Picks and Pans Review: Howling at the Moon

updated 03/22/2004 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 03/22/2004 AT 01:00 AM EST

By Walter Yetnikoff

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Despite guzzling bottomless bottles of booze, snorting mountains of drugs and claiming a record for sexual encounters that would have made Wilt Chamberlain woozy, Yetnikoff, the self-described "King of Records," was once the most powerful madman in the music biz. His ego-tripping tale of triumph as the president of CBS Records Group from 1975 to 1990 is a lousy lesson for the kiddies ("Vodka in the morning is good. Vodka in the afternoon is even better"), but it's a deliciously decadent read for the rest of us. Barbra Streisand, Billy Joel and Bruce Springsteen were just a few of the icons that he made richer as he got wilder. But aside from calling Paul Simon a "teeny tiny little squirt" with "a big mouth," this Brooklyn-bred rags-to-riches mogul mostly skips dishing on the A-list (unlike Hollywood Animal's sleaze-slinging author Joe Eszterhas) and provides the dirty-devil details on the guy he loves most: himself.

Collaborating with music scribe David Ritz, Yetnikoff's point-blank prose style is as funny as it is hard-nosed, whether he's recalling cutthroat corporate games with fellow big-shot David Geffen, swapping sins with a gonzo paramour he calls Boom Boom or even, in the end, getting sober. When he does finally show a little warmth, it's for a man many have given up on: Michael Jackson, who called Yetnikoff his "Good Father." Thriller "changed the business—and my life," Yetnikoff gushes. He claims that Jackson was "possessed" and that his drive "bordered on the psychopathic" but dryly adds later, "I leave the question of Michael's craziness to Michael."

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