This book is required reading at the National Organization for Offensive Gay Stereotypes (along with my previously reviewed Get Happy), but I didn’t just read it to get the free caftan. I have been obsessed with old Hollywood biographies for a while now, and had heard from several trusted sources that this was one of the best. Now that I’ve read it, I couldn’t agree more. The best biographies offer both juicy details and extensively researched facts, and this book is bursting at the seams with both. Even if you’re not typically interested in biographies and claim not to care about these two megastars, you will find yourself caring within a few dozen pages. It’s that well done.
If you are usually a fan of Sinclair Lewis, I need to be up front. This is not one of his best. If you are new to the author, you may want to start with Elmer Gantry, Babbitt, or Main Street. However, if you want to give one of his earlier, more minor works a try, this one isn’t awful. I know that isn’t exactly a glowing recommendation, but compared to a lot of trash the world has to offer (I’m looking at you, Stephenie Meyer), this really is worth a go. And here’s why.
In 2008, comedian Mike Birbiglia wrote and starred in a one man off-Broadway show based on his life, called Sleepwalk with Me. He developed the show into a book, which in turn became a movie in 2012. I am reviewing both book and movie here, as both provide an entertaining glimpse into the life of a stand-up comic. It can be difficult in autobiographical works to steer through a life without veering into the two precarious territories on each side of the road: silliness and overwrought melodrama. Both book and movie tend to pull this off with ease, delicately balancing Mike’s dry humor and stand-up act with his real world challenges.
I actually read this several months ago, but then remembered it over the holiday season, when I visited Paris for the first time with my partner and parents. Admittedly, I am somewhat Julia Child obsessed. I’ve seen the entire ten year run of The French Chef from PBS; watching her as a kid (and reading my Mom’s enormous 60s-style Better Homes and Gardens cookbook) instilled in me a love of cooking (though my given name had a bit to do with that as well, I suspect). Given that, however, this biography is terrific. Even if you’re not Julia-crazed. Even if you’re not much of a cook. Even if you don’t typically read biographies. This one is a real joy.
It has happened. The planets have aligned. My taste for trashy biographies and my bizarre fascination with the Facts of Life girls have merged into one book. The disappointment is that it has been written, but not yet published.
I beg you, publishers. Snap this up. Now. It will be worth it for the Lisa Whelchel dirt alone.
PS: Charlotte, please include some dirt on Lisa Whelchel. Or at least on cousin Geri.
I don’t expect much from trashy biographies. I don’t buy them for artistic merit; I want dirt. I’m also not easily shocked. I have a filthy mouth (in appropriate circumstances, granted), I love John Waters movies, and in my college days I even tolerated a Borders coworker playing entire Frank Zappa albums overnight while we stocked shelves. I am certainly no prude. When I pick up a book like this, I want the sordid, salacious, shocking details.
I try really hard to remain diplomatic when it comes to my skepticism of both religion and new age mysticism. This is mostly because those who believe are allowed to announce and discuss their belief systems ad nauseam (even when they may themselves be unaware they are even doing it); however, the second an atheist calls bullshit, we are accused of being “militant” and “just as dogmatic as anyone else.”
I will save my thoughts on organized religion for another day, however. This book in particular actually focuses on the world of psychic phenomena. Whether you are a dyed-in-the wool skeptic like me, someone who rides the fence, or a believer in psychic phenomena with an ounce of curiosity about actual scientific explanations, this book will not disappoint.
I left Oklahoma Baptist University in 1995 because I was fed up with pretending to be heterosexual. I’ve since been a fairly vocal, out, proud, liberal gay. I’ve gone to a couple of pride parades (though not technically my scene) and even lived for a year in San Francisco. It wasn’t until I finally read a biography of Judy Garland, however, that I was contacted by the highest echelon of gay society (those responsible for the daily memos on the dreaded gay agenda) and given my stripes.
This book appealed to me on two levels. On the more adult level, I have always been interested in linguistics and etymology. I am endlessly fascinated by the science of how languages interact, how they evolve, the history of words, etc. On the slightly more juvenile level, I was entertained by the notion of learning as much as possible about four letter words.
Until I mellowed in recent years, it was not uncommon for me to hear the accusation that I was a “bitter queen.” I have also—since childhood—had an unnatural obsession with 70s and 80s television and its stars. Advancing age and therapy has played a part in my being more laid back and less bitter, but has done nothing to cure the TV obsession. So it was only a matter of time before I read the biography of Paul Lynde, the ultimate bitter queen of classic television.