“He bludgeoned everyone with money.” That’s a pinpoint assessment of profligate ’70s and ’80s showman Allan Carr, from someone who knew: a VP of publicity for the company that released the 1980 Carr-produced bomb Can’t Stop The Music, the first and last musical starring the Village People. Clearly, anyone with a taste for tales of Hollywood decadence will want to make a beeline for Party Animals: A Hollywood Tale Of Sex, Drugs, And Rock ’N’ Roll Starring The Fabulous Allan Carr. In this new biography, Variety writer Robert Hofler explores Carr, who’s equally infamous for producing the movie Grease, the Broadway musical La Cage Aux Folles, and the legendarily disastrous 1989 Oscar telecast featuring Rob Lowe in duet with a squeaky Snow White, which provoked such a nasty backlash that it basically tabled Carr’s career for good.
Carr was one of the most brazenly gay men in the history of an industry where homosexuality was consistently swept under the rug. That’s one reason Carr’s mansion, which featured a mini-disco in the basement, complete with DJ, became a hot spot for the city’s closeted elite: “You can’t go out and be yourself,” Carr would reason. “So if you’re going to be naughty, come to Casa Allan and carry on!” (Carr himself had such a thing for young men that the objects of his affections were given a group nickname: “fetuses.”)
Though mostly apolitical, Carr was so out-front that he could stun people into giving him what he wanted. Seeking commercial tie-ins for Can’t Stop The Music, Carr—resplendent in “a red, white, and blue bejeweled caftan,” so common an outfit for Carr that his vanity license plate read CAFTANS—somehow convinced straitlaced Baskin-Robbins execs to market a ribaldly named tie-in flavor. (That VP again: “Considering what the movie was about, that name—Can’t Stop the Nuts—was a double, if not triple, entendre.”) Not only that, Hofler writes, “[Carr] soon lined up Famous Amos, Fleishmann’s, Sports-in-Motion, and Roach Inc. to market, respectively, Can’t Stop the Cookies, Can’t Stop the Spirits, Can’t Stop the Fashion, and Can’t Stop the Accessories.”
Hofler’s book is as lopsided on the side of celebrity as the guest list to an Allan Carr party. The producer’s life up to his 1973 move to L.A. (at age 36, three years of which Carr shaved off for his bio) is dispatched in a short chapter about a third of the way into the book, and Carr’s decade following the 1989 Oscars fiasco is dealt with in an epilogue. (He died in 1999 after being plagued by bad health all his life, including but not limited to epic rollercoaster weight gain and loss.) But that’s appropriate for a character whose legacy wasn’t deep thinking but insane spending, and for someone who reinvented himself so relentlessly. Party Animals is shamelessly entertaining—more so, in fact, than much of what Carr actually made.