my books .. myself
My latest solo book is
The Audacious Life and Legend of Rebel
Surfer Miki Dora.

My newest collaboration is
from an Extraordinary Life, (2014)
with the late Louis Zamperini,
hero of UNBROKEN. I also co-wrote his autobiography,

previously ...

I collaborated on
of Sex, Love and Psychotherapy. A memoir of Dr Brandy Engler's
first year in practice. She planned to treat women
but only got calls from men.

In 2009 I co-authored Sam Haskell's
." Sam was the William Morris Agency's Worldwide Head
of Television until he left to run the Miss America Corporation,
and pursue a life of philanthropy

and there's more...

I co-wrote
MATTERS MOST: 50 Rules from 50 Years of
Trying to Make a Living
(Gotham, Sept
2004/different title for the 2005 paperback),
with show biz legend Bernie Brillstein. Think
of it as pithy, humorous, no BS advice, based
on Bernie's life and business experience for
those who want to chart a unique path to
success and be enterained while they do it.

In 2003 I wrote
History from the Bottom Up
(Ballantine), a
bestselling oral history of what it's like to
start at the bottom in show business, in a
classic talent agency mailroom, dreaming of
the top. It covers 65 years and contains the
stories of more than 150 former trainees,
many of whom, like Geffen, Diller, and Ovitz,
went on to run Hollywood.

Also in 2003, I co-wrote musician/composer
Yanni's New York Times bestselling
YANNI IN WORDS (Miramax), and
DEVIL AT MY HEELS (William Morrow), the
inspirational and incredible saga of Olympian
and World War II hero Louis Zamperini, who
survived 47 days on a raft, drifting 2000
miles across the Pacific Ocean -- after his
bomber crashed on a rescue mission -- and
then almost three years of torture and humiliation
in Japanese prison camps.

I co-authored Hollywood super-manager
Bernie Brillstein's widely-lauded memoir,
WHERE DID I GO RIGHT?, as well as four
New York Times bestsellers:
actor/comedian Tim Allen's mega-hit
and its follow-up
Jeff Foxworthy's
and Chris Rock's ROCK THIS! I also co-authored
the bestselling
The Autobiography of Larry Sanders,
with Garry Shandling,
and created and co-wrote -- with Bill Zehme --
a groundbreaking and bestselling
humorous sociology of men named Bob.

I've also been a contributing editor of
Playboy since 1981, for which I have
interviewed people such as Bill Gates, Jerry
Seinfeld, Cindy Crawford, Billy Crystal,
Martin Scorsese, Ben Stiller, Dennis Miller,
Bill Maher, Whoopi Goldberg, Sean Penn,
Larry King, Julia Roberts, Tom Cruise, Nicole
Kidman, Chris Matthews, Shirley MacLaine,
Charlton Heston, Jack LaLanne, David Spade,
Garry Shandling, and many more. I have also
written extensively for other magazines,
including Rolling Stone, Esquire, TV Guide,
US Weekly, among others.

So What Do You Do, David Rensin?
Longtime LA author dishes on the pleasures
and pitfalls of co-writing
By Kate Coe – June 15, 2007

David Rensin's twelfth book, All for a Few Perfect Waves: The
Audacious Life and Legend of Rebel Surfer Miki "Da Cat" Dora
(HarperEnt April, 2008), takes his readers on a four-year
journey in search of the life of the late, mid-century surfer king
of Malibu.

Along with show business legend Bernie Brillstein, Rensin has
also co-written It's All Lies and That's the Truth: and 49 More
Lessons from Fifty Years of Trying to Make a Living in
Hollywood (Gotham 2004) and Where Did I Go Right?: You're
No One in Hollywood Unless Someone Wants You Dead
(LittleBrown, 1999), Brillstein's best-selling memoir. Rensin also
wrote THE MAILROOM: Hollywood History from the Bottom Up,
an oral history of what it's like to start at the bottom in a
show business talent agency dreaming of making it to the top,
and he is the creator and co-author of the cult hit The Bob
Book, a hilarious and groundbreaking sociology of men named

Rensin is also a long-time contributing editor for Playboy, for
which he's done more than a hundred interviews with
celebrities including Jerry Seinfeld, Marty Scorsese, Chris Rock,
Sean Penn, and Julia Roberts. He has written extensively for
Rolling Stone, Esquire, TV Guide, and US, among others. He
also blogs occasionally at, in the Native
Intelligence section.

Name: David Rensin
Position: Author
Company: Self-employed
Hometown: Born in Manhattan; Los Angeles since 1964.
Education: BA in Political Science
Family: "Fortunately -- a wonderful wife and 17 and a half-
year-old son." (Now 25 and a writer in Chicago. See his
Favorite TV show: Friday Night Lights (later: Too many to list)
Last book read: Wanderer by Sterling Hayden. (same as just
Guilty pleasure: "Stealing chocolate from my mother's
nightstand--and wherever else she hid it while I was growing

What is your average media day like?
Read the LA Times over breakfast. Check the Web. Think
about commenting in various comment sections; decide not to.
Read the New Yorker, Business Week, the Economist at
random. Watch the midday news. Check the Web. Watch Brian
Williams while thinking about Katie Couric's suddenly bad
makeup. Listen to KPCC or KCRW in the car.

How do you carve out time to write?
Not a problem. I actually start early, and work until I get
interrupted or fall asleep. When there's work, I'm relentless;
when there's none, I noodle. I don't get writer's block.

Describe your writing "area" -- any rules for yourself?
Schedule you try to adhere to? Special pens, paper, pets?
Strange routines we would delight in hearing?
I have a nice office at home. I can't write with a pencil
anymore and still hope to read what I scribbled. The dog
wanders in at odd times to assure me that someone still loves
me. I get a great view out the sliding glass door to the green
and forested back yard. My one writing extravagance is a 21"
pivoting monitor, which I put in the vertical position so I can
see more on the screen. I keep a notebook of everything I
talk about on the phone that I need to remember, as well as
occasional revelations about the meaning of life. Of course,
written in pencil, I can't decipher anything later.

How did you decide what to write about?
Sometimes it's just so obvious; a passion, an interview that
screams to be done; someone who needs a book collaborator
and has a handful of cash -- okay, not cash, but a topic or a
life that really interests me, that I think will open new areas of
experience and knowledge. I also like to constantly do
different types of books so I don't repeat myself. After an
opening run of collaborations with big time comedians, I did a
Hollywood mogul, a war hero, a musician, then my own book,
The Mailroom (Ballantine 2004) -- an oral history covering 65
years of what it's like to start at the bottom in a talent agency
mailroom, dreaming of making it to the top. And my upcoming
book, All for a Few Perfect Waves, is about the once and
forever charming, charismatic, enigmatic late surfer king of
Malibu, Miki "da Cat" Dora. It's an oral bio that took four years.

How much research did you do for All for a Few Perfect
More than I thought I could do. I surfed in the mid '60s and
early '70s, so I knew the subject. Still, I read all the surfing
books I could get my hands on, watched DVDs, read
everything about Dora, including piles of his letters and faxes,
his articles, his travelogues. I then interviewed over 300
people; traveled to his beach haunts in southern France and
on the African cape, and called everywhere else in the world
where people ride waves. I drove the length of California,
Googled incessantly, and tried to make sense of it all. Thank
goodness I didn't have to transcribe all the 300+ tapes!
(Oops! There goes the advance.)

What about collaboration -- hardest thing about co-writing?
The hardest thing is trying to convince  people, readers,
reviewers/pundits without protesting too much that it's not
ghostwriting but co-writing. Collaborating. I don't invent their
stories and go off and write on my own. The subject doesn't
get to phone it in. It's hard work, we're in it
together, and there's lots of blood and guts on the floor (in a
positive sense) to sift through. But that's what I get for
insisting that the book's subject tell me everything, so that I
can pick what I think works -- all of this subject to argument
and their final judgement, of course. The best thing about
collaboration is the chance to go deep into a subject, to find
nuances you don't have room for in a magazine profile. Also,
the "subject" always discovers that they don't have to be so
afraid of talking about what they were initially concerned
about, that once the words are in their mouth instead of
rattling around in their heads, it isn't so terrible and they see
how it all fits together. The trick is to walk a fine line between
obvious glad-handing and obvious trash talk. The reader has
to believe you're being honest, so self-effacement is good.

And you've worked with show biz folk -- harder than we
might think? Or easier?
No problem, once you create the proper atmosphere and earn
trust. With older "show folk," it's like sitting at the Passover
table listening to a wonderful story. With comedians, I
remember that they told all the jokes, even if they didn't.
Garry Shandling used to compliment something I'd written and
ask who'd thought of it: him or I. He did, of course. And even if
he didn't, he still did -- and he always made my humor much
better. The big thing to remember: listen, listen, listen. Always
ask your subjects follow-up questions based on what they
said, not your next written question.

Ever tempted by fiction?
Always. Every time I think there's nothing else out there to
write about that is worth a damn (which means that the
longer I'm at this, the less it's about doing anything to get
established and more about doing something that might
matter to the world or me), I think maybe it's time
for fiction. Maybe it's a last resort because I have to keep
writing. I have some stories. If I live long enough to draw
down on my retirement savings, I'll give it a shot.

What are you working on now or next?
Between 2000 and 2003 I did three books overlapping each
other. Then I spent four years on All for a Few Perfect Waves.
Unfortunately, I don't have the luxury of writing "in the
seventh year he rested." Now I'm hard at work on my next
book which is an oral portrait of personal altruism in America
that focuses on the helper. It's an in-the-trenches thing that
explores the reality of how and why we help each other and
what we think and feel about it. And I'm always looking for
young writers who want to graduate into books and might
want to take a crack at some of my long-lingering ideas and
help make them a reality -- for a piece of the action.

Who's the biggest influence on your work?
Oral histories: Jean Stein and George Plimpton's Edie. Studs
Terkel. Whoever I read last who has a real voice. My brother-
in-words Bill Zehme. My wife. My son -- himself a very
promising writer.

If you weren't a writer, what would you do?
Iron shirts, vacuum rugs, pull weeds, eat, read -- all things
that lead to immediate gratification. But that still leaves many
hours. So I guess I'd write. To be perfectly frank, I'm a
writer by accident, a guy who wanted to meet women and go
to rock shows for free in college, way back in the late '60s.
One thing leads to another. About seven years into it, I
realized I better take it seriously. That paid off in pieces for
many major mags, a contributing editorship to Playboy since
1981, hundreds of interviews, and twelve books. Or, as I like
to put on my high school reunion questionaire when it asks,
"What is your greatest achievement?"
"Never had a job."

As a follow-up, what would you love to do?
Keep traveling the world with my wife. Pass along my
knowledge and experience. And I'd like to retire -- so I can

Work's over, kitchen's clean, the kid is occupied -- how do
you kick back? Music, book, DVD -- what's your relaxation
preference? (And please don't tell me you go for a nice five-
mile run.
I do a nice five miles -- maybe more -- on my rear-end
satiating my addiction to mindless television viewing, while
also checking emails, snacking on fresh fruit, and playing
games on my Treo. No wonder I sometimes feel I'm out of the
loop and need to get out and meet more LA writers! Then my
wife and I wander off, and leave the rest to your imagination.