#RespectYourElders: David Geffen (born 1943) is a multi-talented businessman who founded DreamWorks, Asylum Records, Geffen Records and DGC Records. He is largely considered one of the wealthiest people in entertainment, and has been called one of the “Most Powerful Gay Men and Women in America” by Out Magazine.
Geffen had a humble start to success after dropping out of college, beginning his career in the mailroom of the William Morris Agency. Even this job required a college degree — and he falsely claimed to have one from UCLA. Today, this deception would be much easier to catch and Geffen likely would have lost his job, but at the time Geffen’s lie was not discovered.
According to Geffen, this time in the mailroom was the beginning of his ambition. He said, “I’m delivering mail to people’s offices and I hear them on the phone, and I think, I can do that. Talk on the phone. This I can do.”
About a year and a half after beginning work in the mailroom, Geffen was promoted to junior agent, which put him in contact with major stars. It wasn’t long before he went on to cofound Asylum Records with one of his mailroom colleges, Elliot Roberts. His company signed greats like Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan and the Eagles. Ten years later he founded Geffen Records and signed artists including Blink-182, Elton John and John Lennon.
In addition to his impressive career, Geffen has also been an active philanthropist and has spoken out on a number of political causes. He has donated significant amounts of his own wealth to AIDS research, and lobbied for further government investment as well. Geffen also contributed $1.5 million to the legal challenge against California’s Proposition 8. The defeat of Proposition 8 restored same-sex marriage rights in California.
For more on David Geffen, take a look at his full biography here.