Secrets of their success


Burt Prelutsky has had a successful career. He’s been a writer for shows like “Dragnet,” “Bob Newhart” and M*A*S*H”; a political pundit; humor columnist for the Los Angeles Times; and film critic for Los Angeles magazine. The 68-year-old also maintains a blog, which he updates regularly.

In his new book, “The Secret of Their Success: Interviews With Legends and Luminaries” (Expanding Press, $19.95), Prelutsky looks outward to discover the secret of others’ fortune. The collection of interviews with some of the biggest and most successful individuals of the century offers insight into those who have influenced our society. Among the 78 interviewees are Gene Kelley, David E. Kelley, Sid Caesar, Gerald Ford, Dennis Prager, Pat Sajak and George Carlin.

Prelutsky’s original list was about 900 people, but he decided to narrow it down to the ones he felt “represented a good cross-section of ‘successful’ people,” he says in the book’s introduction. The book also offers the last known interviews with Ginger Rogers and Billy Wilder, Prelutsky said.

Some of the questions Prelutsky asked of people included whom they’d like to meet, whom they envy, how their career grew into its ultimate success and how they dealt with failure.

When asked how he felt after losing an award, “Boston Legal” writer-producer David E. Kelley said, “The thrill of victory is definitely greater that the agony of defeat. The only thing is, you feel really silly showing up in a tuxedo and losing.”

Although questions were tailored to each interview, one kept popping up throughout most of the book: “How much of your career has been driven by money?”

While most of Prelutsky’s subjects were quite wealthy, he was surprised at first to find that money was not the great motivator. Their success was mainly attributed to the fact that many of them “weren’t doing it for money,” Prelutsky said.

Prelutsky said he wrote the book because he was generally interested in learning about these legends. After knowing several of them personally and researching them, Prelutsky said he just “asked them questions that [he] wanted to know.” To fit everything into one book, he conducted short, concise interviews.

Prelutsky, who grew up in a Jewish home near the North Side of Chicago, describes himself as a “success in his own mind.” In addition to writing for nearly two-dozen television shows and publications like The New York Times and Sports Illustrated, he took a Writers Guild of America award for best-adapted comedy for “Hobson’s Choice” in 1985.

Prelutsky is currently working on a sequel to “Secret,” which will include interviews with Newt Gingrich, Curt Schilling and Carl Reiner.

While he wrote the book based on his own interest, Prelutsky is hoping it influences a younger generation with aspirations to succeed despite the troubled economy.

“Every one of these people is talking about doing what you feel you should be doing. If you are good at it, you’ll make enough money,” Prelutsky said.

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