By William Wolf

FORTUNE IN MY EYES--A Memoir of Broadway Glamour, Social Justice, and Political Passion  Send This Review to a Friend

I first met David Rothenberg when he was a press agent and I was starting in my career of writing about the theater. He was always friendly, likable and helpful. It has been a pleasure through the ensuing years to watch Rothenberg expand into roles as a theater producer, radio broadcaster, and also as an activist fighting for prison reform and the need to help those who come out of prison to rebuild their lives.

He has lived a colorful life encompassing such contrasting experiences as dealing with celebrities from film and stage and going to Attica to help calm a prison uprising. Now you too can appreciate this unique individual, thanks to his new book, “Fortune in My Eyes” (Applause, U.S. $29.99).

Rothenberg is one of our heroes. He founded The Fortune Society, which has grown into a major organization to help convicts in and out of confinement. He ran for the New York City Council and although he didn't win, he contributed passion to the race. He served at Mayor Koch's appointment on the New York City Commission on Human Rights. He helped establish "The Castle" an impressive building on Riverside Drive in New York, where ex-cons could find a home until they have built enough self-esteem to move on. He produced an off-Broadway play with Castle members telling their stories. His broadcasts over WBAI with interviews and commentary have become an institution.

This well-written book is a fascinating mix. It is filled with amusing anecdotes about the famous, some of the delightfully bitchy, gathered through his work as a press agent or involvement with theater producing.

We gain intimate insight into Rothenberg as a person. In a chapter that he titles "Homo" he writes about his life as a gay man and the painful experiences that he had before coming to terms with himself and being openly gay. He includes a letter that he wrote to his mother informing her that he is gay, and it is one of the most moving letters that you will ever read. It is bound to strike a chord with others who have faced similar crises and agonized about how to explain their lives to loved ones.

Rothenberg also describes the battle to make the city aware of AIDS in the early days when the tendency was to cover-up what was happening. He recounts sadly what happened to so many friends and the funerals he intended.

Rothenberg can look back on his life with justifiable pride, and many can take a lesson from the way he intertwined career with values. “Fortune in My Eyes” is a rich, deeply human book with snappy writing and expression of guiding principles, plus a wealth of information about our times. Reviewed on November 25, 2012.


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