Magazine article The New Yorker

The Talk of the Town: A Career in Cake

Magazine article The New Yorker

The Talk of the Town: A Career in Cake

Article excerpt

On a recent Sunday afternoon, a hundred and fifty show-business veterans and variety-show stalwarts celebrated the fiftieth birthday of the talent manager Billy Sammeth, at Leisure Time Bowling, in the Port Authority Bus Terminal. "For my thirtieth, I was in Australia with Cher," he said. "We used to travel with seventy-five people." For his fortieth, Sammeth rented a dude ranch in Santa Barbara, California. For his fiftieth, he was throwing three bowling parties, this being the second. A week earlier, he'd hosted two hundred and fifty of his friends, family, and clients--including Florence Henderson, Steve Guttenberg, and the manager Sandy Gallin, who is Sammeth's former boss--at the AMF Bayshore Lanes, in Santa Monica. Sammeth is in the process of planning the third party, which will be held next month in London.

"Let's all thank KC and the Sunshine Band; they're paying for this," Sammeth said to his guests as they arrived at Leisure Time. They signed a commemorative bowling pin, put on "Billy's Bowling Bash" shirts, and headed for the lanes. On their way past the shoe-rental counter, they saw the birthday cake, a four-foot-square confectionery Monopoly board that featured, in place of the usual Atlantic City street names, references to various highlights of Sammeth's life and career. "It's my life in cake," he announced. The first moment etched in icing was his birth, in Brooklyn in 1951, but the historic events of his years at P.S. 152 and his bar mitzvah were outnumbered by such milestones as "Osmonds' PR," "MGM Records," "Joins Katz-Gallin," "Bill Sammeth Organization--Collect 15%," "Billy Signs Joan Rivers," "Billy Signs Cher," "Billy Signs Olivia Newton-John," "Cher Fires Billy," "Cher Rehires Billy Four Days Later," and "Cher Hires and Fires Billy Ten Times in Ten Years."

Much of the talk, like the cake, had to do with Cher. …

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