- Bad Semi-Celebrity Autobiographies
"The first true celebrity autobiographies in Western culture - something beyond letters about oneself - seem to go back to Latin literature, if we can call Josephus and Augustus celebrities. But the first bad auto-bio? That's wholly subjective, and the criteria for collecting becomes, thankfully, the collector's alone.
"These books are typically quick turnarounds, filled with calculated (or just convenient) gossip, innuendo and the expected self-worship. We can (maybe) understand the egos that inspire writing this stuff, but the question remains: How many people actually read it?"
It began innocently enough nearly two decades ago with "Miss Rona," the delightfully abysmal life story of Hollywood gossip columnist Rona Barrett. As told by Miss Rona herself, of course. Barrett's writing style was so overheated, so over-the-top, so extra-ordinarily awful that it was utterly captivating:
"Yes, I was 'successful.' I was 'up there.' But I very definitely was not on top. I wanted to be at Mt. Somewhere. I wanted to...look down on all the rest...as many many years ago they'd all looked down on me. Who cares! I'll worry about it later, I answered myself. Once I get there. All I know now is that I want it. Want it more than anything else. Want it so bad that nothing else matters if I don't get it!
"I didn't know - couldn't know - that every frustration, every extra hour I worked when others were partying or sleeping was readying me, readying me to soon perch on the precipice of a fame even larger than I had imagined. Larger than life. All I understood was that I couldn't stand being anything but Number One and that one of these days I actually wouldn't be able to stand it.
"I didn't know what I would do then. But now what I did - in whatever hours he cruelly made available to me - was to stay and stay and stay and stay and stay and stay and stay in an incredibly self-destructive relationship with the devil in a man's body."
(Excerpt from Rona Barrett's "Miss Rona," published in 1974 by Nash Publishing)
And with that single passage, I was hooked. I became obsessed with Bad Semi-Celebrity Autobiographies. I was singing in a rock 'n' roll band at the time, and I began doing dramatic readings from "Miss Rona" during our performances. The crowds, it seemed, loved Barrett's purple prose as much as I did.
Next, I latched onto "A Book" by Desi Arnez, dramatic readings of which also became part of my band's performances. Lucille Ball's autobiography would never do. She was, alas, a full-fledged star. Her husband Desi, however, was the real deal - a true semi-celebrity.
My library of classics continued to grow. La Toya Jackson. Liberace. Anita Bryant. And on and on...
The band broke up, but I found other outlets for sharing my growing collection. A few years ago, I pulled out "Passion & Betrayal" to give a reading at McGeary's Pub just before Gennifer Flowers made her Capital Region dramatic debut in "Oh, Calcutta!" at the Palace Theatre. I read from "Wouldn't It Be Nice" at a brew pub in Northampton prior to Brian Wilson's show there. Excerpts from Meat Loaf's "To Hell And Back" were a hit at one of our recent dinner parties.
I leapt for joy upon discovering a first edition of Mamie Van Doren's "Playing the Field" for $.50 at an East Greenbush yard sale. Jamie Zarr, Cybill Shepard and Britt Ekland were all uncovered at the same library book sale, a veritable bonanza. The collection - which now numbers nearly 100 volumes - has expanded from one bookshelf to two to three. Just last week, I was fortunate enough to acquire a rare near-mint copy of Margaret Trudeau's masterwork, "Beyond Reason," and Wayne Newton's page-turner, "Once Before I Go."
I just can't stop it. I'm hooked. I need help.
"Miss Rona" by gossip columnist Rona Barrett
"A Book" by Cuban bandleader-turned television star Desi Arnez
"Just Farr Fun" by "M.A.S.H." cross-dresser Jamie Farr"
"Passion and Betrayal" by former Clinton mistress Gennifer Flowers
"My Life and Prophecies" by psychic and fortuneteller Jeane Dixon
"Cybill Disobedience" by TV actress-cabaret singer Cybill Shepherd
"Playing the Field: My Story" by sex symbol Mamie Van Doren
"The Anita Bryant Story" by anti-gay activist Anita Bryant
"Reflections: A Life in Two Worlds" by actor Ricardo Montalban
"Merv" by talk show host Merv Griffin
"La Toya" by Michael Jackson's sister, La Toya Jackson
"True Britt" by "actress" Britt Ekland
"Beyond Reason" by former Canadian First Lady Margaret Trudeau
"If Only" by ex-Spice Girl Geri Halliwell
"Debby Boone: So Far" by singer Debby Boone
"I Reach For the Stars" by romance novelist Barbara Cartland
"Prisoner of Woodstock" by former Crosby, Stills & Nash drummer Dallas Taylor
"Kitty" by game show contestant Kitty Carlisle Hart
"Liberace: An Autobiography" by pianist-entertainer Liberace
"Sisters" by Maria Callas' sister, Jackie Callas
"Tammy" by former evangelist Tammy Faye Baker, now Tammy Faye Messner
"Enter Whining" by TV actress Fran Drescher
"Fleetwood: My Life and Adventures in Fleetwood Mac" by drummer Mick Fleetwood
"Standing Firm" by former U.S. Vice President Dan Quayle
"Out of Bondage" by adult film actress Linda Lovelace
"Knee Deep in Paradise" by comedian-TV actress Brett Butler
"Gypsy" by stripper Gypsy Rose Lee
"Michael & Me" by Michael Jordan's former golf 'n' gambling partner Richard Esquinas
"Current Affairs" by television newsman and talk show host Maury Povich
"To Hell and Back: An Autobiography" by rock singer Meat Loaf
"My Lives" by TV actress Roseanne Arnold (now just Roseanne)
"In Tune" by pop singer B.J. Thomas
"Confessions of a Pretty Lady" by comedian Sandra Bernhard
"Three Dog Nightmare" by Three Dog Night singer Chuck Negron
"One Is the Loneliest Number" by Three Dog Night keyboardist Jimmy Greenspoon
"Ah-One, Ah-Two! My Life with My Musical Family" by bandleader Lawrence Welk
"Kink" by Kinks guitarist Dave Davies
"The Way I See It" by U.S. President Ronald Reagan's daughter, Patti Davis
"Jolie Gabor" by the mother of the three Gabor sisters, Jolie Gabor
"One Lifetime Is Not Enough" by actress Zsa Zsa Gabor
"The Life of a Children's Troubadour" by children's music singer Raffi
"All Those Tomorrows" by actress Mai Zetterling
"Crazy From the Heat" by former Van Halen singer David Lee Roth
"Past Imperfect" by prime time soap opera actress Joan Collins
"Nickel Dreams" by country singer Tanya Tucker
"Rhinestone Cowboy" by pop singer Glen Campbell
"My Life in High Heels" by television actress Loni Anderson
"Blaze Starr" by stripper Blaze Starr
"Bus Fare to Kentucky" by country singer Skeeter Davis
"The Good, the Bad & the Very Ugly" by actress Sondra Locke
"Be My Baby: How I Survived Mascara, Miniskirts and Madness or My Life as a
Fabulous Ronette'' by rock singer Ronnie Spector
"My Name Is Love: The Darlene Love Story" by pop singer Darlene Love
"The Prize Pulitzer" by socialite/sex scandal participant Roxanne Pulitzer
"10 Feet Tall and Bulletproof" by country singer Travis Tritt
"Once Before I Go" by Las Vegas showman Wayne Newton