11/06/2012 12:58 pm ET Updated Jan 06, 2013

Inventing David Geffen on PBS: What Am I Gonna Do With Cher?


David Geffen is so funny, sharing anecdotes featuring a Who's Who in music and movies for the two-hour PBS documentary, Inventing David Geffen, you would never know that he actually dislikes public speaking. A self-proclaimed dummy in his Brooklyn elementary school, by 1976 he had sold several companies and had amassed a billion dollars. As he says at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame dinner upon receiving an award, "I never thought I would get one of these. I have no talent." And yet interviews with those who have worked with this mogul in the entertainment industry -- Barry Diller, Clive Davis, Ahmet Ertegun, Steven Spielberg, Jeffrey Katzenberg, Mike Nichols, Jann Wenner, Elton John, Lorne Michaels, among many others -- attest otherwise: all seem to agree, the man has chutzpah.

Which alone would not make David Geffen the first guy you'd think of for the prestigious American Masters series on PBS. But Susan Lacy, its executive director, who wrote, produced and directed this film said her choice solidified as she was thinking: Who has had such a major influence on the culture?

To gloss over a career that includes The Eagles, Joni Mitchell, Jackson Browne, the movie Risky Business, and Dreamworks, David Geffen made his way from the mailroom at The William Morris Agency to Jack Warner's mansion. Along the way, Laura Nyro broke his heart professionally, and Cher personally, although in his case business and private merged. Gay, he became a significant contributor to AIDS research, and a formidable player in politics, backing Obama against Hillary in 2008, after a falling out with the Clintons. Also along the way, he got busted for carrying David Crosby's "Oaxaca." Whataguy!!!!!!!

On Monday night, Peggy Siegal hosted a premiere at the Paris theater: Griffin Dunne, Donna Karan, Calvin Klein, Barbara Walters, Robert Benton, Regis Philbin, and Carol Kane were among those congratulating Geffen and the filmmakers. Susan Lacy hugged her Sag Harbor neighbor, D. A. Pennebaker, the legendary documentarian who will receive a Lifetime Achievement Award at this year's Oscars. Basking in his praise, she said, "This is the one that matters."

A version of this post also appears on Gossip Central.