'American Masters: Inventing David Geffen' review

"American Masters: Inventing David Geffen" premieres Nov. 20 "American Masters: Inventing David Geffen" premieres Nov. 20 at 8 on WNET/13. Pictured is David Geffen. (1972) Photo Credit: Joel Bernstein

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REVIEW

THE DOCUMENTARY "American Masters: Inventing David Geffen"

WHEN | WHERE Tuesday night at 8 on WNET/13

WHAT IT'S ABOUT Where to begin? Probably Brooklyn, where a boy was born to immigrant parents. He was a poor student, with dyslexia and an overwhelming desire to jump into life feet first. And he did: A friendship with Laura Nyro and partnership with Elliot Roberts led to Asylum Records (Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Jackson Browne, the Eagles), then Geffen Records (Aerosmith, Elton John), DreamWorks, and finally philanthropy (AIDS research) and politics (friends, then a fallout with the Clintons). Everyone is interviewed here about the billionaire -- with the exception of Dylan (no reason given).

MY SAY There are some people who are talented and some who are talented at working with talented people. That's Geffen, who adds a few other dimensions to the talent model: talented at reading culture, changing culture, breaking business models, taking risks and, especially, at self-creation.

In other words, he's an interesting guy who has lived in interesting times, and there are many people (all equally famous) who can attest to this and do so here. As usual, "American Masters" is not the place to come for the full story, or the edgier one. This is where lilies are gilded and already great careers consecrated. Moreover, powerful people -- Geffen is a perfect example -- often are not only self-made, but also masters at manipulating the image of their greatest invention, namely themselves. It's easy to overlook that here simply because the parade of stories and people are so fun -- and seductive -- that, before long, you fall under Geffen's spell.

After all, how many people ponder a career change, which then inspires Mitchell to write a song -- a great one ("Free Man in Paris") -- in tribute? Or date Cher? Or create the Eagles? Or file a lawsuit against Neil Young? (And remain friends with Neil Young?) There's at least one part of this remarkable story that's untold, and you'll wish it weren't. Nyro declined to sign with Asylum, which devastated Geffen. Did they ever reconcile or speak of the old days? Not answered: She died in 1997 of ovarian cancer.

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BOTTOM LINE Hugely entertaining profile, especially for show-biz junkies.

GRADE B+

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