resent your thing. If you look at how few artists actually make it, you will recognize that those trademarks, though in some ways limiting, are a gift of providence.” (121)

“At times, I used my other clients to break John. Fame is a private party. You can dazzle your way in with talent, or you can be vouched for. How far this can be carried depends entirely on who is doing the vouching.” (121)

“The song, the tour, the public appearances – these were a means to an end, which was not merely to have a hit, but to turn John Denver into a star: not a star in prospect, but a star now and yesterday, someone who has already happened, so accomplished it’s no longer up for debate. It’s why I did not present John Denver as an exciting find, or as someone who had recently been playing to an empty house in Greenwich Village, but as talent that had already made it, an accomplished fact. I sold him in the past tense, as someone you’ve known about for years. I was telling the audience to relax and enjoy, as the judgment has already been made. You love him! In this way, we skipped several steps, jumping directly from the early days of struggle to the golden years.” (122)

“If a bunch of men are discussing you, meeting about you, and scheming to destroy you, it probably means you’re doing something right.” (135)

“Work with the best people. If you have the best writers, the best actors, and the best director and fail, okay, fine, there is even something noble in it; but if you fail with garbage, then you are left with nothing to hang your spirits on.” (167)

“Was I there for every recital, or play, or concert? No, I was working. It’s nearly impossible to succeed in the world and also succeed in the house, which means, at some level, even if you do not realize it, you make a choice.” (177)

“Everyone stood when George Burns came in. For the actors, reading with him was like taking batting practice with Babe Ruth. But he was an old man, so you could not help but wonder how he would handle his lines. When we started reading, though, it was obvious he knew not only his part, but every part in the script. If John Denver fumbled, George Burns would correct him. He was incredible.” (183)

“As I always say, “Better too late than too early.” Too late means you look slow but still make a bundle. Too early means you look like you’ve lost your mind, and you get people shouting, “Kill that idiot.” But it also means there is a chance for rediscovery.” (187)

“It’s a danger of success: You’re a kid, and want only to be heard; then you are heard, by everybody, all the time, but your thought is, either, “Well, yeah, great, but now what?” or “Yes, they hear me, but it’s not the real me, not the voice I have in my head, or the person I want to be.” (198)

“You have to be willing to walk away from the most comfortable perch, precisely because it is the most comfortable.” (204)

“It’s nearly impossible to sell a story that has no grand concept, reads intimate and small, and is moody in the way a song can be moody – you get it or don’t. It was like trying to sell jazz to a person who’s never heard of Coltrane.” (206)

“With Armand, the event was always less interesting than the show. He wanted to be in the action, to see and be seen. He made a study of human drama – it was his life’s work. He was fascinated by everyone, high and low. He wanted to find out everything. He had a special interest in charisma and power, in great men, the special few who worked their will on history. Hammer participated, but he also observed. In this, he exhibited a kind of active detachment. He was in the game but removed from the game, playing and watching himself play. He made a spectacle of himself but enjoyed watching that spectacle.” (226)

“People think that Hollywood and politics operate in different spheres – they don’t. The world is very small at the top, with a few thousand players running everything. For a producer, an actor, a banker, a politician – name your celebrity – crossing genres is less a matter of making connections with the leaders of other industries than of climbing high enough in your own to reach the place where all lines converge.” (229)

“From Kennedy I learned that the best politicians are not different from movie stars. They charm, communicate, command. The good ones never make you feel isolated or small, as if they have something you don’t. Quite the opposite. They include you in their world, enlarge you, make you recognize the best qualities in yourself.” (230)

“At one point, I realized that everyone in the room had been on the cover of Time magazine. Secretaries of state, presidents, vice presidents. But when Reagan came in, everything stopped, everyone stared, then they rushed to him like moths to a flame. Whatever moment he was in became his moment. Whatever room he entered became his room. Some people have that. It’s the intangible quality that sells tickets and pulls nations out of funks. It’s where politics becomes showbiz, and showbiz becomes transcendent. A movie or a piece of art can save your life in the same way your life can be saved by a policy or law. This is why politicians seek out movie stars, and why movie stars want to become politicians. They seek the same target, which is the soul of the people.” (231)

“The Rebbe comforted me about life and death. He made me see that my general, uneducated sense of the world – that there is a God, an order, a plan – was not superstition or error, but correct, built into me for a reason, as my heart or lungs are built into me. Without it, I could not live. Which is why you need more than material things. I mean, yes, the material can be nice. I like having what I have, but I know none of it is mine, that we are only renters on earth, that even our bodies belong to someone else. Which is why you hunger even when you’ve had your fill. Life will never satisfy if it is experienced only as the rise and fall of commerce. You need to see yourself as part of something larger that never dies.” (240)

“As I hired staff and began planning projects, I realized he had given me the title but not the job. A title without a job is the worst of all worlds: it means taking all the blame while getting none of the credit and having none of the fun.” (244)

“The rooms had floor-to-ceiling windows through which you could see hills and cars moving in the canyons. There was art on the walls, shag on the floors, Perrier in the refrigerators, no expense spared. People judge on first sight, so make those surfaces shine. If you want to be seen as a major, look like a major.” (245)

“You grow into the suit. As a philosophy this means operation gon confidence, in the belief that something will happen, that the trick will work, that the backup will arrive with the heavy guns. It’s how America has operated from the beginning.” (245)

“I loved making movies, which resulted in hits, which increased my love, which sparked a desire for control, which caused me to start my own studio, which – and here is the paradox – took me out of the movie business and put me in the company running business, occupied not with writers and artists, but with health-care plans, office rivalries, and infighting. I had, in a sense, promoted myself right out of the job I always wanted, which was telling stories, producing. I lost touch with the films, which were now being made for me instead of by me and thus were no longer Jerry Weintraub Productions.” (246)

“Steve Ross, CEO of Warner Communications said, “What are you worrying about? You are a talented guy. That talent did not go away. The company went away? So what! Companies always go away. They’re a dime a dozen. It’s talent that counts!” (248)

“I learned how to act – and I am not saying I’m a good actor, only that I’m comfortable in front of a camera – after I learned how to stop acting.” (249)

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