From Fashion to Hollywood: Abe Gurko’s Journey Behind the Scenes with Carrie Fisher and Beyond

by Jerome Knyszewski
Abe Gurko

When Abe Gurko packed his bags and moved from New York City to Hollywood, he wasn’t leaving a career in the fashion industry to chase the usual dream of becoming a movie star.

“I wanted to be a mechanic to the machine called celebrity.” Over the next few years, he developed his skills as a behind-the-scenes creative working with arguably the coolest woman in Hollywood, Carrie Fisher.

There, he acquired an intimate knowledge of the writing process and observed the inner workings of the entertainment industry. “I was like Alice careening through the Looking Glass, Mad Hatter and all.”

Before finishing his debut memoir, Abe spent decades producing countless high-profile events: premieres, fashion shows, and music videos; created New York Design Week and even races in Central Park. His fundraising activities helped raise money for AIDS, other charities, and the theatre. He is currently in production on two documentaries:

Won’t Be Silent – The history of protest music, co-produced by Selena Gomez and Stacey Abrams for MAX.

Wolf’s Song – The discovery of a long-lost piece of music written in a concentration camp by his uncle, composer/conductor Wolf Durmashkin, who was killed hours before the liberation.

To learn more about Abe’s projects or order his book, visit: https://wontbesilent.com/

Name: Abe Gurko
Company: Won’t Be Silent

Check out more interviews with entrepreneurs here

Table of Contents

Abe Gurko

Before we begin, please introduce us to the “cliff-notes version” of who Abe Gurko is.

Abe Gurko: I’ve been to the mountaintop and back on more than one occasion. My life has been about embracing my superpower of humor and optimism to survive the challenges of being a second-generation holocaust, coming out, addiction, health issues, loss of family members, and other unbelievable obstacles.

But that all makes me stronger. That has all brought me to this place of self-love and gratitude. And with all that, I wouldn’t have changed one iota of what I’ve done in my life.

What motivated you to share your story in “Won’t Be Silent—Don’t Stop ‘til It Matters”?

Abe Gurko: The long answer to why I wrote this book is that I had started a film project that got shut down with that title during COVID-19. But a time of self-reflection was an opportunity to take a look at my life and how I command myself to speak out against depression. My parents survived the Holocaust.

Antisemitism is something I’ve been on the receiving end of my whole life. What’s happening now is not anything new or challenging for me because I’m accustomed. I’m built for this. And, uh, yeah, so I feel like I wanted to leave behind my story because that was a way I felt like I could matter, especially during the COVID lockdown, when Black Lives Matter became an issue.

And then there was the fight between White Lives Matter and Blue Lives Matter. And I thought everyone was trying to own this word matter. We all must matter. That is our mission on Earth. I wanted to not only write a book, but I also wanted it in my title. So, it’s Won’t Be Silent-Don’t Stop till it Matters.

Your memoir has been hailed as “Gay Eat, Pray, Love.” What aspects of your journey resonate with readers similarly?

Abe Gurko: The similarity is the main character going on a journey of self-reflection and searching for meaning. People of substance will want to make sure that their lives matter, whether being of service or being a good, kind person. I’m not a parent, so I won’t get the joy of feeling that is what I leave behind.

So, I got to give birth to my book, and the final nine months were joyous. It’s not enough to wonder why I was on Earth and what I would leave behind. Because when you have parents who survive the Holocaust and tell you all about it, you can’t figure out how you’re ever going to measure up, and chances are you never will.

You can think you’re trying, but at the end of the day, the projects that I am involved with, which are honoring my family legacy and my legacy, really matters. Especially bringing attention to what my family had survived and, on some level, didn’t survive like the rest of the family that had perished.

Yeah, I am clear as a bell on that. It’s also because I have two amazing sisters who came from the same DNA as me and have invested so much energy in their children and grandchildren.

And they have, you know–knock on wood–incredibly fabulous children that have grown and gotten married and are nurturing their children in a way that I just can’t ever fully appreciate what that’s like. Then again, they can’t understand what my story is either. I get to nurture humanity in a very different way than the beauty of how much love and care sisters did with their children and grandchildren.

As a second-generation Holocaust survivor, how has your heritage influenced your approach to challenges?

Abe Gurko: It took a long while, and now it has become my new identity and an homage to my heritage. The DNA inherited from my parents is my superpower. I had spent the first half of my life trying to deny it because it felt like an albatross. My cross to bear.

When you’re a little kid listening to stories of the concentration camps and Nazi abuse, it’s very overwhelming. And it’s almost like you don’t want any part of that. But when I finally understood that—man–they survived that? I can’t complain about being a suburban brat. Whining is embarrassing.

Honestly, there are days when it’s cold out, and I’m not wearing a warm coat; I feel like I can’t even say anything. My parents spent brutal winters in barracks with no coats and barely any food. It’s a reference when I complain about something.

When push comes to shove, it makes me strong and a fighter for what’s right and true. That history is the best part of me. And that’s why I am not afraid of anyone. I’ll take on any challenge that comes my way. Thanks to my parents, I have a spine of steel.

Won't Be Silent Book

You discuss your experiences with addiction and being HIV+ in the ’80s. Where did you find your strength to overcome? What lessons did you learn along the way?

Abe Gurko: Well, the addiction is, to me, what I was kind of just suppressing how I was feeling. My dad had died, and it was a very messy point in my life because it was a lousy ending for us and a lot of unsaid words. And it was excruciating. So, naturally, I medicated that. I acted like the medicating was groovy because it was the seventies and the eighties.

So it was like, that whole thing was. It didn’t look like I was a problematic addict. I was groovy. And, and, and I was able to act as though the medicating was groovy, you know because it was the seventies and the eighties. So it was like, that whole thing was. It didn’t look like I was a problematic addict.

I was like a groovy. I was going to Studio 54 in the club scene and popular, and I was producing events, and everything was like la di da. Uh, and I am a functioning addict; I wasn’t crawled up in a ball somewhere.

When I turned positive, I had the support of the AA community at that time. It was critical to be connected to the spiritual aspect of the program, which certain teachings I carry with me to this day.

So I figured. Yes. And I felt I could do this again if my mother could survive Dachau and my dad can survive a gulag, you know, in Siberia, those winters where it’s like 30 below for like months on end, and he was there for a few years in a work camp. I believe in the metaphysical, which means you can attack whatever negatively impacts your life, withstand the impact, and survive.

I could be wrong, but most of life is a concept anyway, so why not have one where you come out the victor? So many people are defeatists. They are everywhere you turn, and it’s your job to fight to defy gravity.

“Won’t Be Silent” discusses themes of coming out and fighting for gay rights. What advice do you have for LGBTQ+ individuals?

Abe Gurko: Because I am old-school gay, I was there on the front lines. Let me put it to you this way: after seeing how the gay community has evolved from when we fought for the right to be not only out and proud but through marriage equality and the fight for HIV meds during the Reagan administration. I call myself homosexual, yes; gay, no.

Jerome Knyszewski, VIP Contributor to WellnessVoice and the host of this interview would like to thank Abe Gurko for taking the time to do this interview and share his knowledge and experience with our readers.

If you would like to get in touch with Abe Gurko or his company, you can do it through his – Linkedin Page

Disclaimer: The WellnessVoice Community welcomes voices from many spheres on our open platform. We publish pieces as written by outside contributors with a wide range of opinions, which don’t necessarily reflect our own. Community stories are not commissioned by our editorial team and must meet our guidelines prior to being published.

Related Articles