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Adagio Teas
   Features  >  NY Theater Reviews

 
I'LL EAT YOU LAST: A CHAT WITH SUE MENGERS
at the Booth

NAME DROPPING 101
By JOANNE KAUFMAN

  Bette Midler/ Ph: Richard Termine

I will eagerly listen to gossip any old time, which gives me one thing – perhaps the only thing – in common with little pisher turned very, very big deal Sue Mengers. “Kiddies, is there anything more sublime than hosting 12 of your nearest and dearest for an evening of good chat?” she asks the audience early on in I’ll Eat You Last, a one-woman show starring Bette Midler about the life and times and “twinklies” (read: stars) of Hollywood’s first female super agent – she of the caftans and wire-rimmed glasses and poisonous putdowns and extraordinary client list (Candy Bergen, Mike Nichols, Michael Caine, George Segal, Herbert Ross, Anthony Newley, Dyan Cannon, Bob Fosse, Sidney Lumet, Burt Reynolds, Cybill Shepherd, Ryan O’Neal, Rod Steiger, Peter Bogdanovich, Gore Vidal and on and on).

As you say, Sue, there is nothing more sublime than good chat, nothing. I would dearly like to be part of that evening. Instead, I am part of I’ll Eat You Last. Nothing wrong with that I guess. The 85-minute intermission-less chat in question written by Tony Award-winning playwright John Logan passes agreeably with many names dropped – Barbra Streisand, Elton John, Sissy Spacek, Ali McGraw, Steve McQueen, Gene Hackman, Faye Dunaway, Vanessa Redgrave – many pretensions lanced and much earthy commentary offered, such as the five golden rules of show business. These include “never remind them.” “Here’s another reason so many clients dump an agent once they get successful: because you remind them of when they were hungry. When they’re on the way up, they’ll do anything for you. But once they get a taste of success, as night follows day, they start to hate you specifically because they used to need you.

“So for fuck’s sake don’t compound the problem by reminding them of the good old days when you were all young and eager and up-and-coming. Movie stars have already up-and-come; they have came-and-are. That’s why they’re movie stars. There’s nothing more present tense then a movie star. You only talk to them about the future, never the past. And if you’re representing Miss Diana Ross – as I did – you might want to avoid saying the following as you walk the red carpet with her at the Oscars: ‘Wow, Diana, long way from the days of blowing Barry Gordy in the back of the limo, huh?’“

Over the course of the evening, Mengers offers numerous examples of her tenacity, looks back fondly on her heyday, and rails against the New Hollywood as embodied by Michael Ovitz, “who's more interested in who’s making what than in who’s screwing who. … One of us is in the wrong town.”

I’ll Eat You Last isn’t a shapely piece of theater; it isn’t really a play at all. Set on the day in 1981 that Barbra Streisand, an early Mengers champion, dropped her as an agent, the production tries – futilely – to extract drama from the question of whether Babs will or will not phone to make amends. But it never rises to anything more than chitchat. And while it’s always a delight to be in Midler’s presence, not for a minute, unfortunately, did I believe I was in Mengers'.

 


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