The Users And The Winners

It's all about "The Users"...and "The Winners." Two great Hollywood novels.

Joyce Haber
"The Users," is a 1976 Hollywood ro·man à clef written by Joyce Haber,  the Los Angeles Times successor to Hedda Hopper.  Haber was the last of the Hollywood's powerful gossip columnists who were capable of canonizing a film or destroying a star.  She was once married (and later divorced) from Douglas S. Cramer Jr., a television and film producer who was partnered with Aaron Spelling and knew all the scandals and all the Hollywood secrets. Women's Wear Daily called Haber "one of the ten most powerful women in media."  Her impact to the Hollywood scene can be seen here in an entire episode of "The Gong Show" dedicated to her.  In 1976, Haber left the Times to write "The Users" an expose of all the Hollywood secrets she knows (changing the names of course, to appear as fiction).

Before Jackie Collins wrote  "Hollywood Wives," "The Users" was THE book that depicted all the dastardly deeds in Hollywood.  Her agent, legendary Swifty Lazar got Haber a $250,000 advance, then another $200,000 for the ABC miniseries adaptation.

Tony Curtis, Jaclyn Smith, and John Forsythe in the ABC movie, "The Users"
The book was about  Elena, a Hollywood hostess and social climber, who loves gossip and has a husband who is a washed-up actor.  Elana's marriage is falling apart, and her mansion is mortgaged but she is determined to resurrect her fortunes..and she uses everyone to do it.  HOW HOLLYWOOD.

When the book rose to the top of the New York Times Bestseller List her husband and Aaron Spelling turned it into a television movie with the same name...but forgot the entire plot of the book.  They both share the same title and the names of the characters...but other than that they are nothing alike.

In the movie version, Elana is a small town hooker played by Jaclyn Smith who inspires falling movie star Rany Brent played by Tony Curtis to give a career-saving performance. They marry, but the husband's gay lifestyle forces Smith into the arms of a tycoon, John a pre-Blake Carrington type character. It soon becomes clear to Elena that everyone in Hollywood is using each other for their own of course, she does too.

It's actually a great movie that holds up nicely.  If you ❤️ 70's Hollywood, you are gonna wanna see it. To HERE

"The Winners" is a sequel of sorts to "The Users." Its Actual title is "The Winners Part II of Joyce Haber's The Users," and is the first book written by Dominick Dunne.  

At the time, Dunne was the vice president of a Hollywood studio, a screenwriter and the executive producer of the television series "Adventures in Paradice."  He later went on to work with Al Pacino, Elizabeth Taylor and Henry Fonda.  When he was tasked with turning the beloved book "The Users" into a made for tv movie script, he went for it, which ignited his passion for writing that stayed with him for the rest of his life.  

We now know that in real life Dunne was hiding his homosexuality (he revealed this in his last book, published posthumously in 2009) and it's interesting to look back at his work from 30 years prior with a different understanding of why the character of Rany was changed from an actor struggling with his career into an actor hiding his sexuality. Was Dunne trying to tell us something then?  Life imitating art?    

As the story goes, Dunne was battling Hollywood burnout and using booze and pills to mask his unhappy marriage.  So in 1979, Dunne left Hollywood and his children, actor Griffin Dunn, and daughter Dominque Dunn (who was later killed after staring in the movie "Poltergeist") to move to rural Oregon where he locked himself in a cabin, got clean and started writing.  Here he says he overcame his personal demons and wrote his first book, "The Winners." 

Michael Skakel and Martha Moxley
Of course, most people remember Dunne as the Vanity Fair writer who covered the OJ trials and wrote the book " A Season In Purgatory" which eventually led to the arrest of Ethel Kennedy's nephew Michael Skakel for the murder of Martha Moxley or "Another City, Not My Own" the story of Los Angeles during the OJ trial...both of which started this new trend of celebrity crime coverage and tv networks who devote all thier programming to crime.

After "The Winners" Dunne would write The "Two Mrs. Grenvilles" and "People Like Us" two novels that pulled back the curtain of the closed-off world of NY high society, the people with "Too Much Money" (his last book).

Dunne's fourth novel "An Inconvenient Women" returned the writer to his Hollywood roots giving us readers more stories of rich Angelinos...but this time, the society people, not the Hollywood ones.

But before all that, there was "The Winners, Part II of Joyce Haber's The Users" A great read if you can get your hand on it.  Never made into a movie..."The Winners" also has nothing to do with "The Users."  It's the story of Mona Berg, a shrewd and ambitious secretary who ends up becoming one the biggest talent agents in Hollywood.  Although the names changed (it is fiction), it's fun to try to figure out who Dunne is writing about, and not hard to realize it's probably about Sue Mengers, the biggest female agent at the time.   

Sue Mengers
It was never really explained exactly why Dunne wrote a sequel to someone else book.  I wonder if Dunne was paid to write the sequel, or if they decided to just market it that way, or if Haber asked him to do it, or if he was just inspired to do it after writing "The Users" tv movie.  I would love to find out.  Sadly, everyone is dead.   If anyone knows, please contact me.  Maybe Bette Midler knows as she portrayed Mengers on Broadway in "I'll Eat You Last: A Chat with Sue Mengers"

Bette Midler as Sue Mengers
If you are looking for some good reads about classic 70's Hollywood, pick up the "The Users", and if you can find it, "The Winners." They are such great representations of a time that no longer exists, in a city that is changing every day.  

Books about Hollywood...we ❤️you!!!

The Users And The Winners The Users And The Winners Reviewed by #IheartHollywood on April 21, 2018 Rating: 5

No comments