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|Monday, February 19th, 2007|
"won't you come into my parlor?" said the spider to her stepdaughter
Last week I was in a used bookstore and spotted THIS in the biography section: COOL
, I thought, a weird cover variant for Mommie Dearest!
Then I realized that this was no mere reissue with snazzy new cover art. This was an actual novel written by Christina Crawford in 1982. Not content to rest on her laurels and collect royalty checks, Christina penned what the back cover blurbs call "the story only she could tell--of a cruel, obsessed woman, as lethal as she is beautiful, as fascinating as she is immoral, unchallenged in her evil until her twenty-year-old stepdaughter takes her on in a struggle that must end with the destruction of one or the other."
I had REALLY high hopes for this book, to say the least. And while I enjoyed it immensely (I was almost late to work this morning because I just had to read that last chapter), in the end the whole story rang a little hollow. Title character Vivian Simpson never comes off quite as wanton and evil as she's intended to be, and her stepdaughter advisary is such a ridiculously idealized, one-dimensional character that their epic showdown isn't nearly as much fun as I thought it would be. In some parts of the book Christina Crawford really nails those little details that can make a good trashy novel so rewarding, but in other parts she's strangely restrained.
What makes this book worth reading is the outrageously campy dialogue and eerie parallels to Joan Crawford's life and career. Like Joan Crawford, Vivian is a woman from a poor family who makes herself over into a high-society lady. Like Joan Crawford, Vivian has skeletons in her closet--SEXY skeletons. Like Joan Crawford, Vivian has an aversion to dirt and anything she perceives to be COMMON (in one brilliant scene chills run down Vivian's spine when she sees a crusty old ketchup bottle).
I wonder if Christina recognized the irony in her writing a story with a main character so similar to the shameless social climbers her mother played in so many movies? Who can say?
This is a must-read for any Mommie Dearest
fans and would make a fantastic beach book. for comparison, the original hardcover edition
|Thursday, January 25th, 2007|
I just found out that Liz Renay, author, movie star, artist, exotic dancer, and all-around LEGEND just died on Monday.
The world is a darker, less joyful place with her passing. Raise your glass in memory of this community's patron saint, and then go read her wonderful autobiography My Face for the World to See
|Friday, December 22nd, 2006|
Has anyone else rushed out and picked up a copy of Joan Collins' new book?
It's pretty much my new bible, replacing her last book My Friends Secrets
|Monday, November 27th, 2006|
a man in every port
Did you ever read a book that you could literally not put down and yet made you feel kind of queasy? I'm having that reaction to Jane Ellen Wayne's Crawford's Men
(Prentice Hall, 1988), a no-holds barred tell-all about Joan Crawford's epic love life.
One of the things that makes this book so compulsively readable are the non-fiction novel type recreations of moments in Joan Crawford's life, dialog and all. These recreations are fun in a literary Unsolved Mysteries
way, but ultimately they make the whole book come off as less of a biography and more of a made for TV movie novelization. I can suspend my disbelief that the author can recall entire conversations she had with Joan Crawford, but when you're dealing with three pages of a fight she had with Franchot Tone in 1939 it gets a little contrived.
Another thing about this book that bothered me was a vague "EW, GIRL GERMS!" undercurrent in the parts that deal with the rumors about Joan Crawford's seemingly booze-fueled lesbian tendencies. The author never comes out and says, "JOAN CRAWFORD WAS A NASTY OLD DYKE," but her tone comes off a tad judgmental. She suggests that Joan's attempt to win over Bette Davis with gifts and dinner invites was a schoolgirl crush, but I always saw it as more of a keeping your friends close and your enemies closer type deal. But that's a debate for another time!
Now that I've dumped on this book for two paragraphs, I'll say that it's a quick and dirty read, and really hard to put down. I was up until 1 AM last night with this thing. I wouldn't use it as a resource for a master's thesis on Miss Crawford or anything, but you could do worse for a fun holiday potboiler.
|Friday, November 24th, 2006|
a little bit of this, a little bit of that
Yesterday I read This 'n That
, a memoir (of sorts) written by Bette Davis in 1987. She claims she wanted to write about her experiences following her mastectomy and stroke, but if you read between the lines the REAL reason it was written was to get the last word following the publication of her daughter B.D. Hyman's sorry-ass Mommie Dearest
cash-in My Mother's Keeper
This book is pretty mangled. You never know what Miss Davis will bring up next--on one page she might talk about her broken hip, or the time she accidentally made a cruel comment about Brian Aherne's weak chin, or how much she hated working with Faye Dunaway (TRUE!). There's lots of shameless padding in the form of reprinted letters, song lyrics, and even an entire chapter written by her personal assistant about how she feels about the boss. In a way it's kind of fun reading this stream-of-consciousness rant that goes on for over 200 pages, but it's also a little exhausting. By the end I was just skimming for dirt and sour grapes.
Fun facts and observations from this book:
--Bette Davis HATED, HATED, HATED her son-in-law, but after you read this you won't really blame her.
--B.D. Hyman was sixteen when she got married, and her husband was thirty. YIKES!
--Bette Davis posed nude for a statue when she was a teenager, and years later Playboy magazine had a "find the missing naked Bette Davis statue" contest.
--She claims the feud with Joan Crawford was a myth and that MISS CRAWFORD was never anything but professional, and then she proceeds to rip her apart for an entire chapter on the making of Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?
. Joan's beloved Pepsi and vodka cocktails are mentioned frequently in this chapter.
--she did her own makeup for Baby Jane
, since no makeup artist would have been willing to do what she had in mind.
A final word to B.D. from Bette: "I hope someday I will understand the title My Mother's Keeper
. If it refers to money, if my memory serves me right, I've been your keeper all these many years. I am continuing to do so, as my name has made your book about me a success." OH SNAP!!!!
|Thursday, November 23rd, 2006|
The original square Jewish lady from Sioux City, Iowa.
I am currently reading the unauthorized biography of Ann Landers and her twin sister Dear Abby
and I have to say I am glad I was always an Ann Landers fan. That Dear Abby was a total sea hag, and not in a good way.
Dear Abby on Ann, from the book: "Eppie wanted to be the first violin in the school orchestra, but I was...She swore she'd marry a millionaire, but I did...in Eau Claire, she was always known as Popo's sister."
Ann on Abby: "She's just like a kid who beats a dog until somebody looks, and then starts petting it."
Jeez. The book implies that they ended their feud just in time to attend their 40th high school reunion as a huge publicity stunt. And Abby was always jealous of Ann's nose job. I am only about halfway through the book, so further scandal is forthcoming, I'm sure.
|Tuesday, November 21st, 2006|
Oh Snap, Joan!
Right now I'm reading Conversations with Joan Crawford
, a collection of interviews conducted by Roy Newquist between 1962 and 1977. I'm only up to page 70, and I've been consistently amazed by her ability to hurl verbal knives at Hollywood Royalty young and old alike.
JOAN ON NORMA SHEARER:
"Maybe all that time hanging around the sets, watching Norma Shearer make the most of her three expressions was a help."
"Pity poor Norma; she was slightly cross-eyed, worse than Karen Black, to be truthful, so everything had to be carefully arranged, especially her. (TWO BIRDS WITH ONE STONE!)
JOAN ON LORETTA YOUNG:
"I wasn't like Loretta Young in her silly television show, swishing on in the most absurd concoctions every fag designer could invent. My God, those gowns wouldn't have lasted ten minutes in real life!" (again, TWO BIRDS, ONE STONE!)
JOAN ON DISNEY:
"I'm not crazy about the product--most Disney films are made for retarded children--but the Disney brothers seemed to know who and where their audience was."
JOAN ON DORIS DAY:
"Good Lord. I may come out like Doris Day in that interview you did with her, forgetting everything but my name."
JOAN ON ROY NEWQUIST:
"You ask too many goddamned questions."
And finally, JOAN ON JOAN:
"If I weren't a Christian Scientist, and I saw Trog
advertised on a marquee across the street, I think I'd contemplate suicide."
Despite the disturbing casual homophobia, this is a must-read for Joan Crawford fans.
Bonus feature: Joan poses with the ill-fated Dorothy Kilgallen
|Sunday, August 6th, 2006|
Last week I read The Divine Feud
, Shaun Considine's juicy, exhaustive history of the legendary feud between Bette Davis and Joan Crawford. The reviews were mixed when it was released, but I loved it.
This book has everything a fan of Davis or Crawford could want: laundry lists of sexual liaisons, tales of petty schoolgirl pranks on the set of Baby Jane
, nasty quotes, and some really salacious stuff on the mysterious death of Bette Davis' second husband and Joan Crawford's blue movie.
Also, you get to learn about Joan Crawford's attempt to seduce Rock Hudson even though she had heard the rumors: "relax baby, pretend I'm Clark Gable."
A great beach read, and full of enough gossip and backbiting for at least fifteen cocktail parties. Get it!
|Monday, June 5th, 2006|
more dale evans.
Another Dale Evans inspirational text about her adopted child who suffered a tragic early death. I swear to god, she had these kids offed so she could write books about them.
More info forthcoming.
|Sunday, April 9th, 2006|
I just finished reading "The Million Dollar Mermaid" by Esther Wiliams. It comes HIGHLY recommended! And some of the stories are pretty hilarious, let me tell you. It's very gossipy and a friend of mine described it perfectly as "trashtastic!".
She naturally delves into what it took to make all those grand water extravaganzas during the MGM days. And she talks about her life beforehand. She had a rather rough childhood. Her brother died when she was young and she described it as though her parents sort of went on living but they "died" when he did. She then decided that she must carry the family on to fortune.
Esther tells her hilarious story and on for the ride are stories about Joan Crawford's lipstick, Jeff Chandler's cross-dressing antics, Lana Turner's nymphomaniacal ways, Fernando Lamas and Johnny Weismuller's endowments, Gene Kelly's bitchery, Marlene Dietrich's love for strutting around in the nude, and dozens of other classic stories.
My personal favorite being about the time before she married or even worked in a movie with latin lover Fernando Lamas she met him at MGM while he was working (and sleeping) with Lana Turner.
Esther says that at one time she was standing outside the star dressing rooms which were all lined up together. Esther's was right next to Lana's. While standing there she struck up a conversation with Fernando Lamas. The conversation came to an abrupt end when Lana Turner stuck her head out her dressing room window and yelled "HEY FERNAAAAAAAAAANDO LAAAAMAS GET YOUR HOT ARGENTINEAN ASS IN HERE". Fernando excused himself and Esther naturally
went into her dressing room got a glass cup and put it against the wall to hear future husband Fernando and Lana's erm excursions which she details quite eloquently.
This is one you can't miss!
|Monday, January 2nd, 2006|
Dear Vonda Kay
I haven't read this book of advice for teens by former Miss America Vonda Kay Van Dyke, but I sure love the cover.
|Saturday, December 31st, 2005|
more dale evans.
i finally found "angel unaware" along with a copy of this book:
which completes the bizarre dale evans book triumvirate. this book is about yet another "physically retarded" adopted child of theirs, who died unexpectedly before being shipped to vietnam. dale writes about the kid AND their 1966 USO tour in vietnam.
you know, i never really thought one way or the other about roy rogers and dale evans before i joined this community. now they TOTALLY CREEP ME OUT.
happy new year everyone!
|Sunday, December 18th, 2005|
Bad vibes at Motown double feature
Recently I finally read Call Her Miss Ross
, which is considered to be THE book on Diana Ross. Author J. Randy Taraborrelli does an admirable job of showing Diana Ross' strong points as well as her less endearing qualities, so this isn't a total hatchet piece, but when you're done reading the book you'll be relieved you don't have to work for her or with her.
I have to knock a few points off an otherwise enjoyable read for smearing Chris Clark's name YET AGAIN. Yes, she was another one of Berry Gordy's girlfriends. Yes, I'm sure that's what got her a record deal. But she was every bit as talented as the more popular acts at Motown and I get sick of people writing her off just for the Gordy connection.
I followed Miss Ross
with All That Glittered: My Life with the Supremes
, by Tony Turner, who started out as a errand boy for the Supremes during their New York gigs and ended up being a stage manager for the Temptations, the Three Degress, and later on a solo Mary Wilson. Turner was especially close with Florence Ballard, and it was interesting to see her as an actual person and not just a tragic figure cast aside by the Motown machine. There's some really good dirt in this book (such as the revelation that Florence Ballard wrote an autobiography that mysteriously vanished after Motown bought the unpublished manuscript from the publisher) and a lot of details about the Supremes' stage routines and costumes that I haven't seen in any other books about the group. This sounds goofy, but I actually enjoyed reading about their wigs and dresses and make-up and their favorite hairdresser Gregg.
Everyone knows that Diana Ross was insanely ambitious, so the Supreme I ended up resenting most of all after reading these books was Mary Wilson, for being so sneaky, two-faced, and passive aggressive. Diana Ross might have gotten Florence Ballard kicked out of the group, but it was Mary who trained the replacement while convincing Flo that everything was fine. At least Miss Ross was upfront with her no-holds-barred quest for fame.
Speaking of 60s pop stars, has anyone read the new Cass Elliot book yet?
|Tuesday, December 13th, 2005|
Tab Hunter Confidential
Tab Hunter's autobiography was probably my most-awaited book of the year, and luckily it did not disappoint.
Worshipped by millions for his flawless good looks, Tab Hunter was really just Art Gelien, a shy boy who loved horses and had little interest in a movie career. Tab tells all about it in his book (though there's probably almost as much about horses as there is about movies!). He also talks about his relationship with Anthony Perkins, his arranged dates with Hollywood starlets, and how he almost married Etchika Choureau. Oh, and the infamous dog-beating scandal that nearly ruined his career. Later on, he has nothing but glowing praise for Divine and John Waters -- I especially enjoyed the story of John's first encounter with Tab.
There are also lots of nice pictures throughout the book, and I learned that Tab was originally supposed to star in 77 Sunset Strip. Oh what might have been! In closing, if you have any interest in '50s Hollywood and the aftermath of the studio system's end, I'd recommend reading Tab Hunter Confidential.
|Sunday, December 4th, 2005|
Maxine Brown -- Looking Back to See
To be completely honest with y'all, I didn't even know that Maxine Brown had written an autobiography until a friend of mine let me borrow his copy. For those of you who are unfamiliar with Maxine, she was a member of the Browns, a sibling trio from Arkansas. The Browns were huge stars back in the '50s and '60s, but don't get much recognition nowadays. Their biggest hit was a song called "The Three Bells," which came out in 1959, and their first hit was 1954's "Looking Back to See," which is where the book's title comes from.
The Browns were plagued by tragedy even before they becoming recording artists, and their bad luck only continued after they became famous. I won't go into all the details, because I could be here all day, but there are some really depressing parts to this book. But if you love country music, you owe it yourself to read Looking Back to See. There's lots of gossip about country music stars from the '50s and '60s, and Maxine isn't afraid to tell the truth about what really went on in the country music world. And if you have no idea who half the people she writes about are, don't fret; there's a Glossary of Names in the back of the book so you can look them up!
On the downside, the book can be a bit confusing; Maxine has a habit of jumping around chronologically. Or she'll be talking about how the recording industry has changed, and then suddenly start listing and thanking all the musicians who played on the Browns' recordings. But flaws aside, this is a very enjoyable and interesting book about real country music. Check it out if you get a chance!
|Saturday, December 3rd, 2005|
i cannot wait for christmas break to start so that i can crack open my copy of "past imperfect" by joan collins. this past summer, i read a british tabloid while waiting for my flight to leave heathrow airport, and the exerpt they printed from the book totally hooked me!
also on my winter reading list!
-"on reflection" by helen hayes
-"mary kay" by mary kay ash.
|Friday, November 25th, 2005|
Tammy Faye's wild ride and Nashville nattering
ARISE, CELEBRITY BOOKS, ARISE.
I've been meaning to post about this for over a week now. The last celebrity penned book I read was Tammy Faye Baker Messner's INSANE lifestyle guru book I Will Survive--And You Can Too!
Friends, this is one intense read. It's a both an autobiography, a lifestyle manual, and a collection of affirmations for Christian ladies. The reader never knows what delights the next chapter might bring. It could be tips for wig maintenance, a list of Bible verses, or a retelling of Tammy Faye's legal woes. There hasn't been a lifestyle manual for women of a certain age as crazy as this since Liz Renay's Staying Young
The only bad thing about this book is that it doesn't have a photo section.
Yesterday I read Nashville Babylon
, which tries to be the country music industry's answer to Kenneth Anger's legendary Hollywood Babylon
, but falls a little short. Author Randall Riese tries to emulate Anger's poison pen, but just comes up as being nasty for the sake of being nasty. I just don't think there's any way you can smear LORETTA LYNN without seeming like a petty asshole. It's a fun book, but I hated myself in the morning.
Anyone care to tell us about the new Paul Lynde and Tab Hunter books that have recently been published?
|Thursday, November 3rd, 2005|
I just finished reading "My Heart Belongs" by Mary Martin. Mary was a broadway star who originated the roles of Nellie Forbush in "South Pacific", Peter Pan in the musical version of "Peter Pan", and Maria Von Trapp in "The Sound of Music". Mary's book is the basic autobiography. Although she doesn't give many opinons on things. I did wonder a lot while reading it, if she had any brains at all. She didn't have an opinon on much, I gathered she leaned to be more conservative. She seemed to like Dwight Eisenhower and expresses that she was afraid that her son Larry Hagman (of "Dallas" fame) would turn out to be a "sissy-boy". She seemed to be utterly and totally devoted to her husband and relied on him for eveeeeeeeeerything. I thought her love for him was genuine but she seemed to rely too much that I began to question her ability to think on her own. For instance one day on her way to a performance of "The Sound of Music" she went on her own. Before this incident, her husband Richard, had always gotten her to the theatre where it was playing. Well she was late for the performance so she hopped into a taxi and she realized she didn't even know the name of the theatre it was playing because Richard had always gotten her there.... so she had to ask the cab driver if he knew where "The Sound of Music" was playing...he didn't so she had to find another taxi
Overall I really liked the book and her. She seemed like a very sweet lady.
|Tuesday, October 4th, 2005|
I just finished the book "I Love The Illusion: The Life and Career of Agnes Moorehead". First off I must say that it really is a GREAT read. These are the kind of books that make me love biographies. It's informative but not boring. It's interesting but the author doesn't tell you a bunch of lies. For those of you who arn't farmiliar with who Agnes Moorehead is she was a great character actress. Her most famous role is Endora on "Bewitched". The author said when asked by people who he was writing about when he answered Agnes Moorehead he would get a blank stare and he would then have to say "........Endora on the TV show 'Bewitched'" for them to realize who he was actually talking about.
Although most people don't know her because she played mostly supporting roles but she was in a great number of widly known films. Some of her films include "Citizen Kane", "Hush....Hush Sweet Charlotte", "The Singing Nun", "How the West Was Won", "Show Boat", "Johnny Belinda", and MANY others. In total she was in 74 films.
I never really knew Agnes from anything but "Bewitched" and a few of her more well-known films. And I was fascinated to learn about her life. And it has many rare photos
The title comes from the fact that Agnes always felt that a "true glamourous star" should remain aloof. And so she kept herself very private, when asked by friends why she was so private she would reply..."I love the illusion"
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|Sunday, October 2nd, 2005|
Coal Miner's Daughter
This weekend I FINALLY got around to reading Loretta Lynn's 1976 autobiography Coal Miner's Daughter
. It's a wonderful book, and my favorite of the handful of country singer autobiographies I've read so far. Loretta Lynn worked with a writer named George Vecsey, and while sometimes the "as told to" autobiographies are poorly edited or just plain boring, this one is golden. Loretta Lynn's voice comes through so clearly in the text that the whole time I was reading the book I felt like I was just sitting with her on the front porch shelling beans.
There's not much dirt in this book since Loretta's just too good a person to really fling it, but she does mention the Jesus Freaks controversy with Skeeter Davis and the Olivia Newton John industry flare-up of the mid 70s.
There are some really disturbing parts--I get the impression that Loretta was working hard to make her husband and manager Doolittle sound like a man with rough edges and a heart of gold, but he comes off as a TOTAL PSYCHOTIC, especially when she describes their wedding night (she was fourteen years old and completely ignorant, so he basically assaulted her) and the time he accidentally killed a dog that wouldn't stop barking.
She also discusses some of the death threats she received (who would want to assassinate Loretta Lynn?), and notes that most of her musicians carry guns for protection. One of the major lessons you'll take away from this book is "DON'T MESS WITH LORETTA LYNN."
This was a bestseller, so it should be easy to find. A must read for country lovers, but I think anyone who likes a "in the good old days when times were bad" type story would also enjoy it. I'm totally psyched to read the follow-up autobiography she wrote in the 90s now.