The Andy Cohen Diaries: A Deep Look at a Shallow Year (Henry Holt, $26) is the follow up to Cohen's best-selling Most Talkative: Stories from the Front Line of Pop Culture. That book was fun, a mix of media memoir and gay came-of-age story, like what you'd get if David Sedaris gave a shit about upscale ladies who punch.
But I was much more eager to read Andy's latest because I share his obsession with The Andy Warhol Diaries, the 1987 publication of the late pop artist's mundane, gossipy, catty, banal, unintentionally sociologically insightful day-to-day journals. Even without reading a word of Cohen's new work, he already wins for best title of the year. He's also inoculated himself against any bad reviews by embracing an earlier work that he notes was dismissed as “a vapid assortment of name-dropping and celebrity bashing,” which is only true if you're someone who doesn't care that Warhol noted Madonna and Timothy Hutton were hanging out together and accidentally broadcast that fact to the New York Post one day in the '80s.
But this Andy doesn't disappoint, coming across as a Warhol with an agenda, more of a sense of the ridiculous and a libido.
Juicily, Cohen starts the book right when those rumors circulated that he was engaged to straight athlete Sean Avery. Hey, there have been more damaging rumors than to be linked to this. But it's a great way to begin, as it lets you know the author isn't going to hold back. Just a few pages later, he goes after Kevin Spacey—who deserves to be gone after—with this observation:
Last night, I was thrilled to have a chance to meet Don Bachardy, 80, who met the late, great English novelist Christopher Isherwood (August 26, 1904—January 4, 1986) as a teenager and became his life partner. For 30 years, the men were together, and over time Bachardy established his own identity (no easy feat when you're perceived as the boy-toy of a genius) as a gifted portraitist.
I actually knew about Bachardy before delving into Isherwood; I bought Pagan Love Songs from Alyson or a similar publisher while in college, and was enchanted by the dreamy illustration of “Naked Poet” (and porn actor and writer and...) Gavin Geoffrey Dillard on the cover. I wrote him a fan note and we corresponded for a few years.
Matt & Don
Bachardy signing for his fans
I would've offered to draw some of the attendees naked, myself.
Parker Stevenson (L) & Ryan O'Neal (R) by Bachardy
The illustration had been by Bachardy.
Isherwood and Bachardy by Dillard, 1985
Now, Bachardy's entire oeuvre of Hollywood portraits—Kate Hepburn? Of course! Parker Stevenson? Why not? David Hedison, Teri Garr, Natalie Schafer? The more the merrier!—has been collected in the posh tome Hollywood (Glitterati Incorporated, $75). It's a stunning document of his life's work.
Bachardy was deligthful in person, immediately asking me to come see him in Santa Monica. I'm there next week, maybe I should take him up on that! Years ago, an associate of him suggested he might like to draw me nude, but I never figured out if that was a come-on from a friend or a real offer. And I could also never figure out who on earth would want to see me nude.
I was also pleased to meet his associate Richard Sassin, a former actor and charming man who told me that he and Bachardy had recently watched In the Cool of the Day (1963), which is apparently a must-see, can't-believe-how-bad-it-is Jane Fonda film in which her hair was unnaturally dark. Bachardy drew her portrait (it was on display at the signing) for it. I told Sassin that as a movie, it sounds like it made a good portrait—he agreed.
The most famous portrait of Don (L) & Chris (R). See my take on the film Chris & Don here.
I'll keep you posted on that front, but until then, check out the lovely book here.
“'Fuck the Pope!' I screamed in childbirth. And fuck the Taliban who behead their women for baring their heads, and fuck the crazy Orthodox Jews taking land away from a people so like themselves and for teaching nothing but myths. Fuck them for making proud Lenny Bruce crawl. Fuck them all!”—Lee Grant, I Said Yes to Everything (2014)
Lee Grant's (b. October 31, 1925, or maybe 1926?) new memoir I Said Yes to Everything (Blue Rider, $28.95) is as absorbing a read as I've had in years, a self-reflective, unapologetically feminist tour de force sprinkled with just enough Hollywood revelations to make you feel both enlightened and titillated without ever feeling preached to or guilty for craving gossip.
BOY CULTURE RATING: **** out of ****
Grant has always excelled at playing neurotics, so it wasn't surprising to me that she self-identifies as having...issues...in the book, but I was taken aback by just how frankly and intelligently she discusses the hang-ups that have limited her (especially her career) in several ways—her worries about her age (some sources put her at 88, others a few years younger), about looking beautiful enough for casting directors (she had a facelift in the '50s at age 31!), about being able to remember her lines (after the jump. watch her recall the incident that ended her celebrated stage career), about being a good mother, wife, person.
Instead of being a linear cataloguing of every project she's ever done—no mention of Columbo (1971), The Spell (1977), Backstairs at the White House (1979), For Ladies Only (1981), Dr T. and the Women (2000), Mulholland Drive (2001) or her last-ever movie Going Shopping (2005)—the book instead is an intensely personal remembrance of how she came to be the person she is, the things that gave her joy, the things that perplexed her about life, her embarrassingly short-sighted mistakes, her wise choices.
Most movingly, Grant reveals herself to be an expert at observing others (real people and characters on the page) and summing them up with breathtaking sincerity, sometimes humorously, sometimes unsparingly, but without cruelty.
Achingly, Grant recalls her mother, Witia, and her aunt Fremo as a pair of fun-loving kindred spirits who doted on her, who believed she was God's gift, and who taught her the beauty of being a woman, and of being herself, a lesson she would need to re-learn after a painfully restrictive early marriage to much-0lder control freak and Communist Arnie Manoff (April 25, 1914—February 10, 1965) left her ego decimated and led to her being blacklisted from working in film or on TV for a dozen years.
Grant & raves
She writes glowingly of her gifted daughter, Dinah Manoff (b. January 25, 1958), but also reveals how rocky their relationship was for 15 years. Things were even worse with an adopted daughter, Belinda, whom she admits to outright buying, with her producer husband Joey Feury (b. circa 1936), in Thailand:
“The doorbell rang, and a shortish man stood in the doorway with what looked like a two-year-old boy and a two-year-old girl, one under each arm. Joey checked them out and said, 'We'll take her. Let's have lunch!' We had met our daughter...The little girl's mother met us in a park near the hotel, bringing two fair-haired, fair-skinned sons with her...I asked her about [the little girl's] father. 'I don't know,' she said. 'I don't remember.' She was pleasant and ordinary and matter-of-fact. We gave her five hundred dollars; she gave me Lindah.”
And in case you're worried it's all about Grant's family, there are unforgettable speed-portraits of everyone from Elizabeth Taylor (February 27, 1932—March 23, 2011) to “cunt!” Shelley Winters (August 18, 1920—January 14, 2006) to Bruce Willis (b. March 19, 1955) to “fish-headed” David Gest (b. May 11, 1953).
Willis screwed Grant over—big-time—when he pulled out of her film Broadway Brawler in the '90s.
Grant sums up her work impressionistically, and almost always to underscore a life lesson learned or to ruminate on her motivations as an actor, director, artist. The book is a must-read for thesps.
The camp classic Airport '77 (1977) takes flight in just a few lines:
“My character was a brittle rich woman married to Christopher Lee (of Dracula fame); she is not someone you want around in an emergency. Olivia de Havilland is traveling with a black female companion (whom she later saves, of course). My old friend George Furth was there, too, playing a cranky person.”
She doesn't give us all the behind-the-scenes details of the making of that (or any) film, but instead uses an anecdote about de Havilland's excitement at drowning on screen to make light of her own diva attitude (Grant sheepishly admits she'd demanded a body double). Our heroine wound up doing the drowning scene herself, having been shown up by the older Hollywood legend's professionalism and curiosity, even that late in her silver-screen journey.
With good pal Sidney Poitier (b. February 20, 1927) in In the Heat of the Night
Grant's career trajectory was offbeat, starting like gangbusters with a raved-about stage debut and an Oscar nomination for her first film [1951's Detective Story, in which she could be playing the mother of Cyndi Lauper (b. June 22, 1953)], getting sidetracked by a long stint on the Blacklist for refusing to name names to the House Un-American Activities Committee, and then a mixture of high-class classics like In the Heat of the Night (1967), The Landlord (1970), Shampoo (1975) and low-brow dreck like Charlie Chan and the Curse of the Dragon Queen (1981). Of the latter, she writes of young Michelle Pfeiffer (b. April 29, 1958) excitedly talking to a co-star about how her vegetarian diet was affecting her bowel movements.
Why did she do this offensive, inane piece of shit? She had a yen for paying her rent!
The ping-ponging from success to failure is relatable, and is related with warmth and with regret. Finding out she was still struggling financially in her fifties, post-Oscar, is illuminating, as is her recounting of how she re-invented herself whenever reality demanded it.
Most charmingly to me, Grant doesn't hesitate to say when she doesn't remember something, even things she could have Googled and pretended to remember perfectly. This is sorely lacking in so many other Hollywood memoirs. I mean, who believes that Shelley Winters remembered specific meals she had with people in the '50s? Okay, maybe.
In short, this memoir is dazzling. Don't miss it.
Keep reading for a clip of Grant talking about Peter Falk's inability to save her when she needed saving...
I don't have a lot of time to read, but I'm interested in two current books. First up is Tony Cointreau's memoir with a title that I doubt has been used before: Ethel Merman, Mother Teresa...and Me (Prospecta Press, $24.95). As I've dipped into it, I've been intrigued by Cointreau's troubled but colorful childhood, his career as a singer and his extensive contact with Mother Teresa. His work with Mother Teresa revolved around caring for people with AIDS, a syndrome too many gay men these days seem too eager to want to forget ever existed, let alone still exists.
My old pal Owen Keehnen has cooked up a hilarious novel in Young Digby Swank (Wilde City, $14.99), a comic, Catholic Catcher in the Rye filled with Keehnen's trademark wit and his gift for observation. An area is described as being like what the Garden of Eden was "before Adam and Eve ruined it for everyone," and Digby's desire for teen heartthrobs is summed up thusly:
"Whenever Digby bought the latest issue of Tiger Beat, he'd wait until he was the sole customer near the checkout at the drugstore, and then rush to the counter. Mr. Lister would always clear his throat and say, "Well, um" and adjust his glasses."
My pal Jason and I braved an over-capacity crowd at Bookmarc, the chic, Marc Jacobs-branded Village bookstore on Bleecker, to support photographer and artist Maripol as she publishes her latest book, Maripola X (Le Livre, $90, 600 numbered copies). Little did I know, it would become a sitting!
Downtown types were packed in that place like roe in a mama salmon, but we did eventually get up to see Maripol, who was spending time with each well-wisher. Maripol, recall, was the architext of Madonna's "Material Girl" look, a great friend of the icon's and a stylist who crafted looks for the Like a Virgin album cover and more. On top of that, she's French. In spite of being a Downtown designer, a Madonna associate and fucking French (just kidding, French people, mwah!), she's warm and cuddly and impish, a complete delight. And this night was no exception.
Maripol surprised me by grabbing my camera and shooting a picture of together, then blew me away by grabbing her Polaroid and snapping this shot of me, which she promptly signed.
The book is delicious, an erotic collection of writings and positively lush Polaroids from the '70s and '80s, including (but not limited to) several classics of Madonna. It's a must-own for anyone interested in photography or that era, and a well worth the price.
Time for a reminder that my collection of erotic short stories (all from the '90s) is yours for 99 cents. I would also be grateful for reviews—I received one good one and then a comically phony bad one from a disturbed person who initially wrote me to rave about it and is going through some issues. Thanks for the 250 or so I've already moved!
I'm looking to release Blind Items: A (Love) Story and some fresh stuff next. Here was the original cover of Blind Items, which I loved almost as much as the one for Boy Culture (pictured at right):
If you're a fan of gay erotic art, check out Capolavoro Di Uomo: Masterpiece of Man, a $69.95 hardcover coffee table book showcasing nearly four dozen artists whose subjects are rather cocky. Every possible style and every body type of man is explored, along with bios of each artist so you can get to know them as intimately as the nude bodies of the dudes they're painting and drawing.
It was fun recognizing some artists from my days at the porn publisher I worked for. But the highlight for each of you will be different—and you'll likely see some art you can't stand, too. But that's part of the fun, figuring out which images impress you, which make you roll your eyes...and which give you a raging appreciation for art.
Also of note is drag queen Linda Simpson's first-ever book, Pages ($20, Peradam). The book is a slim, perhaps even svelte volume of images she shot of her trans friend Page in the '80s, '90s and early '00s. It's an offshoot of her "photographic time capsule" The Drag Explosion, but it truly stands alone, from its arresting cover to its final image, another snap of a serene Page with her Mona Lisa smile.