In “The Dealmaker’s Ten Commandments,” child-star-turned-Hollywood-attorney Jeff Cohen provides a practical, no-nonsense methodology for negotiating deals, managing your time, and handling crisis.
We know him as Chunk in “The Goonies,” and remember him shouting, “He,y you guuuyys!” and doing the “truffle shuffle.” He also had a supporting role in “Family Ties,” among other roles.
As an adult, Cohen gave up acting and pursued a career as a transactional attorney. As a founding partner of the Beverly Hills firm Cohen & Gardner LLP, he wanted to help others do as he had done — overcome resistance and achieve goals without losing your soul along the way.
On May 22, 2015, he released “The Dealmaker’s Ten Commandments,” a book he developed in Hollywood that is chock full of real-world tactics, strategies, and guiding principles that are applicable to any business environment.
Consider these excerpts from Cohen’s book.
Andy Warhol’s Lost Masterpiece: The Two Little Words That Destroy Fear
What are you afraid of? What keeps you up at night? Money fears? Health fears? Relationship fears? Afraid you’re going to be a failure just like your old man? Afraid she’ll never love you if she knows the truth? Afraid you’re going to die alone?
Take 15 minutes. Get real, get dark. Ask yourself, “What am I most afraid of?” Write down your answers. (Note: Be sure to destroy the evidence after the exercise. This info is for your eyes only, and you should feel completely unfettered from the judgment of others. I’m not paranoid; I’m prepared.)
Your enemies are going to attempt to use your fears to their advantage, so it’s best to head them off at the pass. Knowing your fears and controlling them empowers you and disempowers the opposition. You can’t think straight if you’re scared.
How to control our fears? I’ve found a marvelously effective technique used by pop artist Andy Warhol.
I know that sounds odd, but hang with me. Warhol grew up as an extremely sickly child in a working-class neighborhood in Pittsburg. He was often bedridden and developed skin pigmentation blotchiness as a complication from scarlet fever. He became a hypochondriac. As a young man he was extremely self-conscious of his appearance and was isolated because of his awkward manner and sexual orientation. He was afraid. Afraid of being rejected by his crushes. Afraid of his art being rejected by his contemporaries. Eventually, Warhol devised a truly elegant solution to manage these debilitating fears:
Warhol said: “Sometimes people let the same problem make them miserable for years when they could just say, ‘so what?’ That’s one of my favorite things to say. ‘So what?’ … I don’t know how I made it through all the years before I learned how to do that trick. It took me a long time for me to learn it, but once you do, you never forget.”
Chunk Meets Machiavelli
There’s a famous old Hollywood story about a dreadful meeting between Shirley Temple and her mega-agent, Lew Wasserman, the mogul of MCA. According to her biography, he told the pubescent Shirley Temple that she was “washed up.” After all those hits, she had come to the end of her usefulness. The greatest child star of all time was unceremoniously fired as a client. She began to cry. Lew pushed a box of tissues her way. “Have one on me,” said the great mogul.
For me, 15 was the oldest I ever was. After having some success as a child actor, my career was kaput. As a little boy, I was a cute, chubby kid and did a fair amount of work in the biz. My most notable role was playing “Chunk” in the Richard Donner/Steven Spielberg film “The Goonies” in 1985. Top of the world at age 11!
But just when things we’re starting to hum, I faced a child actor’s greatest nemesis … puberty. “Chunk” was growing into a young man and losing some of his chunkiness. Those formerly cute chubby cheeks now had acne on them. Auditioning for parts became awkward and nerve-wracking. I even began to develop a stutter. I couldn’t get jobs. Things were a mess. Some child stars transcend adolescence and go on to have great careers in front of the camera as adults. I did not.
Beware the Chair: The King is Dead. Long Live the King!
Thrones are imposing pieces of furniture. To start with, they usually have really intricate craftsmanship. Some are adorned with gold paint that has real gold in it. Most seem to have really nice upholstery. The one from “Game of Thrones” is made of bones and swords. That’ll make you think twice about mouthing off to the king.
Thrones aren’t just for monarchs. Executives have them as well. Instead of calling their thrones “thrones,” it’s more elegant to call it “the chair.” The chair sits behind a nice desk in a nice office. Perhaps is the office of the President of a Film Studio or the Executive Vice President of a big talent agency or the Senior Viceroy Viscount of Development at a Television Production Company. The plebeians humbly approach the chair with various requests. Please make my movie. Please be my talent agent. Please produce my television pitch. The chair grants its occupant power. Sometimes a great deal of power.
Having a chair can be quite intoxicating, but who makes good decisions when they’re intoxicated? After a time the executive begins to believe that the power they wield emanates from them instead of from the chair. Then, something unexpected happens to separate the exec from their chair. Corporate downsizing or a regime change or perhaps retribution for green lighting a couple of box office bombs? Regardless, the executive has lost their chair. The plebeians that once approached the exec now humbly approach the new occupant of the chair with their requests. The Studio President is dead. Long live the Studio President!
There is nothing wrong with sitting in a prominent chair or desiring to. Play it right and there is tons of dough to be made. But, don’t forget that your power comes from that chair. Do you have a plan if your chair is unceremoniously repossessed? If you do, great! If you do not, beware the chair. In Hollywood, without power, things can get very chilly very fast.
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