ABOUT PETER LEFCOURT (MORE OR LESS)
Peter Lefcourt is a refugee from the trenches of Hollywood, where he has distinguished himself as a writer and producer of film and television. Among his credits are “Monte Carlo,” in which he managed to keep Joan Collins in the same wardrobe for 35 pages; the relentlessly sentimental “Danielle Steel’s Fine Things,” and the underrated and hurried “The Women of Windsor,” the most sordid, and thankfully last, miniseries about the British Royal Family.
He began writing novels in the 1990’s, after being declared “marginally unemployable” in the entertainment business by his then agent. In 1991 Lefcourt published “The Deal” — an act of supreme hubris that effectively bit the hand that fed him and produced, in that inverse and masochistic logic of Hollywood, a fresh demand for his screenwriting services. It remains a cult favorite in Hollywood, was one of the ten books that John Gotti reportedly ordered from jail, and was adapted into a movie — starring William H. Macy, Meg Ryan and LL Cool J — that premiered at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival.
Subsequently, he has divided his time between screenplays and novels, publishing “The Dreyfus Affair” in 1992, his darkly comic look at homophobia in baseball as a historical analog to anti-Semitism in fin de siecle France, which The Walt Disney Company has optioned twice and let lapse twice in fits of anxiety about what it says about the national pastime and, by extension, Disneyland. He is hopeful that a major (or even minor) motion picture, or television series, will be made from it in his lifetime. The book continues to sell well in trade paperback — it’s in its fifteenth printing, and, as such, acts as a small but steady cottage industry for its author.
In 1994, he published “Di And I,” a heavily fictionalized version of his love affair with the late Princess of Wales. Princess Diana’s own step-godmother, Barbara Cartland, who was herself no slouch when it came to publishing torrid books, declared the book “ghastly and unnecessary,” which pushed the British edition briefly onto the best-seller lists. “Di And I” was optioned by Fine Line Pictures and was quietly abandoned after Diana’s untimely death. Someday it may reach the screen — when poor Diana is no longer seen as an historical icon but merely as the misunderstood and tragic figure that she was, devoured by her own popularity.
“Abbreviating Ernie,” his next novel — the story of the sensational trial of the wife of a cross-dressing Schenectady, N.Y., urologist who dismembered her husband — was inspired by Lefcourt’s brief brush with notoriety after the appearance of “Di And I.” At the time he was harassed by the British tabloids and spent seven excruciating minutes on “Entertainment Tonight.” He was subsequently and fittingly bumped out of People Magazine by O.J. Simpson’s white Bronco media event of June, 1994. In a paroxysm of misplaced guilt, the editors of “People,” to make amends, declared it a “Beach Read,” which helped put the book ephemerally on the Best Seller lists during the summer of 1994. Anecdotally, however, the author spent a lot of time combing the beaches that summer without seeing a single person reading his book.
Lefcourt’s research on a movie for HBO about the 1995 Bob Packwood canard was the germ for his next novel, “The Woody.” He began to see that the former senator’s battle with the Senate Ethics Committee was a dramatization of the total confusion in America regarding appropriate sexual behavior for politicians. Packwood became the sacrificial lamb — taking the pipe for an entire generation of men. Basically, he got his dick caught in the zeitgeist. After President Clinton got his caught in a younger zeitgeist, nearly costing him his job, “The Woody” became all the more topical. It asks the question: What is the relationship between a politician’s sexual competence and his popularity in the polls? If Packwood had been as smooth as Clinton, he would be the majority leader of the Senate today instead of being one of the poster boys for Sexual Harassment.
His sixth book was entitled “Eleven Karens” — an erratically erotic memoir of his love affairs with eleven women, all of whom happened to be named Karen. The reviews were kind, but Lefcourt is still defending himself against the lawsuits filed by the apparently insufficiently fictionalized Karens.
His seventh novel, “The Manhattan Beach Project,” which came out in 2005, is a nominal sequel to “The Deal,” in that it follows the adventures of that book’s hero, the intrepid Charlie Berns, who after winning an Oscar for Best Picture a scant four years ago, already finds himself broke, living in his nephew’s pool house and attending meetings of the Brentwood chapter of Debtors Anonymous. It is, among other things, a comment on the short shelf life of fame and fortune in the movie business.
In 2008, Lefcourt wrote “Le Jet Lag,” a novel about a group of Americans at the Cannes Film Festival: a studio publicist whose job consists of making sure that their film does not win a Palme d’Or (based on the presumption that Americans will not like anything that the French like); an actor who spends all ten nights in a different bed; a producer (our old friend Charlie Berns again) trying to secure finishing money for a film he put together with funds from a group of Canadian dentists, who show up looking for a good time; an Intern at the American Pavilion, who winds up sleeping with the wrong people; and a jaded Variety reporter who is looking for a story and winds up falling in love. After reading the book, most of his French friends will no longer talk to him.
In 2012, he published his most ambitious novel, “An American Family” — a multi generational saga of five siblings born in the 1940s and their lives and adventures over the following decades. The work is bookended by two iconic dates in American history: November 22, 1963, and September 11, 2001.
His most recent novel, published in 2015, is entitled “Purgatory Gardens.” It is the story of an offbeat ménage a trois featuring an ex-Mafioso in Witness Protection, a mature actress in severe denial about her age, and a deposed African dictator who barely manages to escape from Upper Volta with his life. All three wash up in a down market condo complex in Palm Springs, where they live by their wits — each one assuming the other one has money. A lot of shit ensues.
He has written a number of plays, which have been produced nationally (Manhattan Class Company, in New York; The Boars Head, in Ann Arbor; The Oldcastle, in Vermont) and locally (The Odyssey Theater, The Hudson Theater) and locally (The Odyssey Theater, The Hudson Theater) and ). None of them closed in New Haven. Titles are: “Only The Dead Know Burbank,” “Sweet Talk,” “La Ronde de Lunch,” “Mutually Assured Destruction,” “The Assassination of Leon Trotsky: A Comedy,” “The Way You Look Tonight,” “Café Society” (mounted two years before the Woody Allen film of the same named opened) and “Drama Queens From Hell.”
In his spare time he continues to work in film, television and theater. In addition to his Emmy (currently serving as a potential weapon against intruders) he is best known for the cult Showtime series “Beggars & Choosers” — a satire on the television business, inspired partly by the late Brandon Tartikoff — which he created and ran. Forty-two episodes of the show were produced and ran on Showtime between 1999 and 2001.
He was, most recently, a co-executive producer on ABC’s “Desperate Housewives,” and knows where the bodies are buried on Wisteria Lane — but will not talk about it, unless sufficiently induced.
Peter lives in a modest but not entirely unassuming house in Santa Monica Canyon in walking distance to the Pacific Ocean, where he goes to commune with those gods who, he feels, might be kind enough to protect him. His golf handicap is 25 (on a good day).