Mark Desrosiers's Reviews > The Grand Illusion: Love, Lies, and My Life with Styx

The Grand Illusion by Chuck Panozzo
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's review
Apr 11, 2011

it was ok
bookshelves: memoirs, music, lgbt
Read in April, 2011

It's my sad duty to report that this is the dullest memoir ever. You'd think that the AIDS-afflicted gay bassist for Styx (fucking STYX!) would spend more time gossiping about his bizarre bandmates (Dennis and Tommy especially) than his own tedious struggle with being closeted in, well in an awesomely gay-sounding band. But no, not only does he avoid all music-geek talk about how certain albums or songs were created (I'm still shocked that he was not heavily involved in the Styx creative process), but even significant events like the departure of John Curulewski and the Dennis De Young Lawsuit are given kid-glove treatment. Lieutenant Vanish doing his job to the last.

The most fascinating revelations for me are his insights to what happens to a wealthy rocker with too much time on his hands: when Styx first broke up in 1984, Chuck was lost without a map (but with plenty of money). So he hung around his massive Chicago condo, studied flower arranging (srsly), took care of his sick mom and boozy bro, but nevertheless remained bored and unmotivated. Said boozy bro -- twin brother John (Styx's drummer) -- had the same "problem" and spent his liquid days (successfully) inviting death. I get the impression that this great dizygotic rhythm section was not a creative force on its own merits -- not once did I read of a musical idea offered to Styx by the founding Panozzo twins. (Well OK, Chuck suggested to Dennis that he change the title of "Roll me Away" to "Show Me the Way", but that's 1991.)

Anyway the gay stuff and his HIV/AIDS diagnoses take up the bulk of his memoir -- someone must have told him people would be more interested in that than the AWESOME MUSIC OF STYX. He occasionally gives you an interesting detail -- for example his learning about sex from visiting a dodgy gay porn cinema in Chicago -- but on balance he's very, y'know, non-penis-y in his talk about men. Snoozefest. And not one mention of Rob H. or Freddie M. either, which I found kinda weird.
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