Years ago, Liz Taylor said that in Hollywood, there’s no deodorant like success. In the ’90s, a tell-all autobiography can be a highly effective roll-on for a slightly malodorous public personality — and a cathartic step toward a more marketable image.
Julia Phillips, a woman who prides herself on mincing no words, would probably have us think that all this was the furthest thing from her mind when she sat down to write You’ll Never Eat Lunch in This Town Again. Phillips, who coproduced The Sting and Taxi Driver with her husband, Michael Phillips (they were divorced by the time they produced 1977’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind), was once very hot in Hollywood. A protégée of David Begelman and the first woman to win an Academy Award for Best Picture, Phillips got it all — fast. She was 29 when the 1973 Oscar for The Sting was placed in her sweaty palms.
Phillips was high that night on a ”panoply of mood enhancers,” a combination of cocaine, a diet pill, two joints, three Valiums, and a glass and a half of wine. That was only the tip of her pharmaceutical iceberg. By the time Close Encounters landed, she was a full-fledged coke junkie, primed for an extended period of freebasing, described here in full. Her drug intake, not surprisingly, nearly ended her career. Then she cleaned up.
Her book has been hyped as the Hollywood tell-all to end all. Phillips would, it was implied, name the names of her famous drug buddies and blow the lid off ”the business” with her revelations.
Has she done it? Does she tell everything? ”Actually, only some,” she admits here. ”Sixty/forty, my best offer, take it or leave it.”
What do we learn? Well, superagent Sue Mengers gets high at Barbra Streisand’s house, and Steven Spielberg also smokes the occasional joint. Goldie Hawn shows up at a party in dirty clothes. Dyan Cannon, who advises Phillips to doff her skivvies to avoid a visible panty line, wore no underwear herself. (”It feels breezy,” Phillips notes. ”You’ll get used to it,” Cannon intones. ”I have.”)
There’s not much else. Most of the drug users unveiled here (Richard Dreyfuss, Liza Minnelli) have already done talk show penance. Phillips pulls no punches, however, when describing her contempt for moguls like CAA’s Michael Ovitz and former Columbia exec Alan Hirschfield. She holds these guys — and others like them — responsible for transforming movies into banal, demographic packages. Some of the book’s best moments reveal the undercurrents of the meetings where they practice their craft. Phillips knows how to create a lively scene, both on the page and off, and that makes You’ll Never Eat Lunch… hard to put down. It’s a shrewd star turn. B