Gorgeous book. Some of the photos are familiar, while other familiar photos have been weirdly discarded in favor of unremarkable rarities, but there's...moreGorgeous book. Some of the photos are familiar, while other familiar photos have been weirdly discarded in favor of unremarkable rarities, but there's more than enough stellar stuff to compensate, and it's all been put together with loving care. This is the sort of book that people have in mind when they speak with apprehension about the disappearance of print. Vive le livre!(less)
Another book read as research for a forthcoming piece about Morrison, and undoubtedly one of the best things ever written about him, Lester Bangs-esqu...moreAnother book read as research for a forthcoming piece about Morrison, and undoubtedly one of the best things ever written about him, Lester Bangs-esque, with a touch of Norman Mailer. (less)
Apparently, if a writer writes even a single piece about Marilyn Monroe, he or she will be forever afterward gifted with books about her. This book is...moreApparently, if a writer writes even a single piece about Marilyn Monroe, he or she will be forever afterward gifted with books about her. This book is the second such gift I've received since my own piece about MM was published during the summer; here's a review of my first gift: http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/.... Both books are really photo collections, and the photographer in this case is Sam Shaw, whose best pictures of MM were taken during her relationship with Shaw's friend Arthur Miller. Shaw and Miller, meanwhile, both knew poet and novelist Norman Rosten, who supplies the text of "Marilyn Among Friends," having already written a memoir about MM in the seventies. MM regarded Rosten as one of her closest friends; she warmed to him in part because he failed to recognize her on the day they were introduced by Shaw, who, Rosten thought, had referred to the girl who suddenly appeared at his Brooklyn apartment as "Marion." Hence his courteous treatment of her had nothing to do with her fame. Also, Rosten was a family man, as was Shaw, and waifish MM was always one to graft herself onto families, following a troubled childhood during which she lived, by her count, in eleven foster homes, in addition to a Hollywood orphanage.
Many of the photos in this book can be found online, but one I've never seen before has MM enjoying an outing with Rosten's wife, his young daughter, and an equally young family friend. MM is dressed casually and modestly, and she wears a scarf and sunglasses -- in fact, she's the only person in the photo whose eyes can't be seen, yet the viewer's eyes immediately go to her, and that would happen, I'm confident, even the viewer took her for an anonymous "Marion." One wishes that she had posed more often for Shaw, who knew her before she fled Hollywood for New York. (She once said that, when she retired, she planned to live in Brooklyn -- her favorite place, interestingly.) As it is, this book is a bit padded with photos in which MM is absent. Of course, as some famous photographer (was it Henri Cartier-Bresson?) once said, there's no such thing as a bad old photo; even poor ones become fascinating when enough time has passed. I'm paraphrasing, but this notion seems especially true when applied to a photo of, for instance, Marlon Brando playing softball or of Joe DiMaggio hanging out, shades of "La Dolce Vita," on the Via Veneto. So the inclusion of such peripheral photos is fine by me. As for Rosten's text, we can assume that he had already used his best stuff in his earlier MM memoir; his most memorable passage here is saved for last: "In those years, people, friends, were closer. There was more meaning to friend-ship [sic]. Today [the late eighties], the pursuit of happiness is more brutally the pursuit of power, its seekers trusting in things rather than feelings. People like Marilyn never quite made it from power to happiness. She had the instinct and reflexes of the poet, but lacked the control."
But she certainly controlled the camera, being not just a passive poem but one of the camera's all-time greatest poets. (less)
This huge book was selling for five bucks at Amoeba Music in L.A., so how, being a big Beatles fan way back when, could I not buy it?
Unfortunately, a...moreThis huge book was selling for five bucks at Amoeba Music in L.A., so how, being a big Beatles fan way back when, could I not buy it?
Unfortunately, after reading the first few pages, I find that it's "novelized." Bloody hell! If I want a novel, I'll read a novel. I don't need "nonfiction" writers dramatizing what's already so inherently dramatic that it doesn't require dramatization.
I'll elaborate if I continue with the book, as I probably will. I'm in the mood, just now, for a big book about the Beatles. Even so, it's going to be tough to top Shout! by Philip Norman -- which managed to be wonderfully descriptive without falling prey to "novelization." (less)
A friend gave this book to me a few days ago, after my essay about Marilyn Monroe, written to coincide with the fiftieth anniversary of her death, was...moreA friend gave this book to me a few days ago, after my essay about Marilyn Monroe, written to coincide with the fiftieth anniversary of her death, was posted on Salon.com (http://www.salon.com/2012/08/06/golde...).
Andre de Dienes was the first serious photographer to work with Marilyn, then nineteen-year-old Norma Jeane Daugherty, a fledgling model with a single magazine cover, a bit of a fluke, under her belt. Norma Jeane entranced de Dienes immediately; he shot his first photos of her the next day, and proposed they take a road trip together, hoping that romance would develop along the way. It did, but not before they headed north, to Oregon, instead of east, as de Dienes originally intended. In Portland, Norma Jeane was reunited with her mother, recently released from an asylum, though de Dienes chose not to document the reunion with a camera. Eventually, near Mount Hood, Norma Jeane and de Dienes were snowed in at a hotel, where nature took its course. Norma Jeane was married at the time, and she and de Dienes decided they would themselves marry once her divorce to her current husband, Jim Daugherty, became final. The minute they were back in Hollywood, however, Norma Jeane enraged de Dienes by giving her phone number to another photographer, a "wolf" in the slang of the day, and de Dienes realized that she was much too ambitious to make for the idealized wife he had in mind.
Still, de Dienes photographed Norma Jeane on numerous occasions over the next few years, after she had changed her name to Marilyn Monroe and decided on an acting career instead of trying to be the lawyer she had told de Dienes she aspired to be. (Marilyn Monroe, a lawyer!) He last photographed Marilyn in the early fifties, but afterward she would materialize every so often at his house in the Hollywood Hills to hide from her handlers and complain about people who were "swindling" her. The famous often seek out those who knew them before they became famous, though, in the case of Marilyn and de Dienes, their meetings were sometimes rancorous. Once, after a quarrel, Marilyn stormed out of de Dienes' house on foot, disappearing by the time de Dienes went to collect her in his car. (Marilyn, for the most part, didn't drive, fearing accidents deliberately caused by fans who would stop at nothing to meet her.)
The written parts of this book come from a memoir that de Dienes was finalizing when he died in 1985, twenty-three years after Marilyn's fatal overdose. (His body lies near Marilyn's crypt in a West L.A. cemetery.) The style is hyperbolic, with copious exclamation points, but as Steve Crist points out in his introduction, the passionate de Dienes lived in exclamation points. There are numerous memorable anecdotes, such as the two creepy men who lurked around a shoot in the desert, men de Dienes was convinced might have murdered the future Marilyn Monroe, as well as de Dienes, had he and Norma Jeane not fled.
But while de Dienes's portrait of Marilyn in words is enjoyably lively, it can't compare with his photos of her. Many can be found online but in debased form; they're much better appreciated here. I, at least, had never seen some of the included photos, among them a shot of Marilyn running through the desert, not a love goddess but an anonymous girl dwarfed by a landscape that hasn't changed in thousands upon thousands of years, and will likely still be unchanged when Marilyn Monroe is forgotten, though it's hard to believe that such a day may dawn. (less)
Sharon Tate’s sister, Debra, has released a statement about this book, alleging that its author, Alisa Statman, doctored a memoir written by the Tate...moreSharon Tate’s sister, Debra, has released a statement about this book, alleging that its author, Alisa Statman, doctored a memoir written by the Tate patriarch, Paul, included in Restless Souls. Sharon Tate is the most famous victim of the so-called Manson Family, and Restless Souls is primarily about the aftermath of Sharon’s murder, with interwoven accounts from Paul Tate, a career military man who launched his own investigation into the case; his wife, Doris, who devoted her last years to keeping Sharon’s killers incarcerated; his youngest daughter, Patti, who took up Doris’s cause after Doris died; and Patti’s daughter, Brie, who was born more than two decades after Sharon's death, yet professes an affinity with Aunt Sharon that she never felt with Aunt Debra, the middle Tate child. It's clear that Brie's remarks in Restless Souls have been edited, if not ghostwritten, with the same purple pen that colored Paul Tate’s memoir, as well as the (until now) unpublished memoirs of Doris and Patti Tate, and the purple ink on Alisa Statman’s hands would be conspicuous even without Debra Tate’s accusations. Statman was Patti Tate’s domestic partner, her de-facto widow, and, it would seem, is Debra Tate’s rival as the guardian of the Tate family legacy, and Debra has all but been completely erased, Soviet-style, from Restless Souls.
Debra is a controversial figure among Mansonologists, frequently denounced as a liar, and worse, on the many websites and message boards devoted to the Manson case. Nor is Statman without her detractors. To her hear her tell it (though she doesn’t tell it in Restless Souls), she just happened to move into the guest house at the former residence of Sharon Tate, similar to the way Trent Reznor just happened to move into main house with no idea as to what had taken place there in August 1969. Murder? Really? You're putting me on! An aspiring filmmaker, Statman subsequently worked with unhinged Mansonologist Bill Nelson on a documentary about the case, during the course of which she liberated (that is, stole) some photos of Sharon from a retired LAPD detective and altruistically returned them to the Tate family. Soon she was living with the appreciative Tates, eventually becoming Patti’s lover and taking over the Tate house after Patti died and Paul moved out of state not long before he, too, died.
This scenario calls to mind the kind of Blakean specter seen in Joseph Losey’s 1963 film The Servant, in which the title character slowly assumes possession of his employer and the employer’s estate. The Servant was written by Harold Pinter, whose work often features interlopers, sometimes insidious, sometimes innocent. Statman, of course, claims innocence, and she’s known to post plaintive messages on Manson-case websites when her motives are questioned. To give her the benefit of the doubt, she may have begun as just another Mansonologist and found herself genuinely loving the Tates after contriving a means of ingratiating herself with them. Only she knows for certain, unless, through denial or rationalization or both, she’s converted fact into fiction.
Restless Souls, ostensibly fact, reads like fiction, and not in a good way. Statman never tells when she can show—clumsily—per Mark Twain’s instruction to writers, which has long since become a cliché. Statman dramatizes everything, turning memories into movielike scenes with “payoffs,” while editing, or ghostwriting, in the guises of the various Tates, all of whom express themselves identically—that is, like amateur novelists who want badly to write "well" and so opt for pretty words and fancy phrasings instead of the plain and humble ones more in keeping with the book’s subject.
Patti Tate (and/or Statman) writes: “An errant storm front edged its way inland from the coastline with low-slung clouds brooding well below my bird’s-eye view from the Holy Cross Cemetery.”
Brie Tate (and/or Statman) writes: “Rather than a depository of remains, I like to think of the thrice-used burial plot as a playful gathering of souls.”
Doris Tate (and/or Statman) writes: “Sculpted hills, interrupted by ancient volcano remains jutting from the valley floor, surround the ten-square-mile community where the citizens live the [San Luis Obispo] life.”
Paul Tate (and/or Statman) writes: “The room was a hodgepodge of manipulation with accents of warm colors, a hint of Pachelbel’s Canon in D, sprays of golden roses, and a plush chair that seemed it could absorb the heaviest of burdens.”
A hodgepodge of manipulation, indeed! Statman continually forces our attention to the slits in her Tate masks, where her eyes can be seen blatantly peering out. In two passages, it's hard to tell if she’s writing in character, as it were, or if she’s addressing the reader directly; where she otherwise identifies her narrator, these passages are identified only by dates, so that we go from Paul Tate (or “PJ") describing the “plush chair,” “sprays of golden roses,” and “accents of warm colors” of Sharon’s funeral—all the delicate touches a gruff soldier would be sure to cite—to the subtitle “1962” and a third-person recap of Sharon’s movie career, and then back to the funeral and PJ, who resumes with: “The more I pondered it…” The implication is that PJ has been pondering his dead daughter in a flashback with such odd (for a father) musings as: “He’s right, Sharon thought, as she sat naked in the tub during day after day of filming.” Or this interesting (that is, odd) bit of proto-feminism: “What she found […] on her ascent [to fame] was that an acting career was harder than she’d ever imagined—not the acting part itself, but the part that required trying to survive in a man’s world. A domain where a woman was a second-class citizen. In just a short time she understood that if she continued acting she’d remain in a constant battle with these men.” If we are meant to take this as Paul Tate’s estimate, he was quite the progressive for a military man of his generation.
Later, Statman performs a similar sleight of hand; we go from narration by Patti to the subtitle “August 9, 1969” and a third-person recreation of Sharon’s murder, then back to Patti. Statman has been criticized for this recreation, by Debra Tate and others, and she’s defended it as any novelist would, though Restless Souls both is and isn’t a novel—that is, it purports to be fact but, again, it’s written like fiction. Statman’s defense? The recreation is dramatically necessary—let nothing stand in the way of a good story!—which isn't “the truth” but the murders as imagined by Patti so that Statman has license to embellish. And embellish she does, telling us the unknowable, such as the topic of conversation between Sharon and her guest, Jay Sebring, just before the Manson Family permanently interrupted them: Jay was “talking [Sharon] down from an earlier squabble with [Sharon's husband] Roman.”
I’ve read other novelized recreations of the Manson murders, and what their writers invariably make clear is their hidden, or not so hidden, wish to have been present. It’s a morbid wish, of course, though Statman can’t admit to morbidity, just as she can’t admit to an agenda in seeking out the Tates. This is precisely the kind of honesty the book could use: Let it all hang out! And, unwittingly, Statman does let it all hang out here, using her purple pen as a roller brush and huffing the lurid fumes: “...her blood-slicked fingers slip across the wood surface,” etc.
As someone who has obviously thought a great deal about the case, Statman is occasionally, and surprisingly, insightful. For instance, one of the killers, Charles “Tex” Watson, climbed a telephone pole beside the Tate gate and snipped the wires before he entered the house, followed by his assistant killers, and to that fact Statman adds: “The high view reveals the entire property. He waits. His eyes, already adapted to darkness, scan the grounds to see if the disconnected wires alerted anyone to their arrival.” None of the killers have ever, as far as I know, mentioned Watson hesitating at the top of the telephone pole, but it seems likely, and only a smart detective or someone familiar with the layout of the property, such as a former resident like Statman, would probably consider it. Statman also knows that a car at the gate would trigger a bell inside the main house, a detail known to Watson, who had visited the house before the night of the murders, so that he was trying to silence the bell by cutting the wires—another fresh insight.
Elsewhere in Restless Souls, Doris Tate incisively analyzes Watson and what led him to kill, beyond the usual “Charlie made him do it” or “He’s evil.” How Doris Tate arrived at such an analysis is a mystery, since she stated more than once (as did Sharon’s biographer, Greg King) that she and the rest of the Tate family never read any books about the murders. But Statman has Doris as well as Patti reading about the murders and astutely commenting on them, and whether their comments are truly theirs or Statman’s or a hybrid, there’s occasional value in them for Mansonologists.
Meanwhile, though Statman’s style lends itself to an orgy of wincing and her book is padded with novelized transcripts of parole hearings and television shows, it somehow manages to be a page turner. Too bad it’s, again, a dishonest book, with its veneer of high-mindedness that tries to conceal a fascination with a spectacular crime; but Debra Tate is promising a book of her own, and if it ever gets written, I doubt she’ll erase Alisa Statman from the family history the way Statman erased Debra. There's a score to be settled. Which, if either, Tate sister will prevail: the one by birth or the one by self-invention?
Though his photos were used as cover art for classic albums by Bob Dylan, Van Morrison, and The Band, Elliott Landy isn't as celebrated as he should b...moreThough his photos were used as cover art for classic albums by Bob Dylan, Van Morrison, and The Band, Elliott Landy isn't as celebrated as he should be as one of the outstanding chroniclers of the sixties. This compact book, now apparently out of print (though it can be easily be bought for practically nothing online), encompasses not only Landy's portraits of rock stars (I prefer his pictures of Janis Joplin to any other taken of her) but his sixties photojournalism (he covered, among other key events, the 1967 March on the Pentagon) and even a few paparazzi shots (including one of Richard Harris, dressed like a mod royal in embroidered velvet, at the premiere of the film adaptation of "Camelot"). Still, Landy's most intimate, and therefore most memorable, images may be those of Dylan and the Band, his neighbors in Woodstock, NY, where they're captured with friends and family around the time of the 1969 music festival that fittingly conclude the book and made the name of Landy's adopted hometown synonymous with the utopian vision of a generation. (less)
A reviewer somewhere below refers to the Replacements as “tragically overrated.” Clever line, dude, in a mediocre sort of way. Now let’s see you susta...moreA reviewer somewhere below refers to the Replacements as “tragically overrated.” Clever line, dude, in a mediocre sort of way. Now let’s see you sustain that level of mediocre cleverness in review after review, as consistently as Paul Westerberg wrote songs with gems small and large in a lyric as well as sonic sense.
I’m holding my fucking breath.
Now comes before us a bunch of reviewers who apparently think that oral histories began with Please Kill Me, so that this oral history of the Replacements is a “rip-off.” Don’t you just love how people always stand at the quick with accusations of forms, or ideas or whatever, being ripped off? Yeah, and so does my copy of Edie, an oral history of Edie Sedgwick, which predates Please Kill Me by seventeen years, as well as my copy of Jack’s Book, an oral history of Jack Kerouac, published seven years prior to Edie.
People, people. I know it’s tempting to want to cast stones—believe me, I feel the urge to cast stones all the time—but let us ask ourselves beforehand if we’re truly authorized to do so, yes? A little knowledge, ineptly applied, causes us to appear, well, little.
In fact, this book, strictly speaking, isn't an oral history. Too many of the accounts in it were clearly written, not spoken into a tape recorder, by people who don’t know how to write well, despite painful-to-read effort. Either way, something evocative occasionally occurs, per this bit from a fan’s account of purchasing his copy of Let It Be, arguably the Replacements' best work:
I remember it as a cool fall night. It seems to me it was a Wednesday night. And maybe it was none of those things, but that’s the way I remember it. I just couldn’t believe the album was finally out.
Anticipation at last rewarded. Remember that? Probably not.
Sorry this is taking so long, you busy, busy people out there. Of course I couldn’t possibly be busy, so I’m going to sum up by saying that if you think that the Replacements are overrated, tragically or not, you should proceed to iTunes, a sub-god of the greatest god of all, Apple, which oversees all music, and have a listen. Even though that won’t really work, because the Replacements had to be seen live to be fully appreciated. But never mind. That was in fact the name of one of their songs, “Never Mind.” Think that has any connection to Nevermind, the classic album by Nirvana? Of course it doesn’t!
Or maybe, without kneeling to the great god Apple, you can listen to “Never Mind,” which is of course tragically overrated:
And now, busy, busy people, I really will conclude with this bit from an L.A. radio interview with Paul and Tommy of the Replacements, a transcription of a transcription included in All Over But the Shouting:
D.J.: When are you playing in town? PAUL: Maybe tomorrow night. D.J.: Where? PAUL: I don’t know. D.J. [sarcastically]: That’s a good answer, my friend. The next song up is “I.O.U.” What can you tell us about it? PAUL: God, he’s got a great voice, don’t he? TOMMY: It’s a fake voice. Listen to him. PAUL: No, he’s a fucking professional. Oops. I’m not supposed to swear, I guess.