It's All Lies and That's the Truth: and 49 More Rules from 50 Years of Trying to Make a Living in Hollywood
By Bernie Brillstein
No One Is Ever Scared of a Fat Man
Accept who you are, and use it to your advantage-especially if it's a negative perception.
For instance, some people think that because I'm fat I must be jolly, maybe lazy. I understand. It's the stereotype.
In truth, when I was young I had lots of anger. I used to live in the husky department at Barneys. Too often I had to laugh my way into bed with a woman because-can you believe it?-some women don't find fat guys attractive. Today, I can't bend over to tic my shoes. I have to ask for a seat belt extension on airplanes. All my life, no one worried that I'd take their girlfriend. No one thought I looked better than them. No one thought I'd get their money. In most people's eyes, I was less than them-precisely because I was more.
To deal with it, I learned to make fun of my size myself. Once, I did a cameo part on Lily Tomlin's old TV show. It was a great sketch. The police were arresting all the fat people in Beverly Hills and I was one of them. But what can I do? My ass has always been wider than my shoulders. I was born with Russian peasant genes, not a thirty-two-inch waist. Well, I take that back; I probably was born with a thirty-two-inch waist.
The mistake is that because I'm fat, people believe I'm somehow vulnerable and easy to handle in a negotiation. Good. Let them underestimate me. Next thing you know I do steal the girlfriend, do out-negotiate, and do take the client. Turns out being heavyset has been wonderful for business. Sometimes I think good-looking guys have it a lot tougher than me.
We all have something we're not proud of, but I realized I had to learn to live with myself, and I decided I had no choice but to work real hard with what God gave me. Happily, that wasn't limited to extra heft. I was also funny, charming, and smart. The smarter you are the less you have to tell anyone you're smart, so I underplayed everything, was accepted as nonthreatening, and got into the game. I dressed casually-I think I was the first guy to go out in designer sweatsuits; I did it to be comfortable, not a trendsetter-and I've never played the part of mogul. As a result, people drop their guard around me and relax. Then I go to work. Ever try to negotiate with a fat guy? We can be mean: Marvin Davis, Harvey Weinstein, Hermann Goering. No one screws around with us for long. And when it's over, most of the time I manage to walk away with the lion's share without upsetting the other lions.
I know my reputation: I'm a little bit larger than life. For me, it's a great way to get ahead.
Who are you?
Tell 'Em Your Name Even If They Already Know It
Not long ago I was at an after-hours business function when a guy about fifty, wearing a sharp suit and a big smile, strode briskly toward me with a look on his face that, even before he opened his mouth, screamed: "Bemie. What a surprise! Great to see you."
His hand was ready to grab mine for a hearty shake.
Unfortunately, I had a touch of what I call "damnesia" and couldn't remember his name.
What do you do when someone who clearly thinks he's your best friend is heading straight for you-and you don't have a clue who he is? How can you get out of a potentially embarrassing situation without ending up like Jackie Gleason's Ralph Kramden character nervously going, "humana, huma-na, huma-na?" Most people have no idea.
Here's what I do: Go on offense. Say, "Hi, I'm Bernie Brillstein."
They go, "Of course. You know me. Geez, I'm Joe Smith."
You go, "Yeah, I knew. I just didn't know if you knew who I was."
Turn it around and you're out of trouble.
Who's going to argue?