“To call Sue Mengers a ‘character’ is an understatement, unless the word is written in all-caps, followed by an exclamation point and modified by an expletive. And based on Brian Kellow’s assessment in his thoroughly researched Can I Go Now? even that description may be playing down her personality a bit.” —Jen Chaney, The Washington Post
• A NY Times Culture Bestseller • An Entertainment Weekly Best Pop Culture Book of 2015 • A Booklist Top Ten Arts Book of 2015 •
A lively and colorful biography of Hollywood’s first superagent—one of the most outrageous showbiz characters of the 1960s and 1970s whose clients included Barbra Streisand, Ryan O’Neal, Faye Dunaway, Michael Caine, and Candice Bergen
Before Sue Mengers hit the scene in the mid-1960s, talent agents remained quietly in the background. But staying in the background was not possible for Mengers. Irrepressible and loaded with chutzpah, she became a driving force of Creative Management Associates (which later became ICM) handling the era’s preeminent stars.
A true original with a gift for making the biggest stars in Hollywood listen to hard truths about their careers and personal lives, Mengers became a force to be reckoned with. Her salesmanship never stopped. In 1979, she was on a plane that was commandeered by a hijacker, who wanted Charlton Heston to deliver a message on television. Mengers was incensed, wondering why the hijacker wanted Heston, when she could get him Barbra Streisand.
Acclaimed biographer Brian Kellow spins an irresistible tale, exhaustively researched and filled with anecdotes about and interviews more than two hundred show-business luminaries. A riveting biography of a powerful woman that charts show business as it evolved from New York City in the 1950s through Hollywood in the early 1980s, Can I Go Now? will mesmerize anyone who loves cinema’s most fruitful period.
Kellow, who specializes in biographies of accomplished women (Pauline Kael: A Life in the Dark), turns his attention to Sue Mengers, Hollywood's first female "superagent." She was already a chain-smoking, caftan-wearing, coarse-mouthed legend in 1973 when client Dyan Cannon parodied her in the movie The Last of Sheila. Menders, raised in humble circumstances in Utica, N.Y., and the Bronx, promoted herself with hard work, chutzpah, and an eye for good material, and became a vital force in male-dominated 1970s Hollywood. With renowned friends (Gore Vidal, Robert Evans), superstar clients (Barbra Streisand, Ryan O'Neal, Peter Bogdanovich), and headline-making deals (getting Gene Hackman an unheard-of $1 million salary for the box-office turkey Lucky Lady), Mengers became a feminist trailblazer, though she had no interest in the movement. But when the 70s ended and Hollywood switched from star-driven pictures to special effects blockbusters, her career, for all intents and purposes, was over. She led a life worthy of a Harold Robbins or Jacqueline Susann novel, but Kellow's writing is more dutiful than inspired (and dogged by errors, such as misidentifying NYU grad Martin Scorsese's alma mater as UCLA). Kellow fails to fully bring to life this larger-than-life character whose ultimate undoing was her desperate need to shine brighter than her clients.