Mann of letters takes on Streisand, Broadway and the big screen

William J. Mann

William Mann has spent a significant part of his writing career getting up close and personal with Hollywood legends.

He’s uncovered, dissected, analyzed and humanized the lives and lore of Katherine Hepburn, William Haines and Elizabeth Taylor among others. With a sharp intellect and skill that’s produced six non-fiction books and five novels, Mann recently began exploring unfamiliar terrain.

He’s in talks to bring a musical version of his 1998 biography, “Wisecracker: The Life and Times of William Haines,” to the stage. It’s been optioned by TV producer and screenwriter David Lee (“Frasier,” “The Jeffersons” and “Cheers”) of Palm Springs, and is being written, Mann says.

Haines’ life is full of rich material for the stage. The star, who was dropped by his movie studio after refusing to deny he was gay, went on to achieve staggering success as an interior designer. He created the living spaces for many of the rich and famous, including the Annenbergs at Sunnylands in Rancho Mirage.

In addition to the stage production, there are plans to bring Haines’ story to movie screens. Mann says a screenplay based on his book is being written by Jaffe Cohen and Michael Zam, who did “The Kid” on Broadway.

Though a fan of Broadway, Mann admits he doesn’t know a lot about the creative side of musical theater.

“I’m learning more about the whole musical world,” he says. “I’m seeing musicals and reading the books from past shows.”

However, it’s not the only project that’s cast him into the unknown.

For his new biography, available at booksellers this month, Mann honed in on a celebrated singer, actress, director and LGBT rights advocate.

In “Hello Gorgeous: Becoming Barbra Streisand,” he explores the first five years of her stellar career. It’s a similar tact he used with his previous book, “How To Be A Movie Star: Elizabeth Taylor in Hollywood,” choosing to focus the story on the violet-eyed star during the ’60s.

The Streisand biography comes just as the star celebrates 50 years in entertainment this month.

Mann will read from the book at 2:30 p.m. Oct. 20 at the Palm Springs Public Library, 300 S. Sunrise Way, and he will sign copies of the book from 4 to 7 p.m. Dec. 15 at Just Fabulous, 515 N. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs.

Read our interview with Mann about the Streisand book in the new issue of Desert Outlook magazine, out Thursday, Oct. 6.



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