At the book launch celebration at Sardi’s of Try Not to Hold It Against Me: A Producer’s Life by veteran motion picture, television, and Broadway producer Julian Schlossberg – released by Beaufort Books in late January, sold out in two days, and already in its second printing in February – I asked his special guests Tony Roberts, F. Murray Abraham, Laila Robins, and Marlo Thomas, all of whom have had a close working relationship and personal friendship with Schlossberg through the years, what three words they would use to describe him.
Roberts unhesitatingly replied, “Ambitious, sophisticated, kind.” Abraham asked me, “How about four words? One of a kind,” then noted that Mike Nichols referred to him as “the nicest producer in show business,” as quoted in the book. Robins, who will be working on his upcoming soon-to-be-announced production in NYC, finds him “Civilized, charming, and delightful.” And Thomas, considered by Schlossberg, who was an only child, to be like a sister to him, laughingly said, “A wonderful lug!”
I then posed the same question to Schlossberg. He acknowledged that it’s “not exactly three words,” but it’s a line from Scaramouche that he relates to and cites in his memoir: “He was born with a gift of laughter and a sense that the world was mad.” All of those affable qualities come shining through in the book, chock full of insider’s information, reflections, and insights, and written in a thoroughly congenial, vivid, and engaging style that makes it hard to put down and impossible to hold anything against him, per his humorous titular request. What’s also clear is the joy he’s found in his life, his colleagues, his wife, and his chosen career. Schlossberg is indisputably someone who’s in it for all the right reasons and truly appreciates everything he’s accomplished.
Now 81, the Bronx native decided to put his down time during the pandemic hiatus to good use (when he had to put fourteen projects-in-the-works on hold) by looking back on his first eight decades, sharing the most memorable moments of his background, his wealth of experiences with some of the greatest luminaries of the stage and screen, and the lessons he’s learned, in an autobiography that captivates with his natural gift for storytelling, impresses with his determination and industriousness, and uplifts with his effervescent attitude.
The must-read for fans of show biz is arranged in 86 short chapters, each with its own mini-narrative and revelation. From his childhood as an avid movie-goer, TV viewer, and radio listener, to his excursions to the theater, the jobs of his youth, his schooling, service in the army, and relationships with family and friends, Schlossberg, with his innate openness and sense of humor, lets us get to know him and lays the foundation for his dream-come-true of meeting his favorite stars and having a successful cross-media multi-hyphenate career in the industry as a buyer, producer, director, representative, and host, and founder of his own independent motion-picture and film-distribution company Castle Hill Productions (the English equivalent of his surname).
In addition to describing in compelling detail the variety of work, amount of effort, and intricate negotiations that go into producing a hit – or even a flop – on the stage or screen, Schlossberg considers the different approaches of the two, the changes he observed from the ‘60s to the present, the contributions of which he is most proud, and the star-studded events he attended. And while he is never averse to dropping names (there’s even a chapter called “name-dropping” – about a party for Barbra Streisand at the home of Liza Minnelli), he does it without ego but with awe that he’s living his “impossible dream” and enjoying the company, kindness, and friendship of such legendary talents (including his other “sister” Elaine May, who wrote the foreword to the book). I’m purposely not dropping the names of any other celebrities here, so you can read about them yourself, in his own words.
Schlossberg closes with “what’s it all about?” – a chapter of ruminations and advice, and the observation that “it’s been a wonderful life.” It still is, and here’s to many, many more years for this enthusiastic, indefatigable, and dedicated advocate for the performing arts and artists. With another fourteen projects soon to come and no plan of retiring, I look forward to a second volume of Julian Schlossberg’s rich, informative, and enjoyable memoir. In the meantime, be sure to read this one.
Julian Schlossberg, Try Not to Hold It Against Me: A Producer’s Life (NYC: Beaufort Books, 31 January 2023), 374 pages, hardcover, $26.95, ISBN: 9780825310256, e-book, ISBN: 9780825309007, is available from Amazon and other booksellers and digital platforms.