At 6 feet 8 inches, basketball player Lebron James was obviously the tallest guy at his book party at Monkey Bar last night. One surprising thing, though, was that young literary agent/musician Luke Janklow is almost as tall.
Mr. Janklow, wearing a very clutch necktie and a bulging messenger bag, spent much of the evening talking to his former colleague Eric Simonoff, the agent who represented Mr. James and his co-writer, Buzz Bissinger, on their seven-figure book deal with the Penguin Press. Back then, Mr. Simonoff was working at Janklow & Nesbit, the boutique agency co-owned by Luke’s father Mort. Rumor was when Mr. Simonoff defected to the William Morris Agency earlier this year that it was Luke’s apparent will to take over the agency that had driven him out.
“We hate each other, for the record!” Mr. Simonoff said cheerfully.
Shooting Stars, which came out this week, focuses on Mr. James’s high-school years, when the preternaturally talented player was under intense pressure to live up to the promise everyone saw in him. Of all the very accomplished men and women at Monkey Bar last night—Harvey Weinstein, Ron Howard, Bruce Weber and Fran Lebowitz among them—none would cop to having ever experienced anything like the pressure Mr. James was under at age 16.
“For me it was mainly getting kissed for the first time and getting grades that were good enough to please my parents, and being considered reasonably, not embarrassingly uncool around my school,” said Vanity Fair contributing editor David Margolick. “I eventually did get kissed.”
Mr. Weinstein wouldn’t discuss it—”I’m here for Lebron, whom I love,” he said—but one got a hint of what he might have said on the subject of pressure moments later, when Monkey Bar owner Graydon Carter brought up Inglorious Basterds and Mr. Weinstein wiped his brow dramatically and said, “Phew!”
Mr. Simonoff said something about his mom wanting him to go to an Ivy League school and forcing him to join the varsity track team to beef up his application. “I was on the team for about two days,” he said.
“They found out he was Jewish!” said Mr. Janklow.
“No, no,” Mr. Simonoff said. “It was just too much running around and throwing heavy objects.” He ended up going to Princeton.
“I did not go to an Ivy League school, I went to Wesleyan,” Mr. Janklow said. “The pressure that I was under when I was 16 years old was to learn Eric Clapton‘s solo from ‘Crossroads’ on Live Cream Vol. 2., which I achieved. That is literally the only pressure I was under! Other than that it was skateboarding at the bandshell, trying to get my 360s together.”
Mr. Carter, who published an excerpt of Shooting Stars in the September issue of Vanity Fair, said that as a young boy in Ottawa, the toughest thing in his life was getting through cold winters. “It was a lot easier than it is today,” said the father of five. “It’s more complex now if you’re a kid. There’s a lot of peer pressure—a lot of parental pressure to do well, to get ahead.”
He said he found Mr. James’ story really moving. Looking over at him as he posed for pictures a few feet away, Mr. Carter admitted that the athlete, who is 24, did not look as tall as he had expected. “But he is a very elegant, very gentlemanly man. And an author!”
A little later, we caught up with Mr. James and asked him what he’d thought of The New York Times‘ review of his book, in which the critic Dwight Garner said it “reads like a better-than-average young-adult novel,” and praised it, twice, as “modest.”
“I haven’t read it,” Mr. James said. “I need to get it.”
We told him there was one part where Mr. Garner kind of scolds him for complaining about being called “The Chosen One” on the cover of Sports Illustrated during his junior year in high school, and not mentioning that he later had the phrase tattooed on his back.
Mr. James smiled and shrugged. “I like the tattoo.”
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