Jack Valenti has sold his memoir to Crown/Harmony Books, a New York-based division of Random House, which plans a November release.
Valenti said the book covers his youth in a poor Houston suburb, a stint as a bomber pilot during WWII, his time getting an MBA from Harvard, his career in advertising and political consulting, his stint as an aide to President Lyndon B. Johnson and his long tenure at the MPAA.
“This is not a get-even book,” the former head of the Motion Picture Assn. said, confirming word of the sale. “There may be three or four people I vent a little spleen on, but it takes too much energy to be vengeful or hateful.”
Asked if anyone in Hollywood should be worried, Valenti replied, “Hell, no. I just have a lot of interesting stories about some famous people.”
Valenti has penned five previous books, including a guide to public speaking originally published in 1982 and re-released in 2002 by Disney unit Hyperion. But he’s never come out with the traditional thick volume recapping his life that tends to fetch six or seven figures from New York publishers.
Among other key moments in his career, Valenti chronicles how Lew Wasserman and Arthur Krim, then the two most powerful men in Hollywood, personally wooed him away from the White House to take the MPAA job. When Valenti told LBJ he was leaving, “‘Benedict Arnold’ was the nicest thing he called me,” Valenti said.
Not that Valenti was Hollywood’s only option at the time. Wasserman and Krim told him both Richard Nixon and Pierre Salinger, President Kennedy’s former press secretary, also had been considered.
But Wasserman and Krim couldn’t get a unanimous vote from studio heads on Nixon or Salinger, Valenti said. This was a time when legends Jack Warner and Darryl Zanuck were still among the voters.
Valenti also discloses details such as his feelings at the moment of the JFK assassination, which he witnessed from six cars back in the fateful Dallas motorcade in November 1963.
Valenti said he has already written the book, although in many instances a public figure’s book changes as it moves through the editing process. Valenti said it took him about 16 months to write the book, “mostly over weekends and on airplanes.”
Valenti is repped by Washington lawyer Robert Barnett, who also serves as literary agent for Bob Woodward, Bill Clinton and other D.C. celebs.