In the late 80s and mid 90s a group of outrageously dressed young people dominated the nightlife of New York City, including the so-called "celebutant...moreIn the late 80s and mid 90s a group of outrageously dressed young people dominated the nightlife of New York City, including the so-called "celebutante" James St. James. He befriended and guided newcomer Michael Alig through the world of clubs, drugs and self-promotion. Their friendship wasn't strong, built mainly on a friendly rivalry, but it all began to shatter when in 1996 Alig and another cohort, Freeze, murdered a drug dealer named Angel. It was to be the swan song of the brightly coloured, heavily intoxicated Club Kids, and James St. James follows the story of the scene and the horrendous crime in his engaging memoir Party Monster (previously released as Disco Bloodbath).
Although parts of the book are about the various retellings of the crime by those involved, how Alig started rumours of the murder himself to the press and within the subculture, and the contradictions evident in statements made, for the most part it is an exploration of the joys of participating in a subculture that is deemed as subversive and how dangerous a lack of regulation can become. It works to set the context in which Alig & Freeze committed and almost got away with their crime - a life of rampant drugs, little to no self-regulation, ambition and a desire for the extreme. It is also an ugly, but honest, look at the highs and lows of drug addiction.
For all his barbed wit aimed at the behaviour and habits of those around him, St. James seems astonishingly unaware of his own maliciousness and manipulation of others, especially Mavis. It seems that St. James convincing Mavis to use her life savings to become a drug dealer, mainly for the purpose of supplying him with endless amounts of free drugs, is all just a laugh, innocent compared to the crimes Alig committed. I'm just not sure if I buy that. Yes, he does come to something resembling a moral awakening by the end of the book, but never in relation to his own blatant cruelty and mistreatment.
Nonetheless, St. James has a narrative style that is uniquely his, distinctive, sharp, witty and colourful. His tales of clubland, socializing and heavy drug use are engaging and mostly told with a candid honesty. Somehow, Party Monster is horrifying, but also a lot of fun to read. His insights into the behaviour of his fellow clubbers are sharp, but I just wish that he had applied that same rigorous approach to his own conduct. Perhaps a more objective view will be found in Frank Owen's Clubland: The Fabulous Rise and Murderous Fall of Club Culture. (less)
Having read Tony Curtis' memoir, Some Like It Hot: Me, Marilyn and the Movie on the making of Billy Wilder's Some Like It Hot, it's hard to believe th...moreHaving read Tony Curtis' memoir, Some Like It Hot: Me, Marilyn and the Movie on the making of Billy Wilder's Some Like It Hot, it's hard to believe that the final film product is such a sparkling example of film comedy. It's amazing that the film was even completed, that such a well realized and much loved piece of film history emerged from so much chaos and personal dramas.
At times it is uncertain what parts of Some Like It Hot: Me, Marilyn and the Movie are anecdotally taken from Curtis' memories and what stems from the co-author's extensive research into the making of the film. Nonetheless, the book has a light-hearted, casual and engaging voice the not only covers the process of producing a film, but offers insight into the industry that created it and how, in the late 1950s, the Hollywood studio system was undergoing restructure. It does seem willing to indulge in Marilyn Monroe gossip over other, equally fascinating, aspects of the production and participants, showing the frustration she caused on set while recognizing the personal tragedy she was experiencing in her life at the time.
Featuring great on-set photos, Some Like It Hot: Me, Marilyn and the Movie offers a unique insider perspective on the 1950s Hollywood film industry and the work, and plain old good luck, that goes into creating a film of such calibre. An entertaining companion piece to the film.(less)
Melbourne is Sophie Cunningham's memoir, history and study of the city's culture, and a warm love letter to Melbourne itself. Recounting life in Melbo...moreMelbourne is Sophie Cunningham's memoir, history and study of the city's culture, and a warm love letter to Melbourne itself. Recounting life in Melbourne through one year - from the horrific 2009 bushfires to the hailstorms that battered the city just over a year later - weaving it through these seasonal changes makes for a deft play on the old "four seasons in one day" adage that, until recently, typified the unpredictable Melbourne weather.
Cunningham's approaches Melbourne in a memoir told through the history of the city, making it seem almost as if the place where personal history meets a more general history is where the stories of this city begin. Using the everyday stories of her life as a touchstone, Cunningham moves on to explore the particulars of Melbourne's geography, weather, houses, music, comedy, film, literature, culture, history, food, politics, immigration and population, gentrification, urban planning, public transport, architecture, sport, and crime. All those aspects which knit together to bring the city its unique character and quality. It is worth mentioning, however, that the stories don't often stray outside of the inner-city and its suburbs.
Melbournians and those familiar with the city will find a flush of recognition here and thrill in reading stories of streets, suburbs and buildings they too are acquainted with, though I have to wonder what non-Melbournians would make of it. Perhaps, for those readers, Melbourne may make the city seem impenetrable and insular - which, of course, it is. This is Melbourne's story warmly told by someone who so clearly loves it as much as I do.(less)