Show Business: I Dream for a Living

Steven Spielberg, the Prince of Hollywood, is still a little boy at heart

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The fateful day when this movie-mad child got close to his Hollywood dream came in the summer of 1965, when 17-year-old Steven, visiting his cousins in Canoga Park, took the studio tour of Universal Pictures. "The tram wasn't stopping at the sound stages," Steven says. "So during a bathroom break I snuck away and wandered over there, just watching. I met a man who asked what I was doing, and I told him my story. Instead of calling the guards to throw me off the lot, he talked with me for about an hour. His name was Chuck Silvers, head of the editorial department. He said he'd like to see some of my little films, and so he gave me a pass to get on the lot the next day. I showed him about four of my 8-mm films. He was very impressed. Then he said, 'I don't have the authority to write you any more passes, but good luck to you.' "

The next day a young man wearing a business suit and carrying a briefcase strode past the gate guard, waved and heaved a silent sigh. He had made it! "It was my father's briefcase," Spielberg says. "There was nothing in it but a sandwich and two candy bars. So every day that summer I went in my suit and hung out with directors and writers and editors and dubbers. I found an office that wasn't being used, and became a squatter. I went to a camera store, bought some plastic name titles and put my name in the building directory: Steven Spielberg, Room 23C."

Two years later, Spielberg enrolled at California State University, Long Beach, but it is safe to say he matriculated at Universal U. Cramming 15 1/2 units into two frenetic days of classes a week, he was able to spend three days on the studio lot, asking executives to watch his films. "They were embarrassed when I asked them to remove their pictures from the wall so I could project my little silent movies. They said, 'If you make your films in 16-mm or, even better, 35-mm, then they'll get seen.' So I immediately went to work in the college commissary to earn the money to buy 16-mm film and rent a camera. I had to get those films seen."

Obsession and addiction: successful careers are built on these qualities, whether or not they are accompanied by talent. Spielberg had felt the craving ever since his first day on the Universal lot: "I was on the outside of a wonderful hallucination that everyone was sharing. And I wanted to do more than be a part of the hallucination. I wanted to control it. I wanted to be a ( director." And so, bankrolled by a young friend with hopes of being a producer, he wrote and directed, in ten days, for $10,000, a short film called Amblin', about a boy and a girl hitchhiking from the desert to the Pacific Ocean. The day after Spielberg showed the film at Universal, he was called in by Sidney Jay Sheinberg, head of TV production, and offered a seven-year contract to direct Universal TV series. He was 20 years old. "I quit college," Spielberg says, "so fast I didn't even clean out my locker."

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