Oh, yes, I do like to read! Here’s a few more interesting, notable, touching passages from various show biz-related books that have proven to be too good to forget….
FROM MAMIE VAN DOREN:
We might not think that the recollections from the blond, buxom 1950s sex symbol Mamie Van Doren would yield a plethora of poignant moments, especially since the title of the book is “Playing the Field” and Van Doren does spent a lot of the book talking about the men in her life, but we’d be wrong. Even “People” magazine, in their review of her 1987 autobiography, had to concede that Van Doren often eschewed the tawdry in favor of something touching. Consider this moment from one of Van Doren’s tours of Vietnam and her meeting with a lonely young soldier named Charlie:
We stood in front of the little trailer and talked for several minutes about where he was from and how long it would be before he would go home.
I looked at Charlie with all his youth, with his enthusiasm for his mission, and I suddenly felt very tired. I wanted to run away from all this wasted youth being spent in the service of war that was barely understood by the government running it, much less by the boys whose deadly job it was to fight it.
“Mamie, I don’t want you to taken his wrong but could you…could I just hold you for a minute? Nothing else, mind you. I just haven’t held a woman for so long and I—“
I put my arms around Charlie and held him close. His breathing grew hoarse. His hands pressed into my back and I could feel the heat from his palms. At last he relaxed his hold on me and looked up into my eyes.
“Thank you, Mamie, so much.”
FROM iO TILLETT WRIGHT:
The wonderfully named iO Wright (iO is the name of one of the moons of Jupiter) is best known to TV audiences as co-host, alongside Nev Schulman, of MTV’s show “Suspect.” He is also a photographer, writer, podcast host and activist, especially in the area of trans rights. In 2016, Wright wrote his memoir, “Darling Days,” where he recounted his hardscrabble upbringing in the New York City. The child of an actress and dancer, Wright found himself pushed into dance at a very young age. He did not take to it, but, in the process, did garner some interesting insight into dancers’ lives and psyches:
Ballet studios are all linoleum and mirrors. A jumble of stale sweat and skewed body image. People are there for two reasons: either it’s their job, or it’s how they want to see themselves—lithe and straight-backed, twirling through a world were body mass is veiled by impossible grace. Walk down the hall of any dance school, peek in the window, and you will see the same look of determined ferocity, the glare of willpower stretched to its limits, the bulging eyeballs of bodies protesting hell-bent minds.
Dancers dress like a game of Jenga: tights tugged down to the ankle peeking out of sweatpants pulled up to the knees, waistband rolled down to show off their hip muscles, a leotard over jutting collarbones. Bleeding toes are wrapped in tape and shoved in slipper-shaped boxes. At some point someone invented the jazz sneaker, giving dancers a needed break, but wearing them is for sissies. It’s like showing up to a gala in sweatpants. If you want to ball, you have to be brazen, a cowboy in tights; rugged, roughed up, stripes earned. Ligaments are torn, bones are cracked, shins are for splints, and good knees are a fleeting gift to the young.
FROM JILL IRELAND:
“Lifelines,” the second memoir from Jill Ireland, is from 1989 and is a touching retelling of the actress’s life, including her battle against breast cancer and her attempts to rescue one of her children, Jason, from drug addiction. The book contains many touching passages which are now rendered even more poignant in light of her Ireland’s own passing in 1990. Consider this:
“Zuleika,” I said, “don’t cry.”
I was holding the little girl’s hot hand in mine while smoothing her hair back from her damp brow. My daughter’s gray eyes were filled with tears.
“Don’t go, Mama.”
“Baby, I must. I won’t be long. I don’t cry when you go to play with Tiffany, do I?”
Zuleika gazed at me wisely.
“But, Mama, I’m just a little girl. You are my lifeline.”
FROM EMILY NUSSBAUM:
In 2019, Pulitzer-winning TV critic Emily Nussbaum gathered up some of her best columns and issued them as a book titled “I Like to Watch.” In one particular entry, while she acknowledges her general like/love for most reality TV, she states:
…”The Real Housewives of New York” left me cold. It rankled me in a way that earlier shows—even schlock like “Joe Millionaire”—had not. The few episodes I saw felt like misogynist vaudeville, with cast members monetizing the world’s ugliest ideas about women, in a type of auto-drag, humiliating rather than quasi-celebratory. Over the years, I’d developed a private theory about the franchise’s appeal: When the New York version becomes an enormous hit, around 2008, it seemed to me to be a cultural conspiracy to distract the world from the almost universal male villains of the financial crash. Rather than satirize rich white men in suits, the show put the bull’s-eye on their trophy wives, painting them as vain parasites, symbols of greed—consumerist gargoyles who might absorb the furry that was more logically directed at Wall Street itself.
FROM SINEAD O’CONNOR:
Controversial singer-songwriter Sinead O’Connor, in her 2021 memoir, “Rememberings,” not surprisingly, has a lot to say. To her great credit, she shies away from nothing from her past, including her infamous “Saturday Night Live” appearance, her struggles with mental health, and her late-in-life conversation to Islam. About the latter, specifically, her style of dress, she had this to say:
I don’t think anyone should be forced to wear hijab. But I don’t think anyone should be forced not to wear it either. It should be a matter of choice. And in my case it is. To women who berate my choice and say I’m trying to conform to Eastern men’s idea of beauty, I point out their bleached-blond hairs is the same as a hijab—only theirs conforms to Western men’s idea of beauty.
FROM LINDA RONSTADT:
When a singer as extraordinarily talented and accomplished as Linda Ronstadt gives you singing advice, you take it. In Ronstadt’s 2013 memoir, “Simple Dreams,” she relates how, in the lead-up to her role in “Pirates of Penzance,” she found the right way to approach a piece of music:
Patricia Routledge, another immaculately skilled product of the British musical theater, sang and acted Nurse Ruth’s batty Victorian songs and manner with great naturalness and seamless comic skill. I overheard her say something to Kevin [Kline] one day when they were rehearsing a scene, she being the seasoned pro and he the new rising star. She said, “Kevin, what do you think we are trying to do with the scene?” Kevin answered, “To make it funny?”
“No,” replied in a somewhat severe tone. “We don’t need to make it funny. We need to make it clear. If it is clear, then it will be funny.” I thought this brilliant advice, and so did Kevin. I try to apply it to everything I sing. For instance, if one is singing a sad song, it is better to tell the story as clearly and simply—even journalistically—as one can. It will have a stronger effect on the listener and seem more emotional than a teary, overwrought delivery.
FROM RICKIE LEE JONES:
In 2022, singer-songwriter Rickie Lee Jones put pen to paper in her book “Last Chance Texaco.” She recounted the hard-scrapple upbringing of her mother, and herself, and its long-term affects:
Childhood traumas leave their dirty footprints in the fresh white snow of our happy-ever-afters. No matter what my mom did--or her brothers, for that matter--she found traces of her past obstructing her future. She built a better life but didn't escape her past. Orphanage children received clothes and schooling, but not love and affection. They had food where others in the Depression did not, but even this privilege came at great cost, for it could be withheld on the whim of an employee. In this torment, my mother learned not only to hold onto the things she loved because then no could take them away from her. Our violent past will also find our children. It echoes. Recovering takes generations.
FROM TWYLA THARP:
In 1992, dance legend Twyla Tharp set down her life story in a book titled “Push Comes to Shove.” Near the beginning of her career, Tharp posed for a photo with some of the other greatest choreographers on the 20th century (from left): Merce Cunningham, Erick Hawkins, Tharpe, Paul Taylor, Martha Graham, Yvonne Rainer, Erick Hawkins, Jose Limon, and Don Redlich. In the book, she deconstructs the group shot that later appeared the “New York Times”:
The reviews were just the beginning. A picture of “Tank Dive” made the cover of “Dance” magazine in February, and in less than a year four separate head shots appeared in “The New York Times.” The most important of these was a publicity shot—the Ford Foundation was subsidizing a season of modern dance at the Billy Rose Theatre—featuring the pioneers and vanguard of modern dance.
Graham, rightfully, sits in the center; everyone in the photo but Jose Limon had either performed or studied with her. She looks intensely forbidding and deeply saddened, as though on the verge of tears. To her right stands a wry, distinctly cryptic Merce. Then Paul, a small relaxation at the corner of his mouth, attempting a smile but only managing to curl his cheeks upwards as though he were already enduring his painful, future isolation; behind, Erick Hawkins, who looks too scholarly and decent to survive this brutal world. Next to Martha is Limon, his face already showing the extreme suffering from the cancer that would kill him a few years later; Yvonne Rainer, dressed casually, with makeup—a foolish merger of publicity, life and art, I always thought; and finally me, scowling into the camera with what I hoped was a perfect deadpan public persona. We all look dug in, tenacious, fiercely determined. None of us looks the least bit pleased, honored, or relieved but rather deeply suspicious of the world, one another, and what would come from all this.
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