MY TANGO WITH BRANDO
READING Stefan Kanfer’s excellent new biography of Marlon Brando, Somebody , reminds me of one adventure that isn’t there: my own efforts to secure Brando’s memoir for Random House during my time as president and publisher. I was one of any number of New York supplicants who trekked to Los Angeles in February 1991 to persuade the reclusive 66-yearold star that their imprint was the only one capable of doing justice to his life story.
Before I flew to LA, I’d been warned by others that Brando had contempt for anyone suggesting he was an acting genius. In his eyes, acting was a commonplace skill and the whole admiring East Coast establishment was populated by phonies.
Brando’s go-between, the elegant producerdirector George Englund, had said we’d meet for an hour at Brando’s house on Mulholland Drive at 7pm, but not eat. As Englund put it, ‘‘ Marlon has a girth problem.’’
I was to press a button on a post and the iron gates would swing open. They didn’t.
I was about to depart when a familiar voice wafted out of the bushes followed by the 140kg bulk of the Godfather, wearing a leather jacket, a red silk square stuffed in the top of his open white shirt, and his hair tied up in a short ponytail. Englund was behind, the beanpole