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12 posts categorized "BOOK REVIEW"

Aug 04 2014
I'd Still Say Yes: A Review Of Lee Grant's I SAID YES TO EVERYTHING Comments (0)

Lee-GrantGrant on CBS Sunday Morning today

“'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-GrantLee 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.

CHECK OUT MY ENCOUNTER WITH LEE GRANT HERE

Mulhollanddrive11Instead 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 Leegrantcolumbo71came 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.

Lee-Grant-glamourGrant & 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 Dd645865fee7af50133690df54b40ee8pleasant 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).

BroadwaybrawlerWillis 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.

Airport-Lee-GrantThe 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.

Still-of-sidney-poitier-and-lee-grant-in-in-the-heat-of-the-night-(1967)With good pal Sidney Poitier (b. February 20, 1927) in In the Heat of the Night

08-shampooGrant'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.

Chan4Why 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...

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Mar 26 2014
Paging Gracefully Comments (0)

EthelMerman300RGB-691x1024I 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. YoungDigbySwank_cvr-210x330-190x300An 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."

What gay kid didn't go through that?

 
Feb 26 2012
I Don't Vant To Be Alone: A Review Of Full Service By Scotty Bowers & Lionel Friedberg Comments (21)

PreviewScreenSnapz001Bowers then and today at 88 [right courtesy of People (March 5, 2012)]

For years, Hollywood insiders have known about Scotty Bowers, an ex-Marine and close confidante of Gore Vidal's who was said to have provided free and/or paid sex to some of the industry's biggest names. Over the years, Bowers has apparently been an anonymous source for film bios, but only in a limited way; he had said he would never tell his full story for fear of hurting people.

Scotty-Bowers-Full-ServiceX300Don't judge it by its hideous cover

As he approaches his eighty-ninth birthday and with most of the people he helped achieve orgasm dead and buried, he's changed his mind and collaborated with Lionel Friedberg on a tell-all that would make Shelley Winters blush—Full Service: My Adventures in Hollywood and the Secret Sex Lives of the Stars (Grove Press, $25). It came out on Valentine's Day, but there's very little romance involved. Instead, the resourceful Bowers, who supported himself as a bartender and handyman all through the years he was tricking and dry-pimping, handily serves up hardcore sex with a cheerful lack of shame and not a little humor.

I say "dry-pimping" because, as Bowers stresses several times throughout the book, while he took money for sex countless times throughout his life, he never got paid for arranging what sounds like it could be tens of thousands of liaisons for men and women of all sexual persuasions. He's either the coolest dude ever or the stupidest; imagine the fortune he could have made considering so many of his clients were millionaires or better?

Tumblr_kvpl1fCWyq1qzlyyao1_400If you don't believe Katharine Hepburn loved the ladies, this book isn't for you. However, points off for misspelling her name in chapter five.

You might have read something about this book already—likely something dismissive as to its veracity, as to the probability that Bowers really and truly could have set up Katharine Hepburn with over 150 women—but the book has more to offer than just Scotty's Hollywood hijinks. One aspect of the memoir that is left out of most of the coverage is that Bowers, born into poverty in Illinois, has been turning tricks since his pre-teens. His stories of life as a shoe shine boy willing to polish the knobs of various priests and businessmen are just as compelling as his later tales of cornholing people you grew up thinking of as untouchable icons.

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Nov 06 2011
Boy Culture Turns 6: My Favorite Posts Comments (13)

IMG_7536Prove it!

As of midnight last night, it was exactly six years since my first post. It's been a tough thing to keep up with a dayjob and outside activities, and just when I think I might walk away, a valuable connection or interesting opportunity or a kind word comes my way. Thank you all for reading me.

6a00d8341c2ca253ef014e89143e3e970d-400wiOf whom are you more jealous?

Here are my favorite 100+ posts out of nearly 11,000. Please take some time to read (or re-read!) a couple and tweet or Facebook any you like.

xoxo Matt

6a00d8341c2ca253ef00e54ff027a28833-800wiThe pocket pool championships were intense this year


BOY CULTURE


PreviewScreenSnapz001Boy-crazy

FROM BOY TO MAN: BC B.C. (2007): The entire history of my novell and novel Boy Culture as well as the movie version; might be my ultimate post.

6a00d8341c2ca253ef00e54f5599878833-800wiJonathon Trent & Derek Magyar make an Allan Brocka sandwich

BOY ON FILM (2006): An account of the NYC launch party for Boy Culture as it played the TriBeCa Film Fest.

6a00d8341c2ca253ef00e54f7f18238834-800wiI was left "Reeling" by the experience

FRIENDS AND "FAMILY" (2006): The movie version of Boy Culture hits Chicago.

6a00d8341c2ca253ef00e54f5ebead8833-800wiNo one would've mistaken me for Taylor Lautner

RAPT PUPIL (2006): The final night of Outfest with Boy Culture; I was fat but on the other hand got to meet Bryan Singer.

 

MY ART

 

PreviewScreenSnapz001Construction worker (shot this week) vs. James Dean

GUYDAR (since at least January 17, 2008) & ENDS OF THE WORLD (since at least January 13, 2008): Attractive men of the world—I got your backs. Your fronts, too.

6a00d8341c2ca253ef0120a5347f59970c-400wi11i-i-i (phone)


Img_0330Not totally built

6a00d8341c2ca253ef0120a58f680c970bUnaltered iPhone image that still blows me away

"Your pictures suck" (2008): An art critic attacks me, but not without sustaining some hits in return.

6a00d8341c2ca253ef00e551ff08528834-800wiLet's call it a draw

DRAWN TOGETHER (2008): How my desire to draw related to my secret desire. One of my absolute favorite posts.

6a00d8341c2ca253ef01156faa215c970cThe shirtless one

LOST ANGELES (2009): My favorite photographic travelogue of L.A.

Img_0986_1Even then, New Yorkers feared 9/11 was the beginning of the end

ART IMITATES LIFE (2006): My 9/11 and my distaste for grief tourism.


ME


6a00d8341c2ca253ef00e54f435c1a8834-800wiDeath of the party—Jeff in high school, already halfway through his life

BURNING MAN (2007): Tribute to my late high school friend and first romance.

6a00d8341c2ca253ef014e862b4a41970d-400wiSigned, sealed (eventually) delivered

LOST BOY FOUND (2011): There is a book in here somewhere.

6a00d8341c2ca253ef01538f1f464a970b-400wiBe Italian

CIAO HOUNDS: OUR TRIP TO ITALY (2011): Finally got José to Europe.

6a00d8341c2ca253ef00e54f10b4de8833-800wiDeath becomes here

ILLINOIS DEATH TRIP (2007): Ruminations on death while revisiting a past home, and the past.

Zehnders Life is short...and meaningful

PASSING BY (2008): Mourning the loss of a person I only met once.

Lots more...

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