When I Stop Talking, You’ll Know I’m Dead


When I Stop Talking, You’ll Know I’m Dead

Useful Stories from a Persuasive Man

by Jerry Weintraub with Rich Cohen

I was recommended this book by Elliott Bisnow. I wish I could say that he recommended it to me personally, but he didn’t. He told Alex Banayan to read it before they met for the first time, as recounted by Alex in his book “The Third Door”. Elliott Bisnow is a larger-than-life figure in the world of entrepreneurship, so I decided it would be worth heeding his advice myself and reading this book.

Jerry Weintraub is a legend among talent managers. Jerry was more than a talent manager. He was also a kingmaker, a producer, a director, a studio owner, and, underpinning all of that, a salesman. Jerry knew how to sell, whether it was himself, someone he was managing, or an idea. Jerry knew how to get to where he wanted to go.

One of the greatest stories in this book comes very near the beginning. Jerry’s father, Samuel, was a jewelry dealer. He picked up the largest star sapphire in the world from a secondhand dealer. The gem itself wasn’t worth a whole lot. But then Samuel named it. He called it the Star of Ardaban. Samuel knew that people don’t buy the gem itself. They buy the story, the romance of it. Samuel made a special case for the Star of Ardaban and took a trip across the country showcasing it. While all of the local jewelers in each town were examining the Star, Samuel was selling them all of his other jewels. Then he donated the Star of Ardaban to the Smithsonian.

Jerry explains that this story became a family foundational story. Although Samuel was selling jewels and Jerry ended up selling talent (Clooney, Damon, Sinatra), the trick is the same: packaging. You might have the greatest product or talent in the world, but it doesn’t matter if you can’t sell it.

The story of the Star of Ardaban underpins this entire book. One of Jerry’s greatest successes was John Denver. When Jerry found Denver, he was playing for $75 per night in an out-of-the-way bar in the Village. A few years later, Denver was being paid $350,000 per appearance on ABC. That’s the kind of power that Jerry had. He goes into great detail about how he sold John Denver and made him the star he became.

That is probably the greatest value from this book. Jerry explains exactly how he did it for each star. And it was never the same. Some of Jerry’s tactics were similar, but his execution was different every time. Jerry had a talent for selling. There’s no other way to put it. He was a master salesman. He knew how to sell to every strata of society from the bar singer being paid $75 per night to the owners of major studios, from people on the street to the president of the United States.

This book is written as a memoir. As I was reading it, I felt like I was sitting on a comfortable couch after dinner, listening to an old friend tell stories of his heyday. The reading was easy and pleasant. The education was excellent. Everyone has to sell every day. It’s just part of life. This book will teach you more about selling than any college education. Jerry made himself by sheer force of will and incredible chutzpah. After reading this book, it seems like Elliott Bisnow was imbued with the spirit of Jerry Weintraub which he used to make his own incredible success. In many ways, Elliott and Jerry and kindred spirits. So thank you, Elliott, for recommending this book to me by way of Alex Banayan.

This book is one that everyone should read. If you are too busy and can read nothing else, read at least up to the part with the Star of Ardaban. The rest of the book serves to reinforce the concept of the Star of Ardaban and you should read that, too.

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