A collection of offbeat, funny, and often moving backstories of the many entertainers and athletes covered by award-winning Newsweek journalist Allison Samuels, Off the Record reveals the inner worlds of today's A-list black celebrities.
With anecdotes on everyone from Snoop Dogg, Shaquille O'Neal, Denzel Washington, Eddie Murphy, and Whitney Houston, this "all-access" book is filled with insightful stories that never made it into the pages of the mainstream press.
From her start at CAA's infamous agent training program—which included tasks such as blowing up 200 dinosaurs for the lobby when Steven Spielberg made a quick visit, and picking up Ted Danson's half-million-dollar weekly paycheck—there was no chore too small. But these humble beginnings gave Samuels access to Hollywood's A-list and led to her eventual focus on the world of black entertainers.
On the evening following the 1996 acquittal of Snoop Dogg on charges of murder, Newsweek entertainment writer Samuels attended a party thrown by the rapper, where an "obviously drunk fifty-something white male took the microphone... and began to deliver an ill-advised and unfortunate freestyle rap." Upon closer examination, she identified the man as one of the jurors who had granted the musician his freedom that morning. Moments like this abound in Samuels's casual, honest rumination on her career reporting on black Hollywood. Her short chapters include profiles of athletes, actors and musicians such as Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, Angela Bassett, Denzel Washington, Whitney Houston and the artists of Suge Knight's Death Row record label, a group with which Samuels established a close, long-running relationship. The challenges of fame, success and journalism are touched upon, though only superficially. While the issue of race is given attention, the collection's main draw is the insider observations and anecdotes, which range from telling (in response to being told that an article featuring him is no longer front-page material, a precomeback Eddie Murphy asks, "But don't they remember?") to bizarre (Mike Tyson showing off the letters JFK Jr. wrote him during his incarceration).