- Published: 2 October 2017
- ISBN: 9781925324761
- Imprint: Random House Australia
- Format: EBook
- Pages: 432
The Biography of Robert Stigwood
Who was this man who created the soundtrack to my life? Robert Stigwood was known by many names. To friends, family, partners, clients, employees and acquaintances he was variously Bob, Uncle Bob, Rob, Robbie, Robert, Stigboot, Stiggy, Stiggy-Poo, Mr Stickweed, and even Rabbi Stigfeldt. To business adversaries or disgruntled former friends, he was Stigwood. To Newsweek he was ‘the Ziegfeld of the disco era’. The New York Times once described him as a cross between fictional wealthy playboy Jay Gatsby, high-flying movie producer Mike Todd and legendary showman P. T. Barnum. In his later, reclusive years, Stigwood was likened to film producer and newspaper magnate Howard Hughes. Yet he was different, very different, from all these iconic figures of earlier eras.
There has never previously been a biography of Stigwood. Attempts by journalists and former associates to briefly tell his life story in articles and their autobiographies have either been inaccurate or described one face of the multi-faceted diamond that was Robert Stigwood. Many people have told me many stories about Stigwood, and about their involvement with him. Most had nothing but good things to say.
‘I want Robert to be recognised for his contribution,’ said one such confidant who was particularly close to him.
Another colleague was furious because the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences failed to recognise Stigwood, producer of groundbreaking hit movies including Saturday Night Fever, Grease, Tommy and Evita, in its In Memoriam section during the 88th Academy Awards presentation in February 2016.
One or two other informants were less enamoured with the mogul. ‘I didn’t like Stigwood, but I didn’t hate him, either,’ said a businessman who worked closely with him. ‘I just want the full story to come out.’
That is what I have set out to document. Of course, only the subject himself could tell the complete story. Stigwood knew several years ago that I was researching and writing this book, but declined to be involved. Notoriously secretive about his private life, he succeeded in keeping a lid on it while he was alive. Yet, within days of Stigwood passing away in January 2016, people from his world wanted to talk about him, his achievements and his secrets.
If Stiggy had written his autobiography, how truthful would he have been? The little he revealed about his family and himself during his lifetime frequently dripped with exaggeration or was just outright untrue. Being one of the world’s greatest spruikers in the music, theatre and film industries, he would probably have told a story with enormous flair, an equal amount of hyperbole and a minimum of honesty. As I have come to learn, there is much he did not want revealed and went to great lengths to hide; a case of forgery and a fascinating secret thirty-six-year relationship among them. If I am to be an honest biographer, the whole story must come out.
There is so much to tell. Of unshakable self-belief and astounding powers of persuasion; a rise from failure to success so great it even surprised Stigwood; a royal lifestyle; and an astonishing appetite for fun.
So, curtain up, and let the Stigwood show begin . . .
In June 1885, three Frenchmen arrived in London. One was a Prince, one was a Count, and the third was a commoner with an Italian surname.
For much of the year I had been awaiting the go-ahead on what was potentially one of the most demanding, exhausting, but exhilarating acting roles I’d ever been offered.
It is strange to me that so many people like to listen to so many other people talk about the theatre.
It’s the middle of the night and I’m huddled over, dragging my dilly bag, which is chock-full with all sorts of goods – jewellery, frozen food, wallets and the like.
I have a quote written on the walls at my gym, Spudds, that I refer to all the time. Don’t let fear hold you back.
Like many people, I had sought a solution for my anxiety in therapy and medication.
Wilhelm Brasse switched on the enlarger and a bright beam of white light fell on to the sheet of photographic paper.