The Unpublished Jerry Goldsmith Biography
Updated: Sep 10
I was going to write a long, confessional true story of the unpublished Jerry Goldsmith book that his daughter, Carrie Goldsmith, was working on circa 2006, as I was briefly and unsuccessfully trying to help her prepare it for publication.
In truth, it's actually just a short story. I foolishly and arrogantly inserted myself into a situation that had no winnable solution (a la the Kobayashi Maru).
I didn't handle anything well, and I truly regret...everything!
Carrie Goldsmith spent several years and a great deal of effort to interview her father, the great composer Jerry Goldsmith, as he was dying of cancer, and wrote what was, as far as I was concerned, a beautiful memoir of him and her relationship with him. It was titled, "Deconstructing Dad." There's actually an opening section still online.
The problem was that it was not anything that fans would expect as far as a traditional biography of Jerry's professional life. It was NOT, "And this is how he came up with the theme to Capricorn One."
Carrie had enmeshed Jerry's personal and professional lives with her own relationship with him, and structured it chronologically as he succumbed to cancer (he died in July 2004). It was raw, very private, and very powerful.
I felt honored to have read the manuscript. I thought Carrie's a terrific, natural writer—honest, funny, clear and engaging. The book was overflowing with humanity.
And I liked her, upon meeting her in person. She's down-to-earth, funny and sympathetic.
I won't go into the details—really, I have given my word not to—but the book could NOT be published in its current form...or possibly any form...because of family conflicts.
The story here is not unique: hardworking man builds impressive career for himself out of talent and backbreaking work; has a tumultuous, alcohol-fueled, Mad Men-era marriage with first wife; divorces first wife and marries younger second wife; has an adoring marriage to the new wife; but the kids from the first marriage and the new wife never see eye to eye.
Alas, Carrie had written a manscript that simply could not be published without Jerry's widow, Carol Goldsmith, needing to sign off. (Although Jerry, as a dead public figure, had no right to privacy, Carol was a private person, and a very wealthy one who would surely protect her rights.)
Enter, my extremely stupid, sorry, arrogant ass.
I contacted Carrie and offered to help her (and I sincerely meant it). I thought maybe I could help with the proofreading, or small-press publishing, or finding a book deal, or all of the above.
I reviewed the book, absolutely loved it—but Carrie herself had trepidation about publishing the book given the family matters contained therein, and I immediately understood why.
I reviewed earlier drafts and deleted material, to see if there was a way to make a version of the book that would be OK to print...there really wasn't.
So I bit the bullet and made everything worse, part one:
I reached out to Carol, and within a minute of the phone call, Carol began crying and politely excused herself.
This was because I was an idiot asshole who was insensitive to her fears of how she and Jerry might be depicted in the book. I was trying to be honest, but I blew it. (Carol, I am so sorry.)
I shortly thereafter got a letter from Carol's lawyer making clear that she would sue to protect her rights.
Then I made everything worse, part two:
I idiotically gave the manuscript, without Carrie's permission, to somebody professionally associated with Jerry (not gonna say who), thinking maybe he could broker a resolution.
This person was horrified by the manuscript because it featured numerous instances of Jerry speaking candidly about colleagues, students, fans and others in a way they would find hurtful.
And he was right: Jerry had spoken off-the-cuff to his daughter, not really thinking every word might end up in a book, and had made a bunch of unkind comments that should have been edited out.
I told Carrie all this, confessing my sin in sharing the manuscript without her permission.
She was taken aback...but didn't yell at me.
No, that was her brother. Not ten minutes later I got a phone call from Joel Goldsmith, SCREAMING at me like a cartoon character for having violated his sister's confidence for letting somebody read the manuscript behind her back.
Which was true, although I have to say, Joel was a hothead and his rant was insane. I had to keep from giggling.
A few weeks after that, I got a letter from CARRIE'S lawyer saying she was going to take some time to decide what to do next—and would I please return or destroy all the materials?
And here is where my own defective personality came into play: I said no, I wouldn't.
I am a packrat. I never throw anything out.
My rationalization was that I had done all this on a volunteer basis, pro bono, with no agreement. I promised never to share the material—a promise I have kept (after, of course, the one time I broke it)—but I said sorry, I would not destroy it. (I did have some non-trivial concern that Carrie herself might destroy the material, and then it would gone forever.)
I have kept my word—and intend to keep my word, forever.
But the truth is—here's the confession—I stupidly, arrogantly tried to continue my own non-relationship with Jerry Goldsmith (who was annoyed by my fan magazine, and thought I was an idiot nerd) by inserting myself into a family conflict that had nothing to do with me.
I hereby confess that to the world, and offer my most sincere apology.
But I still can't bring myself to throw out the material, because of my aforementioned personality defect.
Within the past year, somebody asked me about the material, and I said that I had it but could not share it. But if Carrie approved, I said I could locate the files fairly easily, and that way Carrie wouldn't have to go through the hassle of dredging it all up herself.
Very quickly I got a stern, very upset email from Carrie—the first contact in 14 years—making clear how very angry she is with me that I refused her request to destroy the material.
And I, being a dickhead, sent an angry email back that I never should have sent.
So, there you go. The true, sad story. Nobody acted worse than I did.
I'll never do it again.
To Carrie, and Carol, and all the Goldsmiths, and all the fans...I am so sorry.
Carrie really did write a lovely book, and perhaps one day it can be published. Or alternatively, perhaps somebody can raise enough money to get Carrie whole (she took a great deal of time off from work to write the book) so she'll approve the use of her material—which truly has a lot of priceless interview content and observations—to write what would be a traditional biography of Jerry's professional life.
Or who knows, perhaps both?
I thought I might feel better writing this, and explaining the situation after all these years...but I don't.
I'll hit "publish" and see how this is received. Eeeek.