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by Cary O'Dell

Yep, I still like to read.  And I hope you find the following excerpts/passages as interesting as I did.

In 2022, Josh Peck star of Nickelodeon’s “Drake & Josh,” among other programs, offered up his memoir, “Happy People Are Annoying.”  Early in it, he assessed this little thing called life that we’ve all been born into: 

We’re all playing catch-up.  From the moment we’re born we’re the beneficiaries of millennia of struggle.  We’ve inherited the best and worst of everyone who came before us, we had no say in the matter.  We didn’t elect to be born, pick our parents, our circumstances, or our environment.  People we’ve never met, people we’ve never even thought about, all had a hand in the hand we were dealt and it’s our job, as far as I can tell, to correct the bad behavior of everyone who came before us. 

I mean, what’s there not to be happy about? 

Kate Mulgrew, in her book “Born With Teeth,”FROM KATE MULGREW:
In 2015, actress Kate Mulgrew, in her book “Born With Teeth,” recapped her long career, from her days on the daytime soaps to her iconic roles on “Star Trek:  Voyager” and “Orange Is the New Black.”  She also examined the heartache of shared custody after divorce:

It takes a very long time to sever a marriage in which children are involved.  There is a table, two chairs, and a small pile of bargaining chips.  This is how it begins, but it ends with one chair in an empty room.  The days darken.  The children are sliced open and split down the middle.  Someone takes an arm; someone takes a foot.  The car pulling into the driveway on a Friday afternoon is a hearse, and everything is couched in lies.  The house of old assumes a silence.

Keith Haring bookFROM KEITH HARING:
The late pop artist Keith Haring—most famous for his black-lined graffiti drawings—is better known for his paintings and sculptures than his video work, yet he did dabble in the field.  Posthumously, in 1991 (Haring had died the year prior), an authorized biography of him was published which contained many of Haring’s previously uncollected writings and interviews, including the selection below detailing his first involvement with the making of the moving image:

The first tapes I made were all self-referential.  The first time you see and hear yourself on video—and look at yourself from outside yourself—is an incredible psychological lesson.  Since then, I’ve maintained that schools should teach video not as a video class, but as a psychology or philosophy class.  Video really gives you a whole other concept of self and ego, and an objective way of looking at and being comfortable with yourself in a way that might not have existed before.  Especially important is the way the camera is set up, so that it’s live and you react to what you’re seeing yourself do at the same time that you’re doing it.  I mean, you can see the back of your head while you’re doing something else—you can see yourself from the side.  So I looked at video, and started thinking about the meaning of this concept of self and ego.

Robert Englund book biographyFROM ROBERT ENGLUND:
Actor Robert Englund has had a long career in many genres but is best known to the world as Freddy Krueger in the “Nightmare on Elm Street” franchise.  His memoir, “Hollywood Monster,” was published in 2013.  But along with all the gory details of being a King of Horror, Englund also relates how he met his current wife, Nancy, on the set of the first film he directed.  It’s a very sweet account.  Who knew?  That, under all that burned flesh, Freddy was such a softie.

Directing has other advantages too.  My set decorator on “976-EVIL,” Nancy Booth, was a mixture of a young Lauren Bacall and a teenage Amy Irving, with a bit of Ava Gardner tossed in for spice.  I need a pretext to spend more time with her…, so I concocted a way to legitimately be around her.  I would ask her to scout locations with me.  Thing is, I’d already locked up the majority of my locations, but she didn’t know that and was happy to drive me out to East Bum---- and check out, say, the locker room in an abandoned high school.  I would also use any excuse to visit her in the art department office—anything from trying to match a paint swatch to borrowing some yogurt from her minifridge—just so I could see her or hear her laugh.

After copious flirting, Nancy and I went out on our first official date during postproduction.  At the end of the evening, we stood in the alley behind an old Hollywood screenwriters bar and had our first kiss.  My knees practically buckled.  I felt as if I were fourteen years ago again.  Having been through a failed marriage and a couple of serious relationships, I knew at that moment, after one kiss, that I was in love again.

Warhol “superstar,” 1960’s “It Girl,” “Youthquaker,” and daughter of one of America’s most privileged (and doomed) families, Edie Sedgwick was all of these things, as well as a sometime actress (like 1965’s “Poor Little Rich Girl,” a copy of which is housed at the Library of Congress).  She was also a very troubled young woman who died at the age of 28, barely after America exited the 1960s.  In 1982, Jean Stein and George Plimpton published their biography of her, a carefully edited chronology of personal reflections and stories about Edie.  In one passage, Edie’s older sister, Saucie, assesses Edie’s association with famed pop artist Andy Warhol:

Edie was looking for an alternative.  Andy Warhol was a kind of alternative convention.  She said once that she didn’t understand why our parents felt so threatened:  she wasn’t doing anything against them, she just wanted to find a new way of life, not their way of life.

But her “new life” became, in a bizarre way, a reflection of many of the features of her life with my mother and father.  It revolved around a dangerous, powerful man who was in control of everything in sight and dictated the style:  We do this, we don’t go to that, we got to these places, we don’t go to those places; this is where we are secure and those people out there don’t exist.  Even the inversion of the sexual theme was there.  Edie felt a strong sexual relationship to our father.  But it was impossible. The same thing was true with Warhol.  It was impossible.  He was androgynous as Edie herself was.  A kind of perverse Peter Pan.

…That rejection of rhetoric, that deadly banality made Andy a final weapon against my father.  There was no way my father could get to Andy Warhol.

Elizabeth Ashley’s 1978 memoir “Actress:  Postcards from the RoadFROM ELIZABETH ASHLEY:
In Elizabeth Ashley’s 1978 memoir “Actress:  Postcards from the Road,” the outspoken and forthright author/performer relates how she made peace with her craft and chosen profession.

I started to get pretty good, mainly because I finally understood that all I wanted in my own work was to be able to perform and play myself the way Jimi Hendrix played the guitar, the way B.B. King sings the blues.  That’s art.  Art isn’t something you do or are.  It’s where you aim, the target you shoot at.  And I knew that in a world where there was very little I could respect or even accept, it was the highest, most noble thing I could recognize.  I guess that’s what the Pope is supposed to feel about God.  And if that is an illusion, it’s an acceptable one for me.

Grace Jones published her life story titled, “I’ll Never Write My Memoirs.” FROM GRACE JONES:
In 2015 iconic actress-singer Grace Jones published her life story titled, “I’ll Never Write My Memoirs.”  But of course, she did and she had this interesting thing to say about the crossroads between fame and infamy:

After the peak, the heyday of 54, which marked the end of the underground and the beginning of what decades later, deformed by democratization, became structured reality TV, “Big Brother” “The Bachelor,” and the party island of Ibiza, you would come out of a club and it would be surrounded by cops and paparazzi, all of them looking—hoping—for problems.  A problem is a story.  That’s their currency.  People have fun, and their pleasure causes a problem for those in charge, for those without access.  So they seek out problems, ways to slow down the pace and subdue the provocateurs. 

Grace Jones published her life story titled, “I’ll Never Write My Memoirs.” FROM LIZ TROTTA:
Liz Trotta was one of TV’s earliest female news correspondence, coming along in the generation that pioneers that included such on-air reporters as Pauline Frederick, Lisa Howard and Nancy Dickerson. Trotta was also the first TV newswoman to report from the frontlines of the Vietnam War.  In 1991, she published her memoir, “Fighting for Air,” she recounted her first years as a “girl reporter” for TV news not only wrestled with technological changes but struggled to find its own identity in the process:

Many of the cameramen I worked with had been shaped by the old Movietone News school, and though till working in black-and-white film, the good ones were creative, quick and excited by events.  The adjustment to shooting in color only further demonstrated their ability—an attention to detail and depth of feeling that seemed to dissipate in the harshness of videotape.  In the early days of tape, it was easy to tell who shot the pictures, a cameraman from the old film school or a newcomer from a university “video project”:  long shot, medium shot, close-up, pan up, pan down, over and over.  Tape did offer an astonishing clarity of images, and on hard news stories it added an appropriate edge.  But something vital and artistic from the old days disappeared in the conversion as the subtleties of film gave way to the easy definition of the tape picture.  The clarity worked against the results in much the same way that colorized versions of old movies diminish the black and white original.  In a deeper sense, the same things was happening to TV news:  complexity, depth, and shading were losing ground to the easy and quick fix.

Helen Hayes’s first memoir, “On Reflection,” appeared in 1968FROM HELEN HAYES:
When you are the First Lady of the American Theatre, you are justified in writing various incarnations of autobiography.  Helen Hayes’s first memoir, “On Reflection,” appeared in 1968.  Later, “My Life in Three Acts,” appeared in 1990.  In between, she partnered with author Kenneth Barrow to add some first-person commentary in his biography of her life and career, titled, naturally, “Helen Hayes:  First Lady of the American Theatre.”  Among her entries is this one regarding a play she had done after the death, at the age of 19, of her daughter, Mary, in 1949, and her husband, Charlie, only five years later:

No doubt recalling how his play had helped restore [Helen’s] sanity after the death of Mary, Joshua Logan told her, “You can never find another Charlie; you can never have another child.  But you can have the theatre and you can use that God-given talent of yours to make other people happy.”  Helen thought, “If only my talent had died and I had been allowed to keep Charlie and Mary.  I made a big try for life.  I am left with make-believe.”




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