February 23, 2007

Howard Tucker At Christian Hoff’s Audiobook Party

February 23rd, 2007

Jersey Boys Blog is pleased to present Special Correspondent Howard Tucker’s coverage of Christian Hoff’s “Tell Me How You Love the Picture” audiobook launching party, along with his commentary on Ed Feldman’s outstanding book and Christian’s spectacular voices heard on the audiobook.

The Launching Party–Background
It was indeed a glorious evening at Victor’s Cafe celebrating Christian Hoff’s world-record 241 voices in the audiobook “Tell Me How You Love the Picture,” written by Ed Feldman in collaboration with Tom Barton. The audiobook was produced by Barton and directed by Barton and Jimmy Merrill.

David Cace, a fellow CPA and 4 Seasons expert and historian and I joined the always-supportive Jersey Boys cast and crew (we even got to speak at length with Dave, the security guard!) and many other luminaries to salute Ed, Tom, Jimmy, and Christian!!

Ed and his wonderful wife of 53 years, Lorraine, Christian and his wife Melissa, Jimmy, and Tom mingled with the crowd all evening. Christian’s talented public relations guru, Leslie Penny of SPL Public Relations, was a wonderful hostess.

“Tell Me How You Loved the Picture”: The Text
Although I wasn’t able to obtain a hard copy of Ed’s “Tell Me How You Love the Picture” before the launch, I was able to read many excerpts on the Internet, so I knew a bit about Ed’s glorious career from a “lowly” publicist at Fox to an Academy Award nominated producer for “Witness.”

The excerpts spoke of Ed’s wonderful career and his hilarious experiences along the way with legends Bette Davis, John Wayne, Joan Crawford, John Huston, Elizabeth Taylor, and Jerry Lewis to current stars Jim Carrey, Harrison Ford, Mel Gibson, Glenn Close, and Eddie Murphy. Christian’s 6-minute “tease” on the blog nowhere near does justice to the entire book.

Chatting with Ed Feldman: Bette Davis and Jerry Lewis
My real treat of the evening was getting to speak at length with Ed, totally prepared with my Bette Davis and Jerry Lewis questions. I saw “Whatever Happened to Baby Jane” with my parents 44 years ago, as if it were yesterday. Bette Davis was my mom’s favorite actress, but “Jane” portrayed Davis as anything but the glamorous heroine my mother had always described—I can still hear the audience gasp when Davis entered the film in her heavy, sloppily applied makeup and frumpy garb. My childhood was spent debating with Mom over whether Davis’ “sister,” the tortured Joan Crawford, dies in the end. When I asked Ed, “Jane’s” publicist, without missing a beat, he responded, “Ya know, they were both (Bette & Joan) such pains, I wouldn’ta cared if they both kicked the bucket!!”

I’ve never met Jerry Lewis, but knew that as a teenager, when he was still Joseph Levitch, he worked in my Dad’s cousin’s Selma’s luncheonette as a “soda jerk” before Selma fired Joseph/Jerry for clowning around too much. It took Ed to give me the background of how Jerry and Dean Martin met after being scheduled on the same bill and became a team.

The Audiobook–The Text: “Tell Me How You Loved the Picture”
It’s so incredibly rich with hilarious anecdotes and Christian’s voices. Ed starts with a wonderful anecdote about how David O. Selznick (“Gone with the Wind”) asked Ed’s “boss” Spyros Skouras (with a “Christian Hoff-patented Greek accent) to fire Ed—only problem is that Skouros never found out who Ed was in his nine years at Fox. After hearing that, Ed was always careful to be amongst a group when he ran into Skouros!!

I loved Ed’s stories about Ray Stark (Stark called Ed back after he resigned two years earlier on the set of “The World of Suzie Wong”). I related to his anecdotes about Barbra Streisand as Stark was casting “Funny Girl,” a movie about his mother-in-law Fanny Brice. Brice was enormously talented, but labeled “homely,” and Stark wanted the Broadway star Streisand for his movie, but threatens to get another actress to play Brice unless Streisand signs for a five picture deal (she did and it was a win for all with “The Way We Were”).

Forty-plus years later, I can still recall the first time I saw Streisand on stage with my parents in “Funny Girl.” I’ll never forget my father glancing over to my mother and commenting, “Ya know, she doesn’t look that bad when they put makeup on her.” The book gives us a delicious Hoff parody of Streisand responding to the threat of the other actress playing the movie role with “And what am I? Chopped livah??”

Déjà vu: Bette Davis and My Mom
I didn’t speak with Ed about Davis’ other movies, but sure enough, as Ed gives the genesis of his title, he describes Skouras (still not knowing exactly who Ed was) urging him to “tell me how you love the picture” after a screening of “All About Eve”. I didn’t see “Eve” until I was an adult, but I can still hear my mom cursing Anne Baxter for insisting on competing with Davis in the Best Actress category in 1950, splitting the Academy vote, and enabling Judy Holliday to “sneak in” with “Born Yesterday.”

The Voices
I really enjoyed Christian’s voices of –Bette Davis, Cary Grant, and John Huston (certainly the saltiest language of all, except for Elizabeth Taylor and Joan Crawford). And, finally Christian in his John Huston voice parodying Tommy DeVito (“trios are out, quartets are in”) with “black and white is out, color is in”—unfortunately, it was Ed’s job to tell the “suits” that Huston’s “Night of the Iguana” was in black & white. And his voice of Cary Grant seated with a table full of “Judy’s” and imitating himself (“Judy, Judy, Judy”) is priceless.

Christian is also on the mark with Eddie Murphy (“Golden Child”), Glenn Close (“101 Dalmatians—with a great backstory), Harrison Ford (“Witness”), and Jim Carrey (“The Truman Show”). There’s another great story there in how relaxed and down –to-earth Jim Carrey is, but how Ed reluctantly met the private jet requirement of Lauren Holly, Mrs. Jim Carrey. (What’s $18,000 between producer and star’s wife???)

Ed and Christian do get somewhat serious when they discuss “Wired,” the story of the late John Belushi, explaining how Jim Belushi trashed Ed’s office, and how Michael Ovitz did everything in his power to discredit the project. Another nice job with Belushi, Christian.

The Best Anecdote
I loved how Ed met and married Lorraine, literally the girl next door from the Bronx, whom I met at the launch. He gives truly heartfelt thanks to Lorraine at the book’s conclusion. Lorraine has been Ed’s partner for 53 years through all the ups and downs, and one can see how lucky the two of them are “to have moved in next door” to each other.

My Greatest Lesson from “The Picture”
Toward the beginning of the book, Ed describes exactly what a producer “does.” He states that the producer serves as a general manager, to help find scripts, or “fix” them if they are already in process. His job is also to ensure that the project comes in at or near budget. In theory, the director reports to the producer.

Ed is very clear that one thing a producer does not do is put up his own money—his job is to raise it from others. I’ve never invested in film, but have in Broadway, with a long-time producer friend whom our honoree Christian also knows quite well. In fact, when I told Christian about my latest “investment,” he gave me one of the priceless Tommy DeVito “Walk Like a Man” expressions! This producer and I are in for a long talk about “sharing the risk”!! Thanks for the heads up, Ed.

It’s a great work, Christian, Ed, Tom, and Jimmy. And you told it well, Christian. To sum up, “it ain’t chopped livah.”

Thank you again to Howard Tucker for his phenomenal coverage of the “Tell Me How You Love the Picture” event and his wonderful commentary!


  1. Wow, Howard! What great coverage of the evening and the audiobook. Through your detailed, thoughtful and enthusiastic description, this reader vicariously was at Christian’s audiobook party. Congratulations, Howard on your fine journalism and Christian on this record breaking achievement – truly both of you are exemplary and multitalented. Irene Eizen

    Comment by Irene Eizen — February 24, 2007 @ 10:13 am

  2. Howard, great coverage! Looks like it was a fun night! Was there free booze? Tends to be a highlight at parties… hahaha! The photos are great too. The best one, by far, in my own personal opinion, is the one with Dave!

    Comment by Hilary — February 24, 2007 @ 4:48 pm

  3. Howard, great coverage of the party and information on the audiobook; sounds like it is very entertaining. I think my father will love it when I get it for his birthday.

    Comment by Ed — February 25, 2007 @ 1:57 pm

  4. Howard, what a wonderfully thorough and entertaining review of not only the audio book, but the party – love the pictures! It was fun to be able to put a face with Lorraine, wasn’t it? It was great to see Christian get all that much deserved publicity. His voice (and his other voices) on the audio book are so much fun to listen to, I’m having the best time with it. Your fabulous review does it great justice!

    Comment by Catherine — February 26, 2007 @ 10:10 am

  5. Great description, can’t wait for amazon to deliver the book

    Comment by Timothy Ottley — March 8, 2007 @ 2:07 pm

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