Illinois State Library

Illinois Center for the Book


Individual Author Record

General Information

Name:  Rich Cohen  

Pen Name: None

Genre: Non-Fiction

Born: 1968 in Lake Forest, Illinois

Sites:


Illinois Connection

Cohen was born in Lake Forest, Illinois, and grew up in Chicago's North Shore suburb of Glencoe.

Biographical and Professional Information

Cohen is a journalist and author. He is contributing editor at ''Vanity Fair'' and ''Rolling Stone'' magazines. He currently lives in Connecticut.


Published Works Expand for more information


Titles At Your Library

Tough Jews : Fathers, Sons, and Gangster Dreams
ISBN: 0375705473

Vintage. 1999

In an L.A. delicatessen, a group of Brooklyn natives gets together to discuss basketball, boxing, the weather back east, and the Jewish gangsters of yesteryear. Meyer Lansky. Bugsy Siegel. Louis Lepke, the self-effacing mastermind of Murder, Inc. Red Levine, the Orthodox hit man who refused to kill on the Sabbath. Abe "Kid Twist" Reles, who looked like a mama's boy but once buried a rival alive. These are just some of the vibrant, vicious characters Rich Cohen's father reminisced about and the author evokes so pungently in Tough Jews.

Tracing a generation of Jewish gangsters from the candy stores of Brownsville to the clubhouses of the Lower East Side--and, occasionally, to suites at the Waldorf--Cohen creates a densely anecdotal and gruesomely funny history of muscle, moxie, and money. Filled with fixers and schlammers, the squeal of tires and the rattle of gunfire, his book shatters stereotypes as deftly as its subjects once shattered kneecaps.

The Avengers
ISBN: 0375705295

Vintage. 2001

Rich Cohen, author of the acclaimed Tough Jews, again narrates a little-known episode of Jewish history, this time altering what we thought we knew about the Holocaust.

Abba Kovner, Vitka Kempner, Ruzka Korczak-comrades, lovers, friends. In the Lithuanian ghetto of Vilna, they were the heart of a breathtakingly courageous underground movement, and when the ghetto was liquidated, they fled to the forests and joined other partisans in continued sabotage and resistance. Riveting, poignant and uplifting, The Avengers is a powerful exploration of resistance and revenge, of courage and dedication, and an inside look at some of the intrepid individuals who fought against the Holocaust and the nazi occupation of Europe.

Lake Effect
ISBN: 0375725334

Vintage. 2003

A New York Times Notable Book

Winner of the Great Lakes Book Award and the 21st Century Award from the Chicago Public Library

Raised in an affluent suburb on the North Shore of Chicago, Rich Cohen had a cluster of interesting friends, but none more interesting than Jamie Drew. Fatherless, reckless, and lower middle class in a place that wasn’t, Jamie possessed such an irresistible insouciance and charm that even the teachers called him Drew-licious. Through the high school years of parties and Cub games and girls, of summer nights on the beach and forbidden forays into the blues bars of Chicago’s notorious South Side, the two formed an inseparable bond. Even after Cohen went to college in New Orleans (Jamie went to Kansas) and then moved to New York, where he had a memorable interlude with the legendary New Yorker writer Joseph Mitchell, Jamie remained oddly crucial to his life. Exquisite and taut, Lake Effect is a bittersweet coming-of-age story that quietly bores to the essence of friendship and how it survives even as it is destined to change.

Machers and Rockers: Chess Records and the Business of Rock & Roll (Enterprise)
ISBN: 039305280X

W. W. Norton & Company. 2004

"Rich Cohen is a born storyteller, and this tale of how Muddy Waters and Leonard Chess helped invent Rock & Roll in Chicago in the 1950s is a tough, funny and smart read. It's a big story, told in a big way." ―Jann Wenner

A tour-de-force history of Jews, blues, and the birth of a new industry. On the south side of Chicago in the late 1940s, two immigrants, one a Jew born in Russia, the other a black blues singer from Mississippi met and changed the course of musical history. Muddy Waters electrified the blues, and Leonard Chess recorded it. Soon Bo Diddly and Chuck Berry added a dose of pulsating rhythm, and Chess Records captured that, too. Rock & roll had arrived, and an industry was born. In a book as vibrantly and exuberantly written as the music and people it portrays, Rich Cohen tells the engrossing story of how Leonard Chess, with the other record men, made this new sound into a multi-billion-dollar business aggressively acquiring artists, hard-selling distributors, riding the crest of a wave that would crash over a whole generation. Full of absorbing lore and animated by a deep love for popular music, Machers and Rockers is a smash hit.

The Record Men: The Chess Brothers and the Birth of Rock & Roll (Enterprise)
ISBN: 0393327507

W. W. Norton. 2005

"Brilliant

the best book I have ever read about the recording industry

a classic."--Larry King

On the south side of Chicago in the late 1940s, two immigrants

one a Jew born in Russia, the other a black blues singer from Mississippi

met and changed the course of musical history. Muddy Waters electrified the blues, and Leonard Chess recorded it. Soon Bo Diddly and Chuck Berry added a dose of pulsating rhythm, and Chess Records captured that, too. Rock & roll had arrived, and an industry was born. In a book as vibrantly and exuberantly written as the music and people it portrays, Rich Cohen tells the engrossing story of how Leonard Chess, with the other record men, made this new sound into a multi-billion-dollar business

aggressively acquiring artists, hard-selling distributors, riding the crest of a wave that would crash over a whole generation. Originally published in hardcover as Machers and Rockers. About the series: Enterprise pairs distinguished writers with stories of the economic forces that have shaped the modern worlds

the institutions, the entrepreneurs, the ideas. Enterprise introduces a new genre

the business book as literature. 12 illustrations

Sweet and Low: A Family Story
ISBN: 0374272298

Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 2006

Sweet

and Low is the amazing, bittersweet, hilarious story of an American family and its patriarch, a short-order cook named

Ben Eisenstadt who, in the years after World War II, invented the sugar packet and Sweet'N Low, converting his Brooklyn cafeteria into a factory and amassing the great fortune that would destroy his family.

It is also the story of immigrants to the New World, sugar, saccharine, obesity, and the health and diet craze, played out across countries and generations but also within the life of a single family, as the fortune and the factory passed from generation to generation. The author, Rich Cohen, a grandson (disinherited, and thus set free, along with his mother and siblings), has sought the truth of this rancorous, colorful history, mining thousands of pages of court documents accumulated in the long and sometimes corrupt life of the factor, and conducting

interviews with members of his extended family. Along the way, the forty-year family battle over the fortune moves into its titanic phase, with the money and legacy up for grabs. Sweet and Low is the story of this struggle, a strange comic farce of machinations and double dealings, and of an extraordinary family and its fight for the American dream.

Rich Cohen is the author of Tough Jews, The Avengers, and Machers and Rockers, and the memoir Lake Effect. His work has appeared in The New Yorker and Vanity Fair, among many other publications, and he is a contributing editor to Rolling Stone. He lives in New York City.
A New York Times Notable

Book of the Year

A Chicago Tribune Best Book of the Year

Sweet

and Low is the story of an American family and its patriarch, a short-order cook named

Ben Eisenstadt who, in the years after World War II, invented the sugar packet and Sweet'N Low, converting his Brooklyn cafeteria into a factory and amassing the great fortune that would destroy his family.

It is also the story of immigrants to the New World, sugar, saccharine, obesity, and the health and diet craze, played out across countries and generations but also within the life of a single family, as the fortune and the factory passed from generation to generation. The author, Rich Cohen, a grandson (disinherited, and thus set free, along with his mother and siblings), has sought the truth of this rancorous, colorful history, mining thousands of pages of court documents accumulated in the long and sometimes corrupt life of the factor, and conducting

interviews with members of his extended family. Along the way, the forty-year family battle over the fortune moves into its titanic phase, with the money and legacy up for grabs. Sweet and Low is the story of this struggle, a strange comic farce of machinations and double dealings, and of an extraordinary family and its fight for the American dream.

"A rollicking, utterly compelling family saga that is part detective story, part morality tale, part tragedy and part farce. It is a story peopled with eccentrics and naïfs and scoundrels, and a story recounted with uncommon acuity and wit . . . Mr. Cohen . . . writes about his family with a mixture of affection, outrage and bafflement, startled and often in awe at the strangeness of his relatives and the bizarre trajectory of their lives . . . He has not settled for writing a simple, straight-ahead memoir, however. Instead, he's intercut the story with tart and highly entertaining asides about everything from the history of Brooklyn to the history of the sugar business, from the legacy of the immigrant experience to the big business of diets and weight loss . . .

[Cohen has] managed to turn his family's rancorous history into a gripping memoir: a small classic of familial triumph, travail and strife, and a telling—and often hilarious—parable about the pursuit and costs of the American Dream."—Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times

"Do not disinherit a man who makes his living with a pen. He may exact revenge by splashing the family's boils and foibles in black-and white on the pages of a spectacularly entertaining book. That is the misfortune of the family of the late Benjamin Eisenstadt, self-made scion behind those ubiquitous pink packages of fake sugar piled in bowls on restaurant tabletops the world over. But it's a riotous reading experience for the rest of us, who get to enjoy Rich Cohen's roiling, boisterous, hysterical and weirdly scholarly remembrance of his messy, badly behaved Jewish clan in Sweet and Low."—Michael Ollove, The Baltimore Sun

"How decadent . . . to indulge in Rich Cohen's rollicking acount of his family and the business it built, a book that aims mostly to settle old scores, air dirty laundry and answer decades of petty insults from relatives . . . He paints vividly, and not flatteringly . . . [Cohen] has a terrific eye for detail, the little things that affix people and places in our memories, the gestures and miscues that shape family history . . . Reading him savage his family, you sometimes wonder, is he allowed to do this? It's a guilty pleasure—sort of like sugar without the calories."—Kate Zernike, The New York Times Book Review

"A

wildly addictive, high-octane narrative. Cohen sashays with boisterous panache from the history of the sugar trade to grandmother Betty's brooch . . . Cohen moves from journalistic objectivity to the intensely personal with ease, enjoying the kind of access that historians almost never get . . . Is Rich Cohen, the grandson who got squat from the Sweet'N Low millions, taking revenge? No

this book is about his mother, and the way that her family—the whole saccharine-sticky lot of them—were truly and unnaturally awful to her, a woman who makes but brief appearances in the narrative and is never eulogized. A woman who could have survived her vile relatives only through a tremendous inner strength. It is this strength which, subtly, gloriously, Rich Cohen celebrates."—John Barlowe, Washington Post

"The rollicking saga of Grandpa Ben's business, 'taken over and stripmined by hooligans.' The battle overt his vast family fortune leads to feuds between siblings, corruption, lawsuits and the ultimate disintegration of the clan. It is Cohen's good fortune to be on the side of the family that was disinherited. Sweet revenge is the energy behind this glorious book."—Andrea Sachs, Time

"Alternately delicious and sour .

.

. All these characters are portrayed with elegantly phrased detail, along with Cohen's insightful eye for the larger picture. Sweet and Low might as well be a Balzacian 19th-century novel complete with a crisis, a contested will and a tragic resolution . . . Sweet and Low is never less than fascinating reading, both for what it says and what it doesn't. Hell hath no fury like a writer deprived."—Melvin Bukiet, Los Angeles Times Book Review

"Sweet and Low is a wondrous evocation of an era and character types that won't be seen again."—Ron Grossman, Chicago Tribune

"The book is not just about settling scores . . . Mr. Cohen aims higher, writing not only about his family but also about the first Jewish settlers in N

When I Stop Talking, You'll Know I'm Dead: Useful Stories from a Persuasive Man
ISBN: 0446548154

Twelve. 2010

Here is the story of Jerry Weintraub: the self-made, Brooklyn-born, Bronx-raised impresario, Hollywood producer, legendary deal maker, and friend of politicians and stars. No matter where nature has placed him--the club rooms of Brooklyn, the Mafia dives of New York's Lower East Side, the wilds of Alaska, or the hills of Hollywood--he has found a way to put on a show and sell tickets at the door. "All life was a theater and I wanted to put it up on a stage," he writes. "I wanted to set the world under a marquee that read: 'Jerry Weintraub Presents.'"

In WHEN I STOP TALKING, YOU'LL KNOW I'M DEAD, we follow Weintraub from his first great success at age twenty-six with Elvis Presley, whom he took on the road with the help of Colonel Tom Parker

to the immortal days with Sinatra and Rat Pack glory

to his crowning hits as a movie producer, starting with Robert Altman and Nashville, continuing with Oh, God!, The Karate Kid movies, and Diner, among others, and summiting with Steven Soderbergh and Ocean's Eleven, Twelve, and Thirteen.

Along the way, we'll watch as Jerry moves from the poker tables of Palm Springs (the games went on for days), to the power rooms of Hollywood, to the halls of the White House, to Red Square in Moscow and the Great Palace in Beijing-all the while counseling potentates, poets, and kings, with clients and confidants like George Clooney, Bruce Willis, George H. W. Bush, Armand Hammer, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Bob Dylan, Led Zeppelin, John Denver, Bobby Fischer . . .well, the list goes on forever.

And of course, the story is not yet over . . .as the old-timers say, "The best is yet to come."

As Weintraub says, "When I stop talking, you'll know I'm dead."

With wit, wisdom, and the cool confidence that has colored his remarkable career, Jerry chronicles a quintessentially American journey, one marked by luck, love, and improvisation. The stories he tells and the lessons we learn are essential, not just for those who love movies and music, but for businessmen, entrepreneurs, artists . . . everyone.

The Fish That Ate the Whale: The Life and Times of America's Banana King
ISBN: 0374299277

Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 2012

A legendary tale, both true and astonishing, from the author of Israel is Real and Sweet and Low


When Samuel Zemurray arrived in America in 1891, he was tall, gangly, and penniless. When he died in the grandest house in New Orleans sixty-nine years later, he was among the richest, most powerful men in the world. In between, he worked as a fruit peddler, a banana hauler, a dockside hustler, and a plantation owner. He battled and conquered the United Fruit Company, becoming a symbol of the best and worst of the United States: proof that America is the land of opportunity, but also a classic example of the corporate pirate who treats foreign nations as the backdrop for his adventures. In Latin America, when people shouted "Yankee, go home!" it was men like Zemurray they had in mind.

Rich Cohen's brilliant historical profile The Fish That Ate the Whale unveils Zemurray as a hidden kingmaker and capitalist revolutionary, driven by an indomitable will to succeed. Known as El Amigo, the Gringo, or simply Z, the Banana Man lived one of the great untold stories of the last hundred years. Starting with nothing but a cart of freckled bananas, he built a sprawling empire of banana cowboys, mercenary soldiers, Honduran peasants, CIA agents, and American statesmen. From hustling on the docks of New Orleans to overthrowing Central American governments, from feuding with Huey Long to working with the Dulles brothers, Zemurray emerges as an unforgettable figure, connected to the birth of modern American diplomacy, public relations, business, and war―a monumental life that reads like a parable of the American dream.

Alex and the Amazing Time Machine
ISBN: 0805094180

Henry Holt and Co. (BYR). 2012

Alex Trumble is a pretty ordinary kid―except for the fact that his IQ borders on genius, and he loves to read books on vortexes and time travel. But when two angry hit men kidnap his big brother Steven, Alex's life changes fast. Inventing a time machine (using an iPod, mirrors, duct tape, and a laser pointer) is only half the battle. With the help of the time-bending Dingus, Alex and his best friend Todd must travel back in time to collect clues, outwit the bad guys, and race against the clock to save his family from total oblivion.

The Sun & The Moon & The Rolling Stones
ISBN: 0804179239

Spiegel & Grau. 2016

A panoramic narrative history that will give readers a new understanding of the Rolling Stones, viewed through the impassioned and opinionated lens of the Vanity Fair contributor—and co-creator of HBO’s Vinylwho was along for the ride as a young reporter on the road with the band in the 1990s

Rich Cohen enters the Stones epic as a young journalist on the road with the band and quickly falls under their sway—privy to the jokes, the camaraderie, the bitchiness, the hard living. Inspired by a lifelong appreciation of the music that borders on obsession, Cohen’s chronicle of the band is informed by the rigorous views of a kid who grew up on the music and for whom the Stones will always be the greatest rock ’n’ roll band of all time.

The story begins at the beginning: the fateful meeting of Mick Jagger and Keith Richards on a train platform in 1961—and goes on to span decades, with a focus on the golden run—from the albums Beggars Banquet (1968) to Exile on Main Street (1972)—when the Stones were prolific and innovative and at the height of their powers. Cohen is equally as good on the low points as the highs, and he puts his finger on the moments that not only defined the Stones as gifted musicians schooled in the blues and arguably the most innovative songwriters of their generation, but as the avatars of so much in our modern culture.

In the end, though, after the drugs and the girlfriends and the rows, there is the music. The Sun & The Moon & The Rolling Stones makes you want to listen to every song in your library anew and search out the obscure gems that you’ve yet to hear. The music, together with Cohen’s fresh and galvanizing consideration of the band, will define, once and forever, why the Stones will always matter.

Praise for The Sun & The Moon & The Rolling Stones

“Fabulous . . . The research is meticulous. . . . Cohen’s own interviews even yield some new Stones lore.”The Wall Street Journal

“[Cohen]

can catch the way a record can seem to remake the world [and] how songs make a world you can’t escape.”Pitchfork

“No one can tell this story, wringing new life even from the leathery faces of mummies like the Rolling Stones, like Rich Cohen. . . . The book beautifully details the very meaning of rock ’n’ roll.”New York Observer

“Masterful . . . Hundreds of books have been written about this particular band and [Cohen’s] will rank among the very best of the bunch.”Chicago Tribune

“Cohen, who has shown time and time again he can take any history lesson and make it personal and interesting . . . somehow tells the [Stones’] story in a whole different way. This might be the best music book of 2016.”Men’s Journal

“[Cohen’s] account of the band’s rise from ‘footloose’ kids to ‘old, clean, prosperous’ stars is, like the Stones, irresistible.”People

“You will, as with the best music bios, want to follow along on vinyl.”The Washington Post

“A fresh take on dusty topics like Altamont and the Stones’ relationship with the Beatles . . . Cohen takes pilgrimages to places like Nellcôte, the French mansion where the Stones made Exile on Main Street, and recounts fascinating moments from his time on tour.”Rolling Stone

“On the short list of worthwhile books about the Stones . . . The book is stuffed with insights.”San Francisco Chronicle


Awards

-- '''''Lake Effect''''' -- *Great Lakes Book Award

-- *21st Century Award from the Chicago Public Library

-- '''''Monsters: The 1985 Chicago Bears & the Wild Heart of Football''''' -- *2015 ILLINOIS READS Book