PERSONAL: Born in New York, NY. Education: City College, New York, NY, B.A.; Columbia University, New York, NY, M.A., Ph.D.
ADDRESSES: Home—New York, NY, and Los Angeles, CA. Agent—c/o Author Mail, Random House, 1540 Broadway, New York, NY 10036. E-mail—[email protected]
Death of a Rebel: A Biography of Phil Ochs, Anchor (New York, NY), 1979, reprinted with a foreword by Vin Scelsa, Carol Publishing Group (Secaucus, NJ), 1994.
American Television: The Official Art of the Artificial, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1981.
Burt!: The Unauthorized Biography, Dell (New York, NY), 1982.
Televisions: One Season in American Television, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1983.
Rockonomics: The Money behind the Music, Franklin Watts (New York, NY), 1989.
Down Thunder Road: The Making of Bruce Springsteen, Simon and Schuster (New York, NY), 1992.
Walt Disney: Hollywood's Dark Prince, Carol Publishing Group (Secaucus, NJ), 1993.
(With Roy Clark) My Life—In Spite of Myself!, Simon and Schuster (New York, NY), 1994.
(With Vicki Lawrence) Vicki!: The True-Life Adventures of Miss Fireball, Simon and Schuster (New York, NY), 1995.
Kato Kaelin: The Whole Truth, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1995.
(With Sam Lovullo) Life in the Kornfield: My Twenty-Five Years at Hee Haw, Boulevard Books (New York, NY), 1996.
To the Limit: The Untold Story of the Eagles, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1997.
(With Barry White) Love Unlimited: Insights on Life and Love, Broadway Books (New York, NY), 1999.
Down 42nd Street: Sex, Money, Culture, and Politics at the Crossroads of the World, Warner Books (New York, NY), 2001.
(With Erin Brockovich) Take It from Me: Life's a Struggle but You Can Win, McGraw-Hill (New York, NY), 2001.
(With Donna Summer) Ordinary Girl: The Journey, Villard (New York, NY), 2003.
Cary Grant: The Biography, Harmony Books (New York, NY), 2004.
Also author of introduction to I Feel Good by James Brown, New American Library (New York, NY), 2005.
ADAPTATIONS: Down Thunder Road and Kato Kaelin were adapted as audiobooks; Down 42nd Street was made into an audiobook by Time Warner AudioBooks, c. 2002; Cary Grant was made into an audio book by Books On Tape, 2005.
WORK IN PROGRESS: A biography of actor Jimmy Stewart, scheduled for publication by Harmony Books, October, 2006.
SIDELIGHTS: Marc Eliot has made a name for himself writing about the popular music business, television, and authorized and unauthorized celebrity biographies. The biographies Death of a Rebel: A Biography of Phil Ochs, Down Thunder Road: The Making of Bruce Springsteen, and To the Limit: The Untold Story of the Eagles form a trilogy about important performers from the 1960s to the 1980s, while his Rockonomics: The Money behind the Music is a close up look at how the money is made and distributed in the popular music industry. In Walt Disney: Hollywood's Dark Prince, Eliot tried to portray a Disney little known to the general populace.
Eliot's first full-length biography, Death of a Rebel, tells the story of Phil Ochs, a mid-1960s protest singer who, after a brief period of fame, committed suicide. A Choice reviewer called the biography "well researched" and "well written" and predicted that it would enjoy "limited appeal as Americana." In the New York Times Book Review, Ken Emerson commented that "the short unhappy life of Phil Ochs makes for moving and instructive reading even in Marc Eliot's hagiographic account."
Eliot's duo of books on television, American Television: The Official Art of the Artificial and Televisions: One Season of American Television are collections of miscellany relating to prime-time television shows. A Publishers Weekly critic called the thumbnail critiques of programs in American Television "clever," and several commentators found merit in Televisions. Joseph E. O'Connor, writing in the Library Journal, called it "gossipy, penetrating at times, and informative."
Rockonomics, Eliot's look at moneymaking in the popular music industry, fared better with critics. In this work, Eliot describes how contracts are made, how incomes are distributed, and how incomes are spent. He portrays business managers, agents, record producers, and musicians—all of whom are out to get rich with music as a business, not an art. "Despite his hyped-up tone, Eliot has written an accessible, if somewhat superficial history," asserted a Kirkus Reviews critic.
In his biography of rock superstar Bruce Springsteen, Down Thunder Road, Eliot also focuses on the business aspects of music, particularly Springsteen's difficult relationship with his producer, Mike Appel, which led to a lawsuit in 1976. A Publishers Weekly reviewer saw the efficacy of Eliot's "confident spare style" lessened by the long legal excerpts. On the other hand, a critic for Kirkus Reviews praised Down Thunder Road highly, stating, "This little-seen and interesting view of rock exposes the real nuts and bolts of the business."
In Walt Disney Eliot shows the less laudable side of the movie mogul. According to Eliot, Walt Disney was ruthless, egotistic, insecure, anti-Semitic, and antiunion, as well as being an alcohol abuser and an FBI informant. A Kirkus Reviews critic called the biography a "very readable, actually quite laudable work."
Working with celebrities who want to write autobiographies is another of Eliot's specialties. When Roy Clark, the host of the television show Hee Haw, wanted to pen a work about his life, he turned to Eliot. Together they wrote My Life—In Spite of Myself! in which Clark tells his rags-to-riches story, highlighting his music, family relationships, and ability to be in the right place at the right time. Library Journal critic Carol J. Binkowski called Clark's recollections "clever." In Life in the Kornfield: My Twenty-Five Years at Hee Haw, Eliot assisted Sam Lovullo, the producer of Hee Haw, in telling the history of this longest-running syndicated television show in the history of the medium. The duo presented short biographies of cast members and a review of the shows, which Booklist contributor Mike Tribby called an "excellent source of light entertainment."
Carol Burnett look-alike Vicki Lawrence also went to Eliot for her ghostwriting needs. The result is the tell-all memoir Vicki!: The True-Life Adventures of Miss Fireball, which is written in a "charmingly rambling fashion," to quote a Publishers Weekly critic. In a review for the Library Journal, Carolyn M. Mulac noted the work's humor and called it tame; other reviewers observed a definite sour tone to the book, in which Lawrence airs some of her grievances against her family and others. "There's little to smile about here as she describes her uncommunicative father, Howard, an accountant; her emotionally abusive mother, Nettie; and her still-resentful younger sister Joni," commented Michael Lipton in People Weekly.
Another celebrity who called on Eliot was Kato Kaelin, former football star O.J. Simpson's house guest at the time of Nicole Simpson Brown's murder. After granting Eliot seventeen hours of tape-recorded interviews, Kaelin pulled the plug on the biography project. Eliot nevertheless went on to write Kato Kaelin: The Whole Truth, which contradicts much of the testimony that Kaelin later gave during O.J. Simpson's trial. Kaelin later sued both Eliot and his publisher over copyright issues, and was subsequently counter-sued by both.
Eliot drew on scores of interviews with band members, family members, friends, and music business people for To the Limit: The Untold Story of the Eagles, a chronicle of the highly successful 1970s band of the title. A Kirkus Reviews critic judged the work to be "comprehensive" and a true portrait of the group, despite Eliot's evident status as a fan. Lloyd Jansen, writing in the Library Journal, cited To the Limit particularly for Eliot's "excellent" portrayal of the 1970s Los Angeles rock scene and "fascinating" character studies.
Eliot helped pop singer Barry White with his autobiography, Love Unlimited: Insights on Life and Love. The book describes White's escape from the ghetto when his deep, soulful voice developed and outlines his rise to the top as a singer of love songs. "Mildly informative, oozing with soul, and equally interesting as star bio and objet de kitsch, it's a surefire hit," wrote Mike Tribby in Booklist. A Publishers Weekly contributor noted, "What this book lacks in personal revelation, it makes up for in tone." Clarissa Cruz, writing in Entertainment Weekly, called the book a "swoony hodgepodge of memoir, musical philosophy, and astrology."
In Down 42nd Street: Sex, Money, Culture, and Politics at the Crossroads of the World Eliot delves into the history of the famous New York City street that eventually became the hub of New York entertainment and theatre and also known for its sleazy elements of sex and crime. The author also weaves some of the city's political history into his story as he describes how New York mayors often used the street for their own political ends. "Well researched and impressively detailed, the narrative paints a rich picture of the street's evolution," wrote a Kirkus Reviews contributor. In Publishers Weekly a reviewer wrote that the book "does present a popular and engaging look at 'the crossroads of the world.'"
Take It from Me: Life's a Struggle but You Can Win is a collaborative effort with Erin Brockovich that provides advice for living, drawing on the story of Brockovich's life as she rose from a secretary with low self-esteem to a noted whistle blower who was portrayed in a film by actress Julia Roberts. "As heartfelt as it is breathless: administer the lithium, but heed the sensible advice, too," noted a Kirkus Reviews contributor. Susan Burdick, writing in the Library Journal, called the book "a quick and easy read, full of gripping details." In a review in Booklist, Mary Carroll noted that "Brockovich's Eliot-assisted 'voice' is accessible and appealing, and many readers will find her message empowering." Eliot also collaborated with Disco diva Donna Summer for her autobiography, Ordinary Girl: The Journey. Although the book outlines Summer's success as a singer, which included five Grammy awards, it also delves into the singer's problems with handling success and other difficulties that almost led to her suicide.
More recently, Eliot completed Cary Grant: The Biography, which reveals that the onscreen, suave persona developed by the actor was far from the realities of his youth and later life. Eliot delves into Grant's unhappy childhood, takes a close look at his five marriages, and explores the actor's likely homosexual relationship with actor Randolph Scott. The author also explores Grant's acting style and his ability to play madcap comedic parts as well as more serious roles. In a review in Publishers Weekly, a contributor commented that "Eliot's fascinating, sympathetic portrait is of a consummate performer who hid inner demons and used filmmaking to distance himself from reality." Edward Karam, writing in People Weekly, further noted, "Glimpses of the debonair leading man's dark side are the most intriguing elements of this welcome biography."
Eliot told CA: "I first becamse interested in writing while visiting my grandmother's apartment in the Bronx. She had a living room that was like a mausoleum; everything covered in plastic, no one allowed to use it. As a little boy I would go in and read the paperbacks my aunt, who was a nurse, left there. Those novels electrified my soul. I knew right then that I wanted to do that. I wanted to write books that would electrify people. My major influences are Henry Miller, Harold Robbins, William Goldman, Alfred Bester, Phil Ochs, Bob Dylan, Norman Mailer, T.S. Eliot, and Fitzgerald.
"I write every day. I think about it, I eat about it, I sleep about it. I am constantly rewriting, which I regard as seventy-five percent of the process of writing. Words need to be sculpted into shape, like raw clay.
"The most surprising thing I learned as a writer is twofold. First, that I could make a living at it. Second, that I could line up my arrows with my targets and score bulls-eyes fairly regularly.
"It is difficult to choose a favorite book. It is much like choosing a favorite child (or girlfriend). I suppose if I had to choose one, it would be Death of a Rebel, because it was my first, and Phil was such a good friend and crucial influence on my early hopes and dreams. I also like, very much, Down Thunder Road; Walt Disney, Hollywood's Dark Prince (an unselfconsciously courageous book that I had no idea would be as important as it turned out to be), and Cary Grant."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
American Enterprise, March, 1999, Clark Stooksbury, review of To the Limit: The Untold Story of the Eagles, p. 82.
Backstage, July 23, 1993, Robert Hofler, review of Walt Disney: Hollywood's Dark Prince, p. 2W.
Booklist, April 15, 1995, Ilene Cooper, review of Vicki!: The True-Life Adventures of Miss Fireball, p. 1466; December 1, 1996, Mike Tribby, review of Life in the Kornfield: My 25 Years at Hee Haw, p. 637; September 15, 1998, Mike Tribby, review of To the Limit, p. 183; September 1, 1999, Mike Tribby, review of Love Unlimited: Insights on Life and Love, p. 6; December 15, 2001, Mary Whaley, review of Down 42nd Street: Sex, Money, Culture, and Politics at the Crossroads of the World, p. 700; December 15, 2001, Mary Carroll, review of Take It from Me: Life's a Struggle but You Can Win, p. 685; August, 2004, Margaret Flanagan, review of Cary Grant: The Biography, p. 1866.
Choice, September, 1979, review of Death of a Rebel: A Biography of Phil Ochs, p. 846.
Cineaste, spring, 1993, Jon Lewis, review of Walt Disney, p. 57.
Contemporary Review, July, 2005, review of Cary Grant, p. 63.
Entertainment Weekly, July 24, 1992, David Browne, review of Down Thunder Road: The Making of Bruce Springsteen, p. 54; June 4, 1993, Tim Appelo, review of Walt Disney, p. 46; October 23, 1998, David Browne, review of To the Limit, p. 74; November 12, 1999, Clarissa Cruz, review of Love Unlimited, p. 74; October 10, 2003, Francisco Rosario, review of Ordinary Girl: The Journey, p. 128; September 24, 2004, Stephen Rees, review of Cary Grant, p. 114.
Kirkus Reviews, March 15, 1989, review of Rockonomics: The Money behind the Music, pp. 432-433; April 1, 1993, review of Walt Disney, p. 425; August 1, review of To the Limit, 1998, p. 1082; October 1, 2001, review of Down 42nd Street, p. 1400; November 1, 2001, review of Take It from Me, p. 1527.
Library Journal, March 1, 1983, Joseph E. O'Connor, review of Televisions: One Season in American Television, p. 497; February 1, 1994, Carol J. Binkowski, review of My Life—in Spite of Myself!, pp. 77-78; July, 1995, Carolyn M. Mulac, review of Vicki!, p. 81; October 1, 1998, Lloyd Jansen, review of To the Limit, pp. 88-89; October 1, 1999, Dan Bogey, review of Love Unlimited, p. 98; December, 2001, Susan Burdick, review of Take It from Me, p. 151; September 15, 2004, Stephen Rees, review of Cary Grant, p. 59.
M2 Best Books, Nov 13, 2003, review of Ordinary Girl.
New Statesman, March 28, 2005, Caroline Murphy, review of Cary Grant, p. 52.
New Statesman and Society, August 12, 1994, Douglas Kennedy, review of Walt Disney, p. 39.
New York Times Book Review, March 4, 1979, Ken Emerson, review of Death of a Rebel, p. 23.
People Weekly, August 9, 1993, Leah Rozen, review of Walt Disney, p. 28; July 10, 1995, Michael Lipton, review of Vicki!, p. 28; October 25, 2004, Edward Karam, review of Cary Grant, p. 54.
Publishers Weekly, September 25, 1981, review of American Television: The Official Art of the Artificial, p. 82; January 21, 1983, review of Televisions, p. 72; October 4, 1991, review of Down Thunder Road, p. 74; April 26, 1993, review of Walt Disney, pp. 61-62; February 7, 1994, review of My Life, p. 81; March 20, 1995, review of Vicki!, p. 50; October 4, 1999, review of Love Unlimited, p. 57; October 22, 2001, review of Down 42nd Street, p. 68; November 12, 2001, review of Take It from Me, p. 49; August 2, 2004, review of Cary Grant, p. 60; December 20, 2004, review of I Feel Good, p. 48.
State (Columbia, SC), February 2, 2005, Otis R. Taylor Jr., review of I Feel Good.
Video Age International, September, 1993, Fred Hift, review of Walt Disney, p. 10.
Washington Post Book World, July 18, 1993, Pat Dowell review of Walt Disney, p. 5.
Marc Eliot Home Page, http://www.marceliot.net (September 7, 2005).
Time Warner Bookmark, http://www.twbookmark.com/ (February 27, 2001), "Authors: Marc Eliot.".