Born in Brooklyn, New York, David Geffen is widely regarded as the wealthiest man in the U.S. film industry. A self-styled “boy from Brooklyn” who became a millionaire by the age of 25, the ambitious, energetic music and movie executive established a vast Hollywood-based empire. With Steven Spielberg and Jeffrey Katzenberg, he cofounded Dreamworks, ensuring that he will continue to shape the world entertainment landscape into the next century.
Learned Entrepreneurial Skills from His Mother
His parents were Soviet Jews who had emigrated to Brooklyn’s thriving Russian community. Geffen’s father, Abraham, was a pattern maker. His mother, Batya, made and sold women’s garments out of a tiny shop. Geffen claims to have learned the basic principles of entrepreneurial skills at his mother’s knee.
Started with Odd Jobs
Upon graduating from high school, Geffen headed but to the University of Texas at Austin. He lasted only one semester until he flunked out with poor grades. Admittedly, “I was a lousy student.” He worked at a series of odd jobs in New York City before landing a position as an usher at the CBS-TV studio. He loved the job. “I got to watch them rehearse TV shows with people like Judy Garland and Red Skelton,” he said in a Forbes article, “and I was thinking, ‘Well, I’m not talented, what can I do?’” He worked his way up to a receptionist position on the CBS series The Reporters, but was fired after suggesting some script improvements to a producer. When the show’s casting director jokingly remarked that Geffen might make a good agent, Geffen followed up on the idea. Looking through the Yellow Pages, he contacted the William Morris Talent Agency-the one with the biggest ad. He began with a job in the mailroom there in 1964. There he earned $55 a week sorting letters, but quickly aspired to greater things. “I’m delivering the mail to people’s offices,” he told The New Yorker “and I hear them on the phone, and I think, I can do that. Talk on the phone. This I can do.”
Began Managing Careers
While developing relationships with musical talent, Geffen was made a junior agent a year and a half after joining William Morris Talent Agency and was soon managing the career of the promising singer/songwriter Laura Nyro. That led to contacts with other up-and-coming stars such as Joni Mitchell, Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young, and Janis Joplin. In 1969, Geffen made his first million by selling out the music publishing operation he had started with Nyro. Geffen, who is single and openly gay, lives out of a New York City apartment and a beach house in Malibu, California. He collects fine art, but his major passion remains his work. He reportedly spends the majority of his day on the telephone, making deals and listening to creative pitches.
-Odd jobs can teach you lessons
-Diverse jobs can lead you to your passion
-Do not be afraid to be who you are