BootLeg Betty

BetteBack Oct. 1986: Lawyer Turned Novelist Says Talented Musicians Most Defective, But Adores Bette Midler!

Lawyer’s novel captures rock’s golden age
By Susan Stewart
Knight-Ridder Newspapers
Tuesday, October 14, 1986

“It isn’t just a titillating book about sex, drugs, orgies and rock ‘n’roll,” Freddie Gershon said earnestly. “It’s about the 20th century. I don’t want to be too heavy, but there was a’ revolution.”

So we’d heard. Still, listening to ’60s stories from Gershon, hotshot rock ‘n’ roll lawyer-turned-hotshot novelist, was more entertaining than, say, listening to Walter Cronkite’s album of ’60s social history.

For one thing, Gershon’s patter was delivered through the most incredibly pearly set of teeth we had seen in a while. For another, Gershon was the best-dressed social historian we had ever met.

“This is a Tommy Nutter shirt. He’s the best tailor on Savile Row. He used to make Mick and Bianca’s matching outfits.”

Sizzling sex scenes

Even without the book (Sweetie Baby Cookie Honey, Arbor House, $17.95, already practically a miniseries) Gershon can
afford Savile Row clothes. Did he get rich representing “fifth Beatle” Peter Best in his suit against the Beatles?

“No, I got rich because I was the only entertainment lawyer around.”

And he was around — representing clients from Van Morrison to Eric Clapton — at the right time.

“I got my law degree at Columbia in ’64. That was three months a f t er the Kennedy assassination. America had lost her virginity.”

And so, it would appear from Sweetie, had everybody else. While this thinly fictionalized expose does not have more sex scenes per chapter than, say, the novels of Gershon’s literary exemplar, Jacqueline Suzanne, the sex scenes in it are
more memorable. Gershon said the most shocking scene for most people is the one where “Hedy Harlowe,” lusty but lonely superstar, orders a pizza, then lets it get cold while she enjoys the pizza delivery man.

Our favorite sex scene, however, manage to eke out a sustenance. When he and his wife sold their Southampton house, they had to pay $4,000 a month just to store their furniture.

Gershon rode the crest of the rock wave for 15 years, from the Beatles through the protest years —”1968 was devastating for me. It was the year the dream went sour” — and into the late 70s, when rock and movies merged. In 1976 he became
Robert Stigwood’s partner in RSO Records, and thus was part of the team that produced Saturday Night Fever and Gallipoli.

Casting dreams

After Gallipoli, it stopped being fun, and Fast Freddie became Frenzied Freddie. “I was out of control. We had the 22,000-square-foot beach house with a staff of six, the helicopter, the limo.”

The epiphany came one day when he was having 30 or so to lunch. “I said to my wife, I don’t know who these people are having lunch with us. Then I noticed the staff putting a ’66 Haul Brion into the sangria.”

So in 1981, Fast Freddie retired. Freddie the Lawyer became Freddie the Author. Sure, his social life is less impressive, but “I prefer the reclusive l i f e .” And now, irony of ironies, it looks like he might be doing it all again, at least until Sweetie makes it into miniseries land. Yes, he’s thought about casting.

” E l t on m i g ht p l ay ‘ B r a n d on Levy’ ” — the impresario who had the Palace guard fling — “I’d love to
h a ve S t i ng p l ay ‘ T h a ne C r a wley’ ” — the bad guy. ” . .. And you know who I’d like to direct?

Bette Midler fan

Gershon leaned forward, eyes glinting. “Barbra Streisand.”

Gershon loves music. “Favorite songs? Walk Away Renee by the Left Bank, because it’s built on the p e n t a t o n ic
s c a l e, a nd P r o c ul Harum’s Whiter Shade of Pale.”

And he loves musicians. But he will never represent musicians again; he has had enough of their antics for a lifetime. “They’re idiot savants. I’ve discovered most major talents are defective in proportion to their talent.”

Naturally, Gershon won’t name names, unless he has something nice to say. He adores Bette Midler. “… just the warmest dearest person .. I know this project she’s working on…

Suddenly, Gershon was all business. “It’s the story of an obnoxious performer who becomes a caring friend to a friend who’s dying of cancer — she turns her home into a hospice. This is Tales of Endearment Goes Show Biz. This is it. Bette can sing, she can show, but she can grow . . . .”

If Gershon could get this fired up about a project he has nothing to do with, how can he stand not being in the business any more?

He smiled a wise, 46-year-old smile. “I mean, I’ve done the Plaza Athenee suite, the helicopters — I’ve done it all.” And now it seems as if it was all j u s t . .. research. Gershon is planning a sequel to Sweetie, bec ause he h as so m u ch d i rt l e ft over.

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