I wrote a fair and balanced review of this, which features most of my key criticisms. But maybe it was too fair and balanced. Reading this was a night...moreI wrote a fair and balanced review of this, which features most of my key criticisms. But maybe it was too fair and balanced. Reading this was a nightmare:
I always like to point out that Hibbing, MN actually spawned THREE geniuses: Bob Dylan, Roger Maris, and Chi Chi LaRue. Chi Chi's drag-queen porn-aute...moreI always like to point out that Hibbing, MN actually spawned THREE geniuses: Bob Dylan, Roger Maris, and Chi Chi LaRue. Chi Chi's drag-queen porn-auteur memoir offers more hard-earned insights into human nature than Dylan could ever bounce off his poesie, or his reverent hype. Pick this one up and don't let the erectified hedonism deter you: the porn logistics and hilarious gossip turn it something approaching genius. Examples:
Most vital of all -- and I cannot stress this enough -- is what we in the industry call 'good length.' This refers not to the length of the dick being sucked but rather to the amount of dick moving in and out of the sucker's mouth with each stroke. There must be a distinct up-and-down motion, with as much of the cock as possible sliding out of the upstroke and in on the downstroke. This is easier with a bigger dick, of course, but even a moderate-size dick can display good length if the sucker goes all the way down to the base, then all the way back up to the head.
When you start casting real-life boyfriends together, that's where you get into some dangerous territory... Sure the lovemaking is authentic -- authentically sweet and tender and kind and gentle, exactly what you don't want in a porn film.
Ryan Idol had his own agenda. He was having tantrums virtually every day on the set. At one point, when Steve Marks had spit in his ass, Ryan screamed at us, 'Nobody spits in Ryan Idol's ass!' and threatened to come after me with a baseball bat if I left that in the final cut.(less)
Woah: he used to be a Catholic altar boy too! Definitely read the "dirty" version: even though it's supposed to be a confessional, he offers several d...moreWoah: he used to be a Catholic altar boy too! Definitely read the "dirty" version: even though it's supposed to be a confessional, he offers several decent sex tips. Including the shower-curtain-with-baby-oil which he's frequently mentioned on Conan and the View. I await the next installment. (less)
James Brown being James Brown, he paints a pretty rosy picture of himself throughout. Although he does get pretty frank about his late-seventies decli...moreJames Brown being James Brown, he paints a pretty rosy picture of himself throughout. Although he does get pretty frank about his late-seventies decline, triggered by the deaths of both his son and Elvis. (Those were the only two times anyone had ever seen James Brown cry.) Also, he really really really wants history to note that he had sex with Aretha Franklin.
I especially love the part where he used to believe in the health-bestowing properties of beer, guzzling it by the gallon to replenish his electrolytes after gigs. (less)
Now if only all this hilarious squalor resulted in some great music, all would be well in the world. In fact, I think this book might be the Crüe's gr...moreNow if only all this hilarious squalor resulted in some great music, all would be well in the world. In fact, I think this book might be the Crüe's greatest contribution to civilization. The anecdote about Ozzy snorting urine and ants nearly sent me to the hospital (with oxygen deprivation) (from laughing). (less)
The juicy gossip is minimal but interesting: early work with Nick Colasanto ("Coach" on Cheers), who had a drunken tryst with a rug (plus a dude in a...moreThe juicy gossip is minimal but interesting: early work with Nick Colasanto ("Coach" on Cheers), who had a drunken tryst with a rug (plus a dude in a coffin). Ben sleeping with Eva Gabor(!) and Elaine Stritch (!!). And then Audrey Hepburn!!! That sorta thing...
Also worth reading if you're a fan of John Cassavetes, arguably the most important figure in Ben's life (and largely responsible for Ben's most memorable performance, in The Killing of a Chinese Bookie).
One problem: he devotes minimal space to his work with nineties independent filmmakers like the Coen Brothers (The Big Lebowski) or Todd Solondz (Happiness), or Spike Lee (Summer of Sam). I suppose they might seem like small fry compared with Elia *cough* *cough* *ptooey* Kazan or Otto Preminger. (Or John Cassavetes.) (less)
Two of this book's authors, Robin and Liza Greer, were stars of the classic Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode, Angels Revenge. Liza -- who dishes...moreTwo of this book's authors, Robin and Liza Greer, were stars of the classic Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode, Angels Revenge. Liza -- who dishes the nastiest dish here -- plays the fresh-faced pigtailed teenager in that movie. As Amy noted, the anecdote about George Harrison and his ukelele is priceless. (less)
Miss Pamela is actually a fun, insightful writer (she calls her early bra-stuffing "bewitching fraudulence" for example), and little did any of the bo...moreMiss Pamela is actually a fun, insightful writer (she calls her early bra-stuffing "bewitching fraudulence" for example), and little did any of the boys she bedded and fellated know that she'd use her experience to reframe rock history. Here, we begin with Captain Beefheart (after an interval in which she must write down Beatle Paul's name every time she farts) and go on to Iron Butterfly, the Byrds, the Doors (ugh), Frank Zappa (barf), the Flying Burrito Brothers, Led Zeppelin... um... Don Johnson... and, er, Michael Des Barres. OK maybe I'm overstating my case that she's the slut Braudel of rock historians. A very entertaining read though. (less)
This reads like a combination of I Lived to Tell it All, and KISS and Make Up. Like George Jones, Mark E. Smith doesn't seem to know where his gifts c...moreThis reads like a combination of I Lived to Tell it All, and KISS and Make Up. Like George Jones, Mark E. Smith doesn't seem to know where his gifts came from (or even what they are), but gives himself ample room for cranky old-fogeyisms and bibulous self-handicapping. And like Gene Simmons, Mark regrets nothing, defends his vices, snipes at ex-bandmates, and comes across like a cocksure (or maybe "tonguesure") asshole. (But unlike Gene, Mark's knack for lucre obviously ain't all there, considering how frequently he is "skint" in the book.)
There are many hilarious quotes here, and even some oddball insights about alcohol tolerance and shifting identities. But on the whole, it reads like an endless pub rant, and too often you just want to get up and play some darts. I'm giving it an extra star because he's still pretty much my all-time favorite singer.
One last thing: I know he's a misanthrope, but did he really give this a title that implants a Styx earworm for the rest of the week? "Oh mama I'm in fear for my life of the long arm of the law..."(less)
I enjoyed this righteous class-warfare memoir (by an old colleague of Michael Moore) up until the end, where -- if memory serves -- he is diagnosed w...moreI enjoyed this righteous class-warfare memoir (by an old colleague of Michael Moore) up until the end, where -- if memory serves -- he is diagnosed with a "mental illness" and saves himself with Prozac. Total cop-out. (less)
Maybe not quite as epic and deep (and much thinner) than his first memoir, Palimpsest, this still had me hooked from beginning to end. On top of the u...moreMaybe not quite as epic and deep (and much thinner) than his first memoir, Palimpsest, this still had me hooked from beginning to end. On top of the usual droll and witty rants, he offers us some wonderful anecdotes about, y'know, Grace Kelly, Huey Long, Princess Margaret (he calls her "PM", LOL), Tennessee Williams , Johnny Carson, Eleanor Roosevelt, Rudolf Nureyev, etc... The reason some of these stories didn't appear in Palimpsest was very simple: the protagonists weren't dead yet.
Which leads me to the melancholy flipside of this "last memoir" (so Vidal calls it): not only does he describe what it's like for so many friends and enemies to be dying all around him, for the first time, he tells us what he felt when Howard Auster died. (The secret to their fifty-three year relationship? They never had sex.) The recollection is mostly dispassionate reportage: he never once tries to get inside Howard, nor does he allow us even a toehold inside himself during these bleak proceedings. And that's when you notice he's utterly bereft. Powerful stuff.
And to top it all off, he concludes with the real story behind the JFK assassination -- to his mind the most tragic ironic moment in recent history.
Yes, it is true that this book's a bit jumbled thematically and chronologically, but that just makes this a more vivid, decentered tale: you never know what's coming next when this acidic octogenarian gets going (well, probably some more Tennessee Williams gossip, but you don't know what's next after that) . Also, duh, the book's title.
One last note: I'm still not sure what's going on in chapter fifty-three, which seems to consist entirely of a tedious, unattributed quote from Marcie Frank (I'm guessing). Bad editing? Absentmindedness? Some odd Montaigne stylistic allusion I just don't get? Anyway: weird.(less)
A fascinating, slightly befogged memoir by a major innovator who is now more of a dutiful namecheck than an identifiable "sound". When he writes about...moreA fascinating, slightly befogged memoir by a major innovator who is now more of a dutiful namecheck than an identifiable "sound". When he writes about how he used to get thrashed about by his dad for sneaking records out the old man's collection, or putting records on his bike wheel and watching them spin, it seems like a retrospective personal mythology. But it also seems very convincing: this man was entranced by spinning vinyl from jump street.
The Sugar Hill years -- where I expected the story to climax -- are tinged by the hue of sour grapes. He seems fair to Melle Mel (up to a point), but you can tell that his bitterness toward the "Good Queen" Sylvia Robinson is permanent. Even "The Message" gets short shrift, because -- as he correctly observes -- he ain't on it!
So you get your climax later, where you don't expect it, and this Lothario with wide-ranging offspring tempers his sluttiness with a surprisingly beautiful love story. The style here -- probably adapted by ghostwriter David Ritz to Flash's specifications -- is a succession of staccato sentences followed by (slightly) longer confessional paragraphs. After a couple pages you feel it, and then you can't stop reading.
My only caveat is that occasionally Flash flubs the chronology of his beats. He claims, for example, to have purchased "Pump Me Up" by Trouble Funk during his early-DJ "gold rush of 1975", yet the song wasn't released until 1982, and Trouble Funk themselves weren't formed until 1977/78! Clearly a music-nerd editor should have combed through this. Other than that though, an insightful memoir by a creative hustler of the first order. (less)
This book is just hilarious: a relentless stream of fistfights, boozin' and skirt-chasin' written in a breathless poetic cadence by this struggling ch...moreThis book is just hilarious: a relentless stream of fistfights, boozin' and skirt-chasin' written in a breathless poetic cadence by this struggling character actor who happens to be Robert Mitchum's brother. The gossip is what drew me in -- not just the great tales about Brother Robert, but fascinating tidbits about the author's first wife (who happened to be Gloria Grahame's older sister), Lee Van Cleef (tender & soused), Dan Blocker (damn near a socialist!), Deborah Kerr (the love of Brother Robert's life?). Etc. etc., plus there are 356-odd photos, most of which I've never seen before. Worthy of further reproduction are the snapshots of beach-bum Bob -- impossibly strapping and in those proto-Speedos -- prior to his stardom.
As if to enhance this perceptive tapestry of amoral gossip & hedonism, the author occasionally butts in with protests of religious fervor and patriotic conservatism (not only did he campaign for Goldwater in '64, but he wrote the songs on John Wayne's classic LP, America: Why I Love Her). To hear his occasional pieties in a landscape of glass jaws, whiskey bottles, nekkid women, and dime bags: well I'm not sure if "cognitive dissonance" is the best way to describe it. I never thought I'd say this, but maybe some of these uptight Bible-thumping flag-kissing types are secretly cool?
Them Ornery Mitchum Boys<?i> surpasses the later Mitchum biography by Lee Server: not only is John Mitchum a better writer, but even the tall tales have more a whiff of historical veracity about them. This book is definitely long overdue for a reprint.(less)
Men buzz around as hardly more than hairy boys until the hand of fate squashes them in their tracks like bugs. Women's lives are demarcated by a serie...moreMen buzz around as hardly more than hairy boys until the hand of fate squashes them in their tracks like bugs. Women's lives are demarcated by a series of traumatic, usually bloody, rehearsals for death: the death of the little girl at menses, the death of the nymph at the loss of virginity, the death of the single girl at marriage, the death of the bride at the birth of the mother, the death of the mother at menopause. On occasion, under such pressures a girl might easily add some bloodletting of her own.
Jenna hates that quote -- for starters, this whole idea of a "nymph" "dying" with their virginity -- but this is an example of how Carducci grapples hard with the sticky issue of sex and women in the early L.A. punk scene. Whence came this grappling? Naomi Petersen -- the primary visual chronicler of early-eighties punk -- had been dead for two years before Carducci found out in 2005. Motivated by guilt and nostalgia, he wrote Enter Naomi, a hard-nosed, insightful memoir/tribute the likes of which I've never encountered. I remember seeing Naomi's photo credit on all those SST LP inserts back in the day, but little did I know that she was a real person, with all this surrounding her loud, lusty, short life.
The book works as both a visual tribute to Naomi -- featuring lots of her photos, memorabilia, reprints of letters, etc. -- and an insiders view of SST and L.A. punk when it was still a scruffy, interdependent scene. Carducci's depiction of the era as the tail-end of hippiedom (complete with the requisite gender roles) seems spot-on, and he compensates by focusing on the many women in the SST scene... though, alas, many of them are now dead.
On top of the gossip, you get lots of insights about aging, sex, capitalism, LP manufacturing, gig publicity, and guilt. The title refers not only to the cultural rupture that she facilitated, but to an early incident when she showed up at the SST offices weeping with bleeding wrists (cf. "bloodletting" above), having been four-F'ed by SST wrangler Mugger earlier that evening. She spooned under a desk with Chuck Dukowski for the night, and a peculiar relationship with SST and rock culture was born. (less)
Figured I should read this, since I've had a crush on her mom since, y'know, whenever (cf. my avatar). It's a quick read, and obviously the transcript...moreFigured I should read this, since I've had a crush on her mom since, y'know, whenever (cf. my avatar). It's a quick read, and obviously the transcript of her one-woman play... chatty, rambling, often hilarious. Two anecdotes about her mom left me anaerobic with laughter and/or shock – one involving surrogate motherhood, and the other involving two (but maybe three?) vibrators. Oh, and let's not dismiss the Cary Grant anecdotes later in the narrative.
I was born and raised the son of a lesbian psychiatric nurse. Despite this obvious benefit to my well-being and sanity, I retain some very serious ontological problems with the idea of mental illness, and especially constructs such as "bipolar disorder" and "manic depression". Carrie Fisher seems to derive some comfort from knowing that she has these things – that these "disorders" are what catalyzed her heavy drinking and drug use, until electroconvulsive therapy saved her. (She doesn't really say whether she's now addicted to more industry-sanctioned drugs.) This isn't to say that I don't sympathize with her obvious pain and weirdness, or celebrate the glimmer of hilarious clearheaded sanity this book represents. It's just that being a mood-swinging substance-abusing nutcase seems pretty normal to me – especially for an inbred Hollywood genius – and sending high voltage through your throbbing brain is the worst way to confront the problem. Hell I recommend that she follow her dad's lead and just start toking up daily (n.b. she calls him "Puff Daddy" throughout the book).
Anyway, though she only mentions the compulsive sex thing in passing, I do have one last question for Carrie: Senator Christopher Dodd?? (less)
As a misanthrope and a solipsist, young Henry Rollins is the midpoint between Gene Simmons and Arthur Schopenhauer (with whom he bears more than a pas...moreAs a misanthrope and a solipsist, young Henry Rollins is the midpoint between Gene Simmons and Arthur Schopenhauer (with whom he bears more than a passing resemblance). This book chronicles his transformation from an insecure D.C. ice-cream sales associate to a self-absorbed glossolalia Cardassian. Compassion, malice, and egoism (the nascent traits that Henry calls his "Discipline, Insanity, and Exile") are vividly enacted here, everything from skinheads interrupting Henry's taking a shit to his rationale for being booze-free ("I don't want anything to disturb my signal" 10.27.85).
I prefer the early scribbling, when he was documenting a DIY scene, putting down the facts. Round about 1985, entries get squishier, longer, stoopider. Not sure about his music tastes during this era either-- Diamanda Galas, Jerry Garcia, Nick Cave... Even despite the cannabis haze, I can kinda see why Greg Ginn was ready to remove Henry from his sonic vision.
"I am infected, I a lucky, I am stricken, I am alive," the diarist says on April 17, 1985 (after his hideous backpiece was fully inked). That's where I gave up reading closely. You get less a music memoir than a Spartan punker griping and philosophizing as fast as his empty stomach and the coffee grinds between his teeth will allow. Typical of austere solipsists: Henry omits LOTS of groovy band details and trivia. Hell, you barely notice that d. boon died after Henry mentions this funeral that he skipped.
I found this book in my neighbor's apartment while catsitting, and between brushing fur and wet-wiping an adorably overweight cat's butt (her tongue c...moreI found this book in my neighbor's apartment while catsitting, and between brushing fur and wet-wiping an adorably overweight cat's butt (her tongue can't reach), my lust for Helen was rekindled. What an odd career: she's starred in the worst movie of all time (The Fiendish Plot of Dr. Fu Manchu [oh c'mon, Caligula wasn't that bad!]) and the greatest political film ever (The Cook, the Thief, His Wife, and Her Lover). She was Liam Neeson's sackmate for four-odd years. (Now she's married to Taylor Hackford, the only man alive who can get away with a neatly trimmed white beardy thing on his face.) She's the hottest fiftysomething (er, sorry sixtysomething) actress around, and still has no problem taking her kit off. So, her memoir is more like a coffee-table book – glossy pages and lots of pictures, the sort of thing to flip through and pass around a party rather than read from cover to cover. Which isn't to say her words don't matter – there's a lot of great insight, wit, and gossip to be found here too.
Touring Africa with Peter Brook's experimental theater: "Each of us had to make our own decision about going on the carpet and engaging in the performance, which was often an audience of three women, two kids human and three kids goat" (later, they were paid for a performance with a goat, which prompted the usual vegetarian-hippie debates among the touring cast).
On making The Cook, the Thief, His Wife, and Her Lover: "The dog turds used in that horrific first scene were also made by our chef. He prepared them out of the very best chocolate, like beautiful chocolate truffles. The minute the dogs were let out, they ran around and ate them all up. Once again, the actors missed out!"
While filming 2010 in her first Hollywood stint: "I had to learn that Americans did not go in for the kind of theatrical swearing I was used to. There is one word in particular which begins with a C and ends with a T and has an N and a U in it. This word is absolutely the pits in America. No word is worse. [...] ... the director called 'Cut!' As an amused throwaway I turned to Roy [Scheider] and said, 'Oh, Roy, you c***.' The whole studio froze in horror. Roy looked utterly shocked, whereupon I dug myself deeper and deeper. 'Oh no! I didn't mean you c***, I just meant, you know, you C***.'!"
A most excellent memoir. The nude photos are after page 153. (less)
As a memoir about black fatherhood and manhood and growing up trapped in a uniquely American class divide, 'The Beautiful Struggle' will either lose y...moreAs a memoir about black fatherhood and manhood and growing up trapped in a uniquely American class divide, 'The Beautiful Struggle' will either lose you right off the bat or compel you to the end. The key is Coates's prose, which is an odd combination of the neo-biblical incantatory style of James Agee and the clipped, slangy plot-spinning of Iceberg Slim. I loved it, and Coates really did seem to be trying for something different from his regular blog work. I probably should give the book five stars for style and wisdom alone, but much like all the best Spike Lee flicks, Coates didn't seem to know how or where to end this thing. So we get left wandering among his djembe lessons and clunky sexual history just as the book is winding down. I look forward to his next opus -- hell, why not a novel! (less)
Most treatments of the Cold War and Vietnam eras conjure up images of stern-faced baldies scribbling strident tendentious histories. Here's something...moreMost treatments of the Cold War and Vietnam eras conjure up images of stern-faced baldies scribbling strident tendentious histories. Here's something different: a delightful, gossipy memoir of the White House from FDR through Nixon, written by its Chief Usher through most of those years. Although it obviously includes its share of pathos, you mostly get a sense of fun and strangeness: really it's about a bunch of odd families moving into this gigantic house and redecorating it (or gutting it, in Truman's case!). Memorable images abound: Mamie Eisenhower lying in bed all day covered in pink, LBJ installing all sorts of ultra-blast shower heads, Bess and Harry Truman breaking their bed during a night of passion...
And speaking of Bess, West implies strongly that she was a figure of major importance in Truman's presidency -- almost an Edith Wilson type figure, a co-President of sorts. I've never really heard this claim made by anyone else (alas I've not read McCollough's bestseller nor daughter Margaret's Bess bio), and I wonder why? (less)