You shouldn’t speak ill of the dead, but I’m going to anyway: Michael Viner is finally dead. He was maybe the worst person who ever toiled in book publishing or Hollywood, and that’s hard to say.
But Viner was special. He filed for bankruptcy several times, refused to pay royalties, cheated authors, cheated on his wife with a hooker, published books by hookers (not that they were bad people), and sued just about everyone. And lost.
Viner started out with audio books, making Dove Books famous. He was married for a while to actress Deborah Raffiin, and was best friends with trashy writer Sidney Sheldon, the man who also, gloriously, invented “Gilligan’s Island.”
But in 1994 Viner seized on the idea of publishing a memoir ‘ so to speak, with apologies to Edmund Wilson” by Nicole Brown Simpson’s rat fink friend, Faye Resnick. The “Author” claimed that the women were lovers, did drugs together, the whole shebang. The book was so trashy and it was a turning point for Viner, who at that point descended into a quagmire of pond scum.
What followed was “You’ll Never Make Love in This Town Again,” a collection of reminscinces by party girls. Viner wound up suing one of them, and losing that suit, too.
Some of the people who called with the news of Viner’s death quipped yesterday that the funeral would be popular because so many would be checking to make sure he was dead.
My favorite Viner anecdote, just so you get the flavor of the man: he had his rep call a hotel and lie about being from the accounting department of New York Magazine to get a journalist’s itemized phone bill. They wanted a list of the writer’s calls so they could figure out who his sources were. They got the list and called the sources!
Some other great moments: he sued Heidi Fleiss for libel, and lost. During the trial he admitted on the stand to having an affair with a hooker. Nice.
More recently, he published a book by Jayson Blair, the kid who worked for the New York Times and made up all his stories.’ He was also sued by Dennis Kucinich, whose autobiography he published. Part of the case was dismissed because it turned out that Viner recently filed for bankruptcy again.
Well, I will miss Michael Viner. He was great to write about, a colorful figure, a shady guy, someone who obviously didn’t care what people thought about him or what his final reward would be. My guess is, wherever he is, it’s very, very hot.