YOU'LL NEVER EAT LUNCH IN THIS TOWN AGAIN; by Julia Phillips; Random House; 573 pages; $22.
The biggest buzz in Tinseltown these days doesn't have anything to do with the Oscars. It has to do with Julia Phillips' "You'll Never Eat Lunch in This Town Again." Without doubt it's the meanest, most horrifying, most misanthropic Hollywood memoir ever written.Phillips and former husband Michael were co-producers of "The Sting," "Taxi Driver" and "Close Encounters of the Third Kind."
She is, in fact, the only woman ever to win an Oscar for producing a Best Picture, for "The Sting" in 1974. The night she accepted her statuette from Elizabeth Taylor, she told a worldwide audience of millions that, "You can't imagine what a trip it is for a nice Jewish girl from Great Neck to win an Academy Award and meet Elizabeth Taylor all in the same night."
When she uttered those words, Phillips recalls in her book, she was stoned out of her gourd after a day of combating nervousness with alternating assaults of uppers and downers. Within 10 years of that night of glory, her drug dependency had wiped out her fortune and made her persona non grata in the film industry.
But Phillips, who seems to envision herself as a sort of Dorothy Parker on steroids, doesn't get maudlin thinking about what might have been. She gets even.
Here's what "You'll Never Eat Lunch" has to say about some movie notables:
- Steven Spielberg: "selfish, self-centered, egomaniacal and worst of all - greedy."
- Goldie Hawn: "borderline dirty."
- Director Ivan Reitman ("Ghostbusters," "Kindergarten Cop"): "The silliest-looking person I've ever met. A businessman not an artist. No wonder movies are getting so unsatisfying."
- Marvin Davis, the oil man who owns 20th Century Fox: "Now I know the image George Lucas had when he conceived Jabba the Hutt."
- Superagent Michael Ovitz: "The Valley viper."
- A great French director: "Of all the dead people I know, Francois Truffaut wins the (expletive) award hands down."
- Her former husband's second wife: "Just a hooker with an accent enjoying the fruits of my labors."
The book's single best putdown, which if it isn't true ought to be, concerns Warren Beatty. Upon learning that Phillips had a teenage daughter, the author reports, the infamous ladies' man suggested a threesome. Phillips' comeback: "We're both too old for you."
Also indicative of the Hollywood mindset is an anecdote concerning Helene Hahn, a business agent at Warner Brothers who held up financing of "The Last Temptation of Christ" because she wanted to discuss rights to a possible sequel.
"You'll Never Eat Lunch in This Town Again" is brimming with these gleefully malicious character capsules, making it a veritable pigout of insider celebrity dirt. Small wonder Los Angeles bookstores can't keep copies in stock.
As to the book's accuracy - well, you've got to wonder just how Phillips can so completely recall decade-old conversations during which she was, by her own admission, totally ripped. Phillips also can describe precisely the clothes she wore on any given day of her life - and where she bought them.
Already the Hollywood press corps is busy dealing with the newly maligned who want to get their sides of the story into print.
I don't think I'd want Julia Phillips for a friend, but I'm glad I read her book.