October 16, 2014

Say Hey, that Willie Mays still hasn't grown up

Willie Mays says 'Hey'
when he finally gets up
Sports writer and columnist Gerald Eskanazi went on to become a sports and general life biography/autobio ghostwriter.

And, shock me!


Athletes aren't all they're fluffed up to be, even long after retirement.


Eskanazi ghosted Carl Yastremski's bio, and also ghosted the original ghostwriter on Willie Mays' bio. 


Shades of one of Tricky Dick Nixon's most famous utterances, he's a "ghostwriter's ghostwriter"!


He gives some dish here at CJR.


First, about Willie:

After mailing the final chapter to his agent, I left for San Diego and the Super Bowl. That’s where I got a call at my hotel from Willie’s agent, suggesting the “mensch” chapter—“to show how he’s grown as a person, how he’s learned to accept a different kind of responsibility now that he’s no longer an athlete.” 
That sounded like a fine idea. For the first time, I was given Willie’s phone number. ... I called Willie, and he was enthusiastic about talking about his post-baseball career. ... But I had been around enough athletes to know how to stroke him and to be empathetic. So he told me how he failed to keep appointments, bemoaning the fact he had lost a $100,000-a-year job as an official greeter at a Las Vegas casino because of lateness; of how he no longer could rely on the club to give him a wake-up call to get somewhere or to make his travel plans. But he sounded to me as if he’d come to grips with those difficulties, and to my surprise he readily agreed tp pick me up around noon on Tuesday at the airport near Carmel, CA.
Well, having read two bios of Mays (neither one of them Esternazi's "deep-ghosted" one), I know the reclusive part is true.

I also find it funny as hell talking about an African-American from the Deep South becoming a "mensch."

That said, had Willie grown up?

Erm, not ’zactly:

I arrived there ready to meet the new, responsible Willie. Ten, 15, 20 minutes after landing I looked around. No Willie. 
Half an hour later, I called him. 
“Willie?” I said. 
“Who’s this? he replied. 
“Jerry. Jerry Eskenazi,” I said. 
“Who?”
I explained I was the guy who was writing his book, and where was he? He got a bit agitated. He complained he had just gotten up, he had things to do, he had this and he had that. I told him there were no cabs around. I didn’t even know where he was staying. He agreed to pick me up.
I'm also not surprised by this.

Yaz just said 'Fuck it.'
Yaz? Things start out great.
Yastrzemski, on the other hand, was eager to talk and to meet. … 
A major theme of the book was his work ethic—how he had gotten up early working the family’s onion farm on Long Island as a kid; how he tried to beef up his smallish frame. When the book came out, we did a book-signing at the flagship Barnes and Noble on Fifth Avenue, and it was the biggest event in the store’s history. We did some radio and TV shows in New York as well. The contract called for him to do eight interviews.
So far, so good. Well, don't count those chickens, Jerry!

Because they don't often hatch:
After our whirlwind tour, I drove him to the LaGuardia shuttle to catch a flight to do Larry King’s radio show in Washington, his eighth interview. After that, I hoped, would be even more of Yaz’s lucrative book signings and appearances in Boston—sure to sell a ton of books. 
“Tell me, Jerry,” said Yaz, who was pocketing more than $100,000 as an up-front advance. “How many books do we have to sell to start getting royalties?”
I told him, about 40,000.
 
“Fuck it,” was his literary reply. “We’ll never sell that many. I don’t think I’ll do any more appearances.”
Also, for readers who think non-fiction books are a huge seller, this should be a reality check. And, for editors, as well as authors or ghosts, who dream of bucking the trend? That's why Barnes and Noble has those stands and buckets of $5 remaindered books.

So, kids, and kids at heart? Don't believe the PR that's called an "as told to" or is in any other way a ghostwritten book, sports or otherwise.


And, that's part of the big issue. 

Besides that, as the book publishing industry cuts corners almost as much as newspapers, ghostwriters will get paid less and less, and in the future, they'll be doing Skype or Google Hangouts to visit with the subjects of their ghosting. 

No more freebie golf trips to Carmel!

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