Saturday, March 07, 2009

Book review: Roger L. Simon's "Blacklisting Myself"

"People change, that's the long and short of it
Prepare yourself for it
Or get bit"
Nick Lowe, "People Change," 2007.

After reading Roger L. Simon's Blacklisting Myself: Memoir of a Hollywood Apostate in the Age of Terror, it's clear that Simon, once a left-wing radical who "wanted to be as idolized as Che" has certainly changed. He's a Neo-con now.

Let's skip the politics for a moment. Since graduating from Dartmouth in the (surprise!) 1960s, Simon has made his living as a writer, but he hasn't stuck to one medium. His popular Moses Wine mystery novels opened the door to Hollywood; Simon wrote the script for The Big Fix, which starred Richard Dreyfuss. Later he co-wrote the script to Enemies, a Love Story; Simon received an Academy Award nomination for his efforts.

Hollywood dominates this memoir, and Simon captures it in a bottle: Think of the film Get Shorty, remove the organized crime elements, substitute left-wing politics and new age spiritualism, and you have a pretty good idea of how the movie industry operates. Oh yeah, scripts get made into films, and actors appear in them.

But what's Hollywood without celebrity spotting? There are plenty of big names here, Barbra Streisand and Woody Allen, come off badly in Simon's book, Warren Beatty slightly better, but Dreyfuss appears to come out on top, "an intelligent man who actually read books before spouting off."

Simon authored the screenplay for the popular Richard Pryor vehicle Bustin' Loose. The troubled comic genius is portrayed in a sympathetic light by Simon, even though during the tortuous process of making the film he was "hired thrice and fired twice." The film undoubtedly made a lot of money, not that Simon saw any of it, because the statement he received showed Bustin' Loose finished in the red.

The movie received an NAACP Image Award for Best Picture, but the screenwriter for Bustin' Loose, Simon, ended up as a "white non-person." He wasn't invited to the Image ceremony, and there was no mention of a script writer during the gala.

Simon's fame as a mystery writer allowed him to visit some New Left Valhallas, including Cuba, pre-Deng China, and the Soviet Union, where he believes he was recruited to join the KGB during a bizarre psycho-sexual interlude. "This evening, you might want to go dancing?"

By then Simon hated the Soviet Union, when he left he "felt like being released from jail."

The blacklisting part of Blacklisting Myself comes late in the book. Has Simon been blacklisted" "In all honesty," he writes, "I don't know." But he believes that some sort of blacklist exists against conservatives.

Either way, Simon is certainly treated differently by his Hollywood associates.

For instance, Harry Shearer remarks in front of the author, "I knew Roger when he was another person." Shearer is a contributor to the Huffington Post.

Later in the book, Simon writes of one of his former collaborators, "Paul Mazursky and I still talk. We're still friends and we love each other. But it is not the same."

The OJ Simpson trial, then 9/11, moved Simon from the left, but he's hardly a cookie-cutter conservative: Simon favors gay marriage.

Of course the latest chapter in Simon's writing career is his work on his blog and his role as CEO of Pajamas Media. I don't know him that well, we've exchanged a few e-mails and we've talked on the telephone a couple of times. Still, he comes across to me in this book as the same straightforward person I (a little bit) know.

Blacklisting Myself is published by Encounter Books and is available on Amazon.

There is nothing unusual when "People Change."

I encourage you to purchase and read this book. Regardless of his politics, Simon is certainly a great storyteller.

Publishers: If you are interested having your books reviewed, please contact me at

Related post:

My book report: The Wal-Mart Revolution: How Big Box Stores Benefit Consumers, Workers, and the Economy

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