PARIS — Nobody badgered Picasso with questions like “Pablo, when you gonna knock off with the paint brushes already?” So people should probably stop asking Jack Valenti if he’s planning to retire.
Hugh Hefner has six girlfriends; Valenti is on intimate terms with seven studios. Some jobs are sexier than others.
Nobody who meets the impossibly spry Valenti would ever suspect his 80th birthday is nigh, on a day when the globetrotting Motion Picture Assn. of America topper will be deploying his professional vigor and joie de vivre at the Deauville of American Cinema.
As she has for the past 27 years, Anne D’Ornano, the longtime mayor of Deauville who stepped up to a post in regional government this year, will be throwing an intimate, little birthday party for Valenti on Sept. 4 (the date of his actual birthday is Sept. 5).
And while some in Hollywood worried that his advancing age would be a factor in his handling of biz issues like Internet copyrights and a renewed criticism of Hollywood product on Capitol Hill, he has faced these challenges in stride. Valenti, who flew bomber missions in World War II and was an aide to the mercurial President Johnson, also does not shrink from the recent fire directed at the MPAA ratings system, which he created in 1968.
When he’s not employing his patented, somewhat flowery oration, Valenti can be quite plainspoken. Here’s a sampling of some of the things he’s said to Variety at Deauville over the past few years:
- “It is politically attractive to bash movies — if I were in the government, if I were a U.S. senator, I’d probably be bashing Hollywood right now. My job is to rebut those criticisms.”
- “We do one thing in America that’s unique — we reach out to the whole world and say, ‘Ye who are talented, we want you!’ Most of the great filmmakers in America came from somewhere else for God’s sake.”
- “The Internet will provide great dangers as well as opportunities. If you cannot protect what you own, you don’t own anything.”
- And, on his special fondness for France: “The only decoration I wear is the Legion of Honor, which Francois Mitterand awarded me in Cannes in 1985. I said, ‘I understand very few Americans receive this award, Mr. President.’ To which he replied, ‘And very few Frenchmen, Mr. Valenti.'”