True Hollywood story
With more than 300 million books in print in 51 languages, Sidney Sheldon is an international phenomenon. His fast-moving yarns boast exotic locales, intrigue, romance, murder (lots of mysterious deaths), feisty heroines and determined heroes. In a Sheldon novel, the central character perseveres. In his own life, Sheldon has done likewise, which makes his autobiography, The Other Side of Me, such an entertaining and inspiring read. The former Sidney Schechtel who changed his name for a gig as announcer of an amateur talent contest acted on his dreams. Mind you, countless "big breaks" led to . . . nothing. Often disappointed, sometimes depressed, Sheldon nevertheless kept at it. He grew up with warring parents; his father's varying jobs kept the family on the move (if the family had a crest, Sheldon jokes, it would have featured a moving van). His own assorted career pursuits took Sheldon from coast to coast. In New York, he was a movie usher while struggling as a songwriter; in L.A. he worked a hotel switchboard while trying for studio jobs. The turning point was a call from the office of producer David O. Selznick: could Sheldon do a 30-page synopsis of a 400-page novel, within eight hours? A hunt-and-peck typist with no transportation, Sheldon took the bus across town, picked up the novel and got the job done. He was a studio reader, dashed off B-movie scripts, wrote for golden-era MGM (winning a screenwriting Oscar for The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer), became a Broadway playwright. Segueing to television, he created and produced "The Patty Duke Show" and "I Dream of Jeannie." He took an old, unsold script and turned it into the 1970 novel The Naked Face. Reviews were OK; sales weren't. At one book signing he sold a single copy. Still, he'd discovered his forte. The Other Side of Me includes starry names, colorful locales and much suspense. Our only complaint: it wraps up too quickly. Biographer Pat H. Broeske has covered Hollywood for several newspaper and magazines.