Category Archives: Celebrity Chatter

Finally, the true and inside story of Hollywood’s forgotten force (and Garbo’s lover), Salka Viertel

Salka Viertel was once the highest paid writer on the MGM lot. She was also Greta Garbo’s lover, for whom she wrote five films.  A side note: So close were they that Viertel  bought a house next door to Garbo; when in 1969 Viertel  published her “autobiography” The Kindness of Strangers, she revealed their true relationship. Garbo never spoke to her again, avoiding her on the streets of New York City.

Garbo’s on the left

For the scores of wartime refugees fleeing persecution under Hitler she opened her doors to, Viertel was a lifeline. A courageous woman with a fascinating life and an incalculable impact on the lives of others, she has been long overdue for her moment in the spotlight.

So we can thank Donna Rifkind, whose biography, The Sun and Her Stars: Salka Viertel and Hitler’s Exiles in the Golden Age of Hollywood(Other Press, $30) shines a light on this remarkable story.

Actress-turned-screenwriter (Viertel declared herself  “neither beautiful nor young enough” to be a movie star), she left Berlin for Hollywood in 1928, bringing with her the bohemian spirit of the Weimar era. She would work with the luminaries of Hollywood’s Golden Age, including George Cukor, Irving Thalberg and David O. Selznick. At her house in Santa Monica she opened her door on Sunday afternoons to scores of European émigrés who had fled from Hitler—such as Thomas Mann, Bertolt Brecht and Arnold Schoenberg—along with every kind of Hollywood star, from Charlie Chaplin to Shelley Winters. In the living room (the only one in town with comfortable armchairs, said one Hollywood insider), countless cinematic, theatrical, and musical partnerships were born. As Nazi domination grew in Europe, Viertel poured herself into the refugee cause, arranging for jobs and affidavits for Jews and anti-fascists seeking safety in America.

Garbo in perhaps her greatest film, “Queen Christina” (1933). Her lover wrote five film for her. Viertel co-wrote the film with Harold Marsh Harwood. She also co-wrote(with Clemence Dane) the 1935 classic “Anna Karenina”, a snatch seen below.

If Viertel’s name has been largely forgotten in America, it is because too few people believed what she accomplished was important. Now, alongside our current moment’s interest  in recovering historically-overlooked women’s creative contributions, investigating women’s ability to survive and flourish in sexist Hollywood, and considering the moral obligations of Americans to displaced people in a world undergoing a vast refugee crisis, the questions Salka asked herself in the ’30s and ’40s about how one should live—and the answers her life exemplified—are as vital as ever.

It’s impossible to understand the true history of Hollywood without knowing the story of the dramatic, courageous figure of Salka Viertel and her rescue mission.

PETRUCELLI PICKS: GIFT GUIDE 2019: THE BEST CELEBRITY TELL-ALLS OF THE YEAR (PART DEUX)

Oh! We so love tattletales, books that reveal the underbellies of stars and singers and criminals and musicians and authors and politicians . . . even if they are written by the celebs themselves.
Our picks for the best of 2019 continue. . .

Herman and Joe Mankiewicz wrote, produced, and directed more than 150 pictures, including triumphs as diverse as the Marx Brothers’ Monkey Business, Pride of the Yankees, the infamous Burton-Taylor Cleopatra and Guys and Dolls. But the witty, intellectual brothers spent their Hollywood years deeply discontented
and yearning for what they did not have, a career in theater.
The Brothers Mankiewicz: Hope, Heartbreak, and Hollywood Classics (Hollywood Legends Series) Herman gambled away his prodigious earnings, got himself fired from all the
major studios, and drank himself to death at the age of 55. Joe was a
critical and financial success, but his philandering with stars like Joan Crawford and Judy Garland distressed his wives, one of whom committed suicide. He wrecked his own health using uppers and
downers in order to direct Cleopatra by day and write it at night, only to be very publicly fired by Darryl F. Zanuck, a humiliation from which he never fully recovered.
What lives! What stories! What delicious drama! It can be found in The Brothers Mankiewicz: Hope, Heartbreak, and Hollywood Classics (University Press of Mississippi, $35).


Blue: The Color of Noise (St. Martin’s Press, $27.99) is the remarkable story―in pictures and words―of Steve Aoki, the superstar DJ/producer who started his career as a vegan straightedge hardcore music kid hellbent on defying his millionaire father, whose unquenchable thirst to entertain―inherited from his dad, Rocky Aoki, founder of Benihana―led him to global success and two Grammy nominations.
Aoki–also known for his outrageous stage antics (cake throwing, champagne spraying, and the ‘Aoki Jump’) and his endearing personality–recounts the epic highs of music festivals, clubs and pool parties around the world, as well as the lows of friendships lost to drugs and alcohol, and his relationship with his flamboyant father. Illustrated with candid photos gathered throughout his life, the book reveals how Aoki became a force of nature as an early social media adopter, helping to turn dance music into the phenomenon it is today.


Throughout her rise to fame and during some of the most pivotal moments of her life, Demi Moore battled addiction, body image issues and childhood trauma that would follow her for years―all while juggling a skyrocketing career and at times negative public perception.  As her success grew, Demi found herself questioning if she belonged in Hollywood, if she was a good mother, a good actress―and, always, if she was simply good enough.
As much as her story is about adversity, it is also about tremendous resilience. In the deeply candid and reflective memoir Inside Out (Harper, $27.99),  Demi pulls back the curtain and opens up about her career and personal life―laying bare her tumultuous relationship with her mother, her marriages, her struggles balancing stardom with raising a family, and her journey toward open heartedness.


In an arresting mix of visceral, soulful storytelling and stunning visuals, Face It (Dey Street Books, $32.50) upends the standard music memoir while delivering a truly prismatic portrait. With all the grit, grime, and glory recounted in intimate detail, the book re-creates the downtown scene of 1970s New York City,
where Blondie–a band that forged a new sound that brought together the worlds of rock, punk, disco, reggae and hip-hop to create some of the most beloved pop songs of all time– played alongside the Ramones, Television, Talking Heads, Iggy Pop and David Bowie. Aesthetically dazzling, and including never-before-seen photographs, bespoke illustrations and fan art installations, Face It brings Debbie Harry’s world and artistic sensibilities to life.


Rollicking but intimate, Still Here (Farrar, Straus and Giroux , $28) tracks one of Broadway’s more outlandish and direct personalities, Elaine Stritch.  We accompany Stritch through her jagged rise to fame, to Hollywood and London, and across her later years, when she enjoyed a stunning renaissance, punctuated by a turn on the popular television show 30 Rock. We explore the influential―and often fraught―collaborations she developed with Noël Coward, Tennessee Williams and above all Stephen Sondheim, as well as her courageous yet flawed attempts to control a serious drinking problem. And we see the entertainer triumphing over personal turmoil with the development of her Tony –winning one-woman show, Elaine Stritch at Liberty, which established her as an emblem of spiky independence and Manhattan life for an entirely new generation of admirers. I’ll drink to that, and one for Mahler!


With her second memoir, Home Work: A Memoir of My Hollywood Years (Hachette Books, $30), Julie Andrews picks up the story with her arrival in Hollywood and her years in the film industry, from the incredible highs to the challenging lows.
Not only does she discuss her work in now-classic films and her collaborations with giants of cinema and television, she also unveils her personal story of adjusting to a new and often daunting world, dealing with the demands of unimaginable success, being a new mother, the end of her first marriage, embracing two stepchildren, adopting two more children, and falling in love with the brilliant and mercurial Blake Edwards. Co-written with her daughter, Emma Walton Hamilton, and told with Andrews’s trademark charm and candor, Home Work takes us on a rare and intimate journey into an extraordinary life that is funny, heartrending and inspiring.


With candor, humor and warmth, Olivia writes about her life and career and cancer in the must-have Don’t Stop Believin’ (Gallery Books, $28). Available for the first time in the United States, this edition includes a new afterword by Olivia.
She speaks about her childhood, her father’s role in breaking German Enigma codes during World War II,  her feeling about about stardom,her beloved daughter Chloe, meeting the love of her life, and her passion and unwavering advocacy for health and wellness.
“I hope this story of my life from my early years up to today will bring some inspiration and positivity to the reader,” Olivia says. “We all share so many experiences in our own unique way.”
Olivia was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1992; the diagnosis “came the same weekend my father died of cancer, so you can imagine the shock”, she remembers. Learn more @ onjcancercentre.org.
Olivia has always radiated joy, hope and compassionate.
She continues to be a force for love, for goodness, for strength, throughout the world.
“I also  believe that when you go through something difficult, even something as dramatic as cancer, that something positive will come of it,” she says.
Don’t stop believin’.


As a young man Frederick Douglass escaped from slavery. He was fortunate to have been taught to read by his slave owner mistress, and he would go on to become one of the major literary figures of his time. His very existence gave the lie to slave owners: with dignity and great intelligence he bore witness to the brutality of slavery.
Douglass spoke widely, using his own story to condemn slavery. By the Civil War, Douglass had become the most famed and widely travelled orator in the nation. In his unique and eloquent voice, written and spoken, Douglass was a fierce critic of the United States as well as a radical patriot.
In Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom (Simon & Schuster, $37.5), David Blight has drawn on new information held in a private collection that few other historian have consulted, as well as recently discovered issues of Douglass’s newspapers. This is an important, compelling biography, the winner of the 2019 Pulitzer Prize in history.


Condé Nast’s life and career was as high profile and glamourous as his magazines. Moving to New York in the early 20th century with just the shirt on his back, he soon became the highest paid executive in the United States, acquiring Vogue in 1909 and Vanity Fair in 1913. Alongside his editors, he built the first-ever international magazine empire, introducing European modern art, style, and fashions to an American audience. Conde Nast: The Man and His Empire (St. Martin’s Press, $32.50) was written with the cooperation of his family on both sides of the Atlantic and a dedicated team at Condé Nast Publications; here Susan Ronald reveals the life of an extraordinary American success story.


Recalling pivotal moments from her dynamic career on the front lines of American diplomacy and foreign policy, Susan E. Rice—National Security Advisor to President Barack Obama and US Ambassador to the United Nations—reveals her surprising story with unflinching candor in Tough Love: My Story of the Things Worth Fighting For (Simon & Schuster, $30).
Rice provides an insider’s account of some of the most complex issues confronting the United States over three decades, ranging from “Black Hawk Down” in Somalia to the genocide in Rwanda and the East Africa embassy bombings in the late ’90s, and from conflicts in Libya and Syria to the Ebola epidemic, a secret channel to Iran, and the opening to Cuba during the Obama years.
Intimate, sometimes humorous, but always candid, Tough Love makes an urgent appeal to the American public to bridge our dangerous domestic divides in order to preserve our democracy and sustain our global leadership.


Before he stole our hearts as the grooming and self-care expert on Netflix’s hit show Queer Eye, Jonathan Van Ness was growing up in a small Midwestern town that didn’t understand why he was so over the top. From choreographed carpet figure skating routines to the unavoidable fact that he was Just. So. Gay., Jonathan was an easy target and endured years of judgement, ridicule and trauma—yet none of it crushed his uniquely effervescent spirit.
Over the Top: A raw Journey to Self-Love  (HarperOne, $27.99) uncovers the pain and passion it took to end up becoming the model of self-love and acceptance that Jonathan is today. In this revelatory, raw, and rambunctious memoir, Jonathan shares never-before-told secrets and reveals sides of himself that the public has never seen.


Twyla Tharp is revered not only for the dances she makes—but for her astounding regime of exercise and non-stop engagement. She is famed for religiously hitting the gym each morning at daybreak, and utilizing that energy to propel her breakneck schedule as a teacher, writer, creator and lecturer. This book grew out of the question she was asked most frequently: “How do you keep working?”
Keep It Moving: Lessons for the Rest of Your Life (Simon & Schuster,  $27) is a series of no-nonsense mediations on how to live with purpose as time passes.
From the details of how she stays motivated to the stages of her fitness routine, Tharp models how fulfillment depends not on fortune—but on attitude, possible for anyone willing to try and keep trying. Culling anecdotes from her life and the lives of other luminaries, each chapter is accompanied by an exercise that helps anyone develop a more hopeful and energetic approach to the everyday.


Common, the man who owns a Grammy, Oscar and Golden Globe, follows up his best-selling memoir One Day It’ll All Make Sense with Let Love Have the Last Word (Atria Books, $26), an inspiring exploration of how love and mindfulness can build communities and allow you to take better control of your life through actions and words.
Common believes that the phrase “let love have the last word” is not just a declaration; it is a statement of purpose, a daily promise. Love is the most powerful force on the planet and ultimately, the way you love determines who you are and how you experience life. He explores the core tenets of love to help others understand what it means to receive and, most important, to give love.  He knows there’s no quick remedy for all of the hurt in the world, but love, for yourself and for others, is where the healing begins.


As part of Motown’s legendary songwriting and production team of Holland-Dozier-Holland, Lamont Dozier is responsible for such classics as “You Can’t Hurry Love;” “I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch);” “Stop! In the Name of Love;” “Heat Wave;” “Baby Love;”  “You Keep Me Hanging On;” and on . . . and on.
After leaving Motown, he continued to make his mark as an influential songwriter, artist and producer with hits such as “Give Me Just a Little More Time,” “Band of Gold,” and “Two Hearts,” a chart-topping Phil Collins single that earned the pair a grammy and an Oscar nomination.
In How Sweet It Is: A Songwriter’s Reflections on Music, Motown and the Mystery of the Muse (BMG Books, $27.99) Lamont takes us behind the scenes of the Motown machine, sharing personal stories of his encounters with such icons as Diana Ross, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Smokey Robinson and Berry Gordy. He reveals the moments that inspired some of his timeless songs—and pulls back the curtain on the studio secrets that helped him and his colleagues create “the sound of young America.”


P. T. Barnum is the greatest showman the world has ever seen. As a creator of the Barnum & Baily Circus and a champion of wonder, joy, trickery and “humbug,” he was the founding father of American entertainment—and as Robert Wilson argues in Barnum: An American Life (Simon & Schuster, $28), one of the most important figures in American history.
Wilson’s vivid new biography captures the full genius, infamy and allure of the ebullient showman, who, from birth to death, repeatedly reinvented himself. He learned as a young man how to wow crowds, and built a fortune that placed him among the first millionaires in the United States. He also suffered tragedy, bankruptcy, and fires that destroyed his life’s work, yet willed himself to recover and succeed again. As an entertainer, Barnum courted controversy throughout his life—yet he was also a man of strong convictions, guided in his work not by a desire to deceive, but an eagerness to thrill and bring joy to his audiences. He almost certainly never uttered the infamous line, “There’s a sucker born every minute,” instead taking pride in giving crowds their money’s worth and more.


Why shouldn’t we despise the asshole who’s about to be impeached? Protect your wives and daughters since Frump’s proclaimed his  seduction technique is to “grab ’em by the pussy.”  In Golden Handcuffs: The Secret of Trump’s Women (Gallery Books, $28), Nina Burleigh, explores his attitudes toward women by providing in-depth analysis and background on the women who have had the most profound influence on his life—the mother and grandmother who raised him, the wives who lived with him and the ugly daughter who is poised to inherit it all.
Has any president in the history of the United States had a more fraught relationship with women than Donald Trump? He flagrantly cheated on all three of his wives, brushed off multiple accusations of sexual assault, publicly ogled his eldest daughter, bought the silence of a porn star and a Playmate. The books proves is one sick motherfucker.


Winston Churchill called him World War II’s “organizer of victory.” Harry Truman said he was “the greatest military man that this country ever produced.” George Catlett Marshall was America’s most distinguished soldier-statesman since George Washington, whose selfless leadership and moral character influenced the course of two world wars and helped define the American century.
Long seen as a stoic, almost statuesque figure, he emerges in the pages of George Marshall: Defender of the Republic (Dutton Caliber, $34) as a man both remarkable and deeply human, thanks to newly discovered sources.
Set against the backdrop of five major conflicts—two world wars, Palestine, Korea, and the Cold War—Marshall’s education in military, diplomatic and political power, replete with their nuances and ambiguities, runs parallel with America’s emergence as a global superpower. The result is a defining account of one of our most consequential leaders.


In 1975 Andrew Ridgeley took a shy new boy at school under his wing. They instantly hit it off, and their boyhood escapades at Bushy Meads School built a bond that was never broken. As Wham!, R and George Michael, found themselves riding an astonishing roller coaster of success, taking them all over the world. They made and broke iconic records, they were treated like gods, but they stayed true to their friendship and ultimately to themselves. It was a party that seemed as if it would never end.
Wham!, George Michael and Me: A Memoir Hardcover And then it did, in front of tens of thousands of tearful fans at Wembley Stadium in 1986.
With WHAM!, George Michael and Me, (Dutton, $28), one half of one of the most famous bands in the world, tells the inside story of  his lifelong friendship with George Michael, and the formation of a band that changed the shape of the music scene in the early ’80s. Ridgeley ‘s memoir covers in wonderful detail those years, up until that last iconic concert: the scrapes, the laughs, the relationships, the good, and the bad. It’s a unique and one-and-only time to remember that era, that band, and those boys.


 

PETRUCELLI PICKS: GIFT GUIDE 2019: THE BEST CELEBRITY TELL-ALLS OF THE YEAR (PART ONE)

Oh! We so love tattletales, books that reveal the underbellies of stars and singers and criminals and musicians and authors and politicians . . . even if they are written by the celebs themselves.
Our picks for the best of 2019 . . .


Since he never wrote his memoirs and seldom appeared on television, most people have little sense of Mike Nichols’ searching intellect or his devastating wit. They don’t know that Nichols, the great American director, was born Mikail Igor Peschkowsky, in Berlin, and came to this country, speaking no English, to escape the Nazis.
Life isn't everything: Mike Nichols, as remembered by 150 of his closest friends. They don’t know that Nichols was at one time a solitary psychology student, or that a childhood illness caused permanent, life-altering side effects. They don’t know that he withdrew into a debilitating depression before he “finally got it right,” in his words, by marrying Diane Sawyer.
In Life Isn’t Everything: Mike Nichols as Remembered by 150 of His Closest Friends (Henry Holt and Co., $30), Ash Carter and Sam Kashner offer an intimate look behind the scenes of Nichols’ life, as told by the stars, moguls, playwrights, producers, comics and crewmembers who stayed loyal to Nichols for years. This volume is also a snapshot of what it meant to be living, loving, and making art in the 20th century.


Why recommend Free, Melania (Flatiron Books, $27.99) about woman who’s to the most discipicable piece of scum in the world? She’s not stupid. She married the asshole because she got a green card and lots of moolah should he leave her for say, Stormy Daniels.
Free, Melania: The Unauthorized BiographyThis “First Lady” thinks she’s the “new” Jackie Kennedy, mainly because her Sugar Daddy buys her expen$sive duds she could never have afforded if she stayed back in Slovenia. Now that we think about it, use the book for kindling.


A Wild and Precious Life (St. Martin’s Press, $27.99) is remarkable portrait of an iconic woman. Queer Edie Windsor became internationally famous when she sued the U.S. government, seeking federal recognition for her marriage to Thea Spyer, her partner of more than four decades. The Supreme Court ruled in Edie’s favor, a landmark victory that set the stage for full marriage equality in the US. Beloved by the LGBTQ community, Edie embraced her new role as an icon; she had already been living an extraordinary and groundbreaking life for decades.
A Wild and Precious Life: A MemoirIn this memoir, which she began before passing away in 2017 and completed by her co-writer, Edie recounts her childhood in Philadelphia, her realization that she was a lesbian, and her active social life in Greenwich Village’s electrifying underground gay scene during the ’50s. She was also one of a select group of trailblazing women in computing, working her way up the ladder at IBM and achieving their highest technical ranking while developing software.


More notable queer writing: How We Fight for Our Lives (Simon & Schuster, a stunning coming-of-age memoir. Saeed Jones tells the story of a young, black, gay man from the South as he fights to carve out a place for himself, within his family, within his country, within his own hopes, desires, and fears.
How We Fight for Our Lives: A Memoir Through a series of vignettes that chart a course across the American landscape, Jones draws readers into his boyhood and adolescence—into tumultuous relationships with his family, into passing flings with lovers, friends, and strangers. Each piece builds into a larger examination of race and queerness, power and vulnerability, love and grief: a portrait of what we all do for one another—and to one another—as we fight to become ourselves.


Nikki Haley is widely admired for her forthright manner (“With all due respect, I don’t get confused”), her sensitive approach to tragic events and her confident representation of America’s interests as our Ambassador to the United Nations during times of crisis and consequence.
In With All Due Respect (St. Martin’s Press, $29.99), Haley offers a first-hand perspective on major national and international matters, as well as a behind-the-scenes account of her tenure in the Trump administration.
With All Due Respect: Defending America with Grit and GraceThis book reveals a woman who can hold her own―and better―in domestic and international power politics, a diplomat who is unafraid to take a principled stand even when it is unpopular, and a leader who seeks to bring Americans together in divisive times.


We never liked him when he shackled Princess Di. We never liked him when married a horse named Camilla. But we do like King Charles: The Man, the Monarch, and the Future of Britain (Diversion Books, $27.99). With exclusive interviews and extensive research, Robert Jobson debunks the myths about the man who will be king, going beyond banal, bogus media caricatures of Charles to tell his true story.
King Charles: The Man, the Monarch, and the Future of BritainJobson―who has spent nearly 30 years chronicling the House of Windsor, and has met Prince Charles on countless occasions―received unprecedented cooperation from Clarence House, the Prince’s office, in writing this illuminating biography.


Sir Ian McKellen has starred in more than 400 plays and films; he is that rare character, a celebrity whose distinguished political and social service has transcended his international fame to reach beyond the stage and screen.
Ian McKellen: A BiographyThe breadth of his career―professional, personal and political―has been truly staggering; add his tireless political activism in the cause of gay equality and you have a veritable phenomenon. Garry O’Connor’s Ian McKellen: A Biography (St. Martin’s Press, $29.99) probes the heart of the actor, recreating his greatest stage roles and exploring his personal life.


Stan Lee was the most famous American comic book creator who ever lived. A Marvelous Life: The Amazing Story of Stan Lee (St. Martin’s Press, $29.99) presents the origin of “Stan the Man,” who spun a storytelling web of comic book heroic adventures into a pop culture phenomenon: the Marvel Universe.
A Marvelous Life: The Amazing Story of Stan LeeHow he got to that place is a story that has never been fully told―until now. Danny Fingeroth’s  book attempts to answer some of those questions. It is the first comprehensive biography of this powerhouse of ideas who, with his invention of Marvel Comics, changed the world’s ideas of what a hero is and how a story should be told.


Princess Leia is gone, she flew off into the stars in 2016. In Carrie Fisher: A life on the Edge (Sarah Crichton Books , $30) Sheila Weller’s turns her talents to one of the most loved, brilliant, and iconoclastic women of our time: actress, writer, daughter and mother Carrie Fisher.
We follow Fisher’s acting career, from her debut in Shampoo, the hit movie that defined mid-’70s Hollywood, to her seizing of the plum female role in Star Wars, which catapulted her to instant fame. We explore her long, complex relationship with Paul Simon and her relatively peaceful years with the talent agent Bryan Lourd.
Carrie Fisher: A Life on the EdgeWeller sympathetically reveals the conditions that Fisher lived with: serious bipolar disorder and an inherited drug addiction. Still, despite crises and overdoses, her life’s work―as actor, novelist and memoirist, script doctor, hostess and friend―was prodigious and unique. We witness her startling leap―on the heels of a near-fatal overdose―from actress to highly praised, bestselling author, the Dorothy Parker of her place and time.


No one needs to say farewell to Sir Elton John since there are two fascinating book about the original rocket man. In Me (Henry Holt and Co. , $30), his first and only official autobiography, John reveals the truth about his extraordinary life, from the early rejection of his work with song-writing partner Bernie Taupin to spinning out of control as a chart-topping superstar; from half-heartedly trying to drown himself in his swimming pool to disco-dancing with Princess Diana and Queen Elizabeth; from friendships with John Lennon, Freddie Mercury, and George Michael to setting up his AIDS Foundation to conquering Broadway.
Me: Elton John Official Autobiography All the while Elton was hiding a drug addiction that would grip him for over a decade. In Me, Elton also writes powerfully about getting clean and changing.
An ideal companion: Elton John by Terry O’Neill: The Definitive Portrait, With Unseen Images (Cassell, $34.99). John and O’Neill worked together for many years, taking more than 5,000 photographs.
Elton John by Terry O Neill: The definitive portrait with unseen imagesFrom intimate backstage shots to huge stadium concerts, the photographs in this book represent the very best of this archive, with most of the images being shown here for the first time. O’Neill has drawn on his personal relationship with John to write the book’s introduction and captions.


In The Bourbon King: life and Crimes of George Remus, Prohibition’s Evil Genius (Diversion Books, $27.99), Bob Batchelor breathes life into theThe Bourbon King: The Life and Crimes of George Remus, Prohibition's Evil Genius tale of George Remus is a grand spectacle and a lens into the dark heart of Prohibition. That is, before he came crashing down in one of the most sensational murder cases in American history: a cheating wife, the G-man who seduced her and put Remus in jail, and the plunder of a Bourbon Empire. Remus murdered his wife in cold-blood and then shocked a nation winning his freedom based on a condition he invented—temporary maniacal insanity.


JAY-Z: Made in America (St. Martin’s Press, $25.99) is the fruit of Michael Eric Dyson’s decade of teaching the work of one of the greatest poets this nation has produced . . . as gifted a wordsmith as Walt Whitman, Robert Frost and Rita Dove. But as a rapper, he’s sometimes not given the credit he deserves for just how great an artist he’s been for so long.
JAY-Z: Made in AmericaThis book wrestles with the biggest themes of JAY-Z’s career, including hustling, and it recognizes the way that he’s always weaved politics into his music, making important statements about race, criminal justice, black wealth and social injustice. As he enters his fifties, and to mark his thirty years as a recording artist, this is the perfect time to take a look at JAY-Z’s career and his role in making this nation what it is today.


Janis Joplin has passed into legend as a brash, impassioned soul doomed by the pain that produced one of the most extraordinary voices in rock history. But in Janis: Her Life and Music (Simon & Schuster, $28.99), Holly George-Warren provides a revelatory and deeply satisfying portrait of a woman who wasn’t all about suffering. Janis was a perfectionist: a passionate, erudite musician who was born with talent but also worked exceptionally hard to develop it.
Janis: Her Life and MusicShe was a woman who pushed the boundaries of gender and sexuality long before it was socially acceptable. She was a sensitive seeker who wanted to marry and settle down—but couldn’t, or wouldn’t. She was a Texan who yearned to flee Texas but could never quite get away—even after becoming a countercultural icon in San Francisco.


 

Wanna work at MedExpress? Consider, instead, playing in a dog house. Read on!

Hmmm, looks empty to me. Where are the dogs?

Jacque DeRubbo loves Maverick, her German Shepherd, almost as much as her husband hates the dog.
In fact her husband hates all dogs.
Jaclyn likes to dress Maverick in caps and sunglasses and other assorted clothing and accessories. And she’s thinking of dressing him (the dog, not the hubby)  as James Garner (as Bret Maverick) for Halloween.
How do I know such frivolous fodder?
Jaclyn claims she is the “Manager” of the MedExpress on Mossside Blvd. in Monroeville, PA. MedExpress is one of those drop-in medical centers that you rush into if you (a) have no money; (b) have no insurance: (c) like waiting in an airport-like lounge  for a few hours.
Jaclyn claims she also “oversees” another such “urgent care” joint in Monroeville, as well as one in Murraysville (PA).
How she ever gets “work” done is something I have wondered about for the last couple of weeks.
Let me explain.
Knowing I was in-between books, I was contacted by MedExpress to gauge my interest in working part-time . . . their “part-time” consists of a 12-hour days.
This nightmare began with an email from “Rebecca Burroughs”, who claimed to be a  MedExpress “Recruitment Coordinator”. She called me, “interviewed me” and asked me if I wanted an in-person interview with “Melissa”.
Oops! An email later, she said she “misspoke” and that Melissa was actually Jaclyn. “Please let me know if you have any questions”, she cooed in an email. “We look forward to your interview!”
And so I went to meet Jaclyn/Melissa.
She was late for the interview; she arrived with a woman named Terri, who she had hired to be the manager of the Butler (PA) joint.
Terri is also a dog lover.
Stay with me.
The interview lasted 2 hours and 18 minutes . . . and at least 120 minutes of the “professional” interview was devoted to dog drama. Jaclyn/Melissa and Terri pulled out their cell phones to show off pooch photos. Over and over and over again.
Was I on Candid Camera?
These broads were too young to know Candid Camera. No?
But Jaclyn/Melissa remembered the day she had to reprimanded a doctor when he didn’t wear navy blue scrubs (“And they have to be navy blue!”).
And she knew remembered the day she reprimanded a front office associate about “talking too much to customers”. I’d thought she’d use the word “clients”, but I was barking up the wrong tree.
I felt like I was watching a Fellini flick. Or starring in a Marx. Bros. comedy, with me as Harpo, the silent one.
This is how professional interviews are held?
I didn’t get the job.
I didn’t want it.
Yet I knew I had a tale to tell when I left the doghouse diatribe.
What surprised me even  more was that MedExpress didn’t spend even a medicated minute to tell me, “Thanks, but no thanks”.
I emailed corporate media relations, asking for the reason for such unprofessionalism.
No one ever got back to me.
I mailed Rebecca and asked why all that time wasted.
Her last email: “I am sorry to hear of your displeasure.  While the recruitment process can seem lengthy at times, it is never a waste of our time to thoroughly screen and interview qualified candidates.  So it is disappointing to hear you feel it was a waste of your time.  I will speak with my team on how we can improve our process”.
Perhaps I should have sat, rolled over and licked their faces?
Or kissed their asses?

 

What’s juicier than celebrity gossip? How about a book about the controversial scandal magazine “Confidential”

Gossip! I have been gathering it, writing about it and spreading it ever since I began interviewing celebs and their “friends”. And I have a collection of the controversial scandal magazine Confidential, which, without a doubt, was the bible of gossip.

Confidential was the forerunner of today’s titillating headlines and celebrity gossip exposés. American culture in the 1950s revered celebrities as exemplary citizens with high morals and honest characters—Confidential challenged that notion with each issue it printed. The magazine tarnished Hollywood stars’ well-constructed images by publishing raunchy and brazen stories of their misdeeds and transgressions. Soon, the magazine was surpassing other successful publications such as Time, Life and the Saturday Evening Post in newsstand sales. For the first time, readers will learn how Confidential gained its notorious reputation and how it forever altered American culture, law and journalism.

Confidential Confidential: The Inside Story of Hollywood’s Notorious Scandal Magazine (Chicago Review Press, $27.99), by Samantha Barbas, presents a thoroughly-researched history of America’s first gossip magazine and the legal disputes that led to its end. With an extensive network of informants, Confidential soiled celebrities’ pristine reputations by publishing the stars’ scandalous secrets including extramarital affairs, drug use and taboo sexual practices in lewd detail.

By 1955, Confidential was the nation’s ruling publication on newsstands, forcing many to question the legalities of freedom of the press and society’s moral obligation to censor indecent content. Ultimately, a slew of multi-million dollar libel lawsuits and criminal charges brought by the state of California—concluding in the infamous 1957, star-studded Los Angeles trial—caused Confidential’ s downfall. Confidential Confidential provides readers with an insider’s view as to how the magazine obtained its juicy stories and how it laid the foundation for future gossip tabloids such as People, the National Enquirer and TMZ. Though it was legally forced to stop its gossip-mongering in 1958, Confidential’s legacy endures as society’s contemporary obsession with sensationalism and celebrity scandal remains more popular than ever.

Insightful and entertaining, Confidential Confidential will appeal to both Hollywood and journalism history aficionados and readers interested in celebrity culture.

Oh, yes, remind me to tell you about the famous movie star who was a notorious shoplifter. And we don;t mean Winona.

Gossip galore: Immerse yourself in “Jackie, Janet & Lee: The Secret Lives of Janet Auchincloss and Her Daughters, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and Princess Lee Radziwill”

I’ve seen Jackie Kennedy at a Broadway theater, explaining to her then-lover Maurice Tempelsman what a CD was. (That item ran in Liz Smith’s column.) I’ve seen Ethel Kennedy go nuts on Hyannis’ Main Street. Now I am getting closer to other Kennedy kin with Jackie, Janet & Lee: The Secret Lives of Janet Auchincloss and Her Daughters, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and Lee Radziwill (St. Martin’s Press, $29.99).

To truly understand Jackie, one of the most iconic women of the 20th century, is to understand the powerful bond she shared with her mother Janet Auchincloss, and younger sister, the enormously complex Lee Radziwill. The relationship between the three women and how it came to impact Jackie’s life as one of the most famous of America’s First Ladies has never before been revealed in its entirety, until now. J. Randy Taraborrelli breaks through the mystery surrounding the lives of these enigmatic women and takes readers into the big and small moments of their lives, weaving a captivating psychological portrait of two famous sisters and their ferociously protective and ambitious mother.

Jackie Kennedy, JFK, and Princess Lee Radziwill at the christening of Lee’s daughter, Anna Christina Radziwill, Crypt Chapel, Westminster Abbey, 1961.

Janet Lee Bouvier was a formidable woman from a wealthy family who, in 1928, married the dashing but unpredictable Jack “Black Jack” Bouvier.  Though she had two children with him—Jackie and Lee—Janet’s marriage was far from a happy one as she had to cope with her husband’s infidelity. She flouted convention by defying her powerful, religious father James T. Lee and chose divorce at a time when it was taboo. Janet would then make the ultimate sacrifice for her daughters when she wedded the well-heeled Hugh Auchincloss. Though he could guarantee financial stability, he also made it clear to Janet that he could never consummate the marriage. A woman stunningly ahead of her time, Janet bore a daughter—Jackie’s and Lee’s half-sister, Janet— using her own version of artificial insemination, a science practically unheard of in the 1940s.

The story continues with Jackie’s marriage to Senator Jack Kennedy, (who becomes President of the United States in 1960), and Lee’s royal union to the dashing Prince Stanislaw Radziwill.  But soon, the Greek shipping mogul Aristotle Onassis enters Lee’s life and begins an affair with her. Rather than allow Lee to bring scandal to the steps of the White House, Janet forces her to choose family over her love for Onassis.

The First Lady and her sister Lee Radziwill ride a camel in India. Jackie’s agent, Clint Hill, signaled to them to cross their legs, to avoid any embarrassing photos being taken.

Taraborrelli breaks astonishing new ground by also telling the story of Jackie’s war with Bingham Morris, her mother’s third husband. After she realizes that Janet is the victim of shocking elder abuse, it becomes the greatest battle of Jackie’s life to vanquish Morris from her mother’s home. As the 1980s came to a close and Janet slips into Alzheimer’s disease, Jackie continues to care for her daily while Lee finds herself emotionally ill-equipped to do so, causing significant turmoil between the sisters. This stunning family story is based on never-before-published letters from Jackie, herself.\

Wow.

“Up in Smoke” is 40! The film “started stoner movies and is still going strong so smoke it up one more time” says Cheech

Fire up the home entertainment system and call your buds because the ultimate stoner comedy is celebrating its 40th anniversary.  The high-larious cannabis cultural epic  breakthrough Up in Smoke will “grab you by the poo poo” all over again when it arrives on Blu-ray Combo Pack and DVD April 10 from Paramount Home Media Distribution.  A special Deluxe Collector’s Edition, pairing the Blu-ray with the original soundtrack on CD and Vinyl LP in deluxe packaging, will arrive the following week from Rhino, featuring a newly recorded 2018 version of the title song “Up In Smoke.”

In 1978, Cheech Marin and Tommy Chong made their feature film debut in Up in Smoke, the outrageously funny classic inspired by their now legendary comedy routines of the early ’70s.  Following massive success with more than 10 million comedy albums sold, four Grammy nominations and a win for Best Comedy Recording for Los Cochinos, Cheech and Chong took Hollywood by storm when Up in Smoke became a smash hit, establishing the pair as the reigning comedy duo of a new generation.  Today, the film still has viewers rolling in the aisles and maintains surprising cultural relevance four decades after its original release.

“The greatest thrill is making your first movie and this one has been seen and been influential all over the world for over forty years,” says Richard “Cheech” Marin.   “Up in Smoke started stoner movies and is still going strong so smoke it up one more time.”

Adds Thomas Chong: “Where did the time go? Fortyyears ago we made low budget movies that grossed over 100 million and are still being watched all over the world. And it also helped legalize an important medicine.  I am so proud that a movie bearing a title of a simple song I wrote would be so influential for so many years.”

Cheech and Chong play wannabe musicians and stoners who unwittingly smuggle a van made of marijuana from Mexico to L.A.  Their drug-laced humor keeps their spirits high as they unknowingly elude the police and meander their way to an outrageous finale at the Roxy Theatre in Hollywood where Cheech performs in a pink tutu and Chong plays drums in a red body suit with a Quaalude logo.

The Blu-ray Combo Pack features a brand new short-form documentary entitled “How Pedro Met the Man: Up In Smoke at 40,” which chronicles the duo’s comedy history, as well as the origins and impact of the film itself. Capturing a complex and fascinating pop culture odyssey, the documentary incorporates new interviews with Cheech Marin, Tommy Chong and producer/director Lou Adler along with archival footage.  The Combo Pack is also loaded with previously released bonus material including deleted scenes, commentary, a music video and more.

The Deluxe Collector’s Edition is presented in a 12 x 12 package, limited to 5,000 copies.

The set pairs the Blu-ray with the original soundtrack on CD and Vinyl, as well as a 7-inch picture disc, oversized “Up In Smoke” rolling papers, a film poster and booklet with new essays by both Cheech and  Chong, along with rare and unseen photos. In addition to the new version of “Up In Smoke,” the CD also features another previously unreleased version of the song from 1978 with an additional Spanish verse by Cheech.

Harry Thaw, Evelyn Nesbit. Stanford White. This murder/rape case was the true crime of the century

When the weather thaws, I go off to Allegheny Cemetery, where I visit the graves of the (in)famous. My fave: Harry Kendall Thaw (February 12, 1871–February 22, 1947). I have been fascinated with Thaw for decades . . . not because he was the son of a Pittsburgh coal and railroad baron; not because he was heir to a multimillion-dollar mine and railroad fortune; not because he was plagued by mental illness since childhood;  not because he spent money lavishly to fund his obsessive partying, his drug addiction, his sexual appetite.

Image result for evelyn nesbit

I am fascinated by the wacko because of what gave him an historical legacy: On June 25, 1906, on the rooftop of Madison Square Garden, Thaw murdered renowned architect Stanford White, a partner of the firm McKim, Mead & White.

White had previously sexually assaulted Thaw’s wife, model/chorus girl Evelyn Nesbit, when she was 16.  During the opening-night performance of Mam’zelle Champagne, audience members noticed Thaw repeatedly glaring at White. Thaw eventually got up, crossed over to White’s seat and shot him point-blank while the show onstage was in the midst of a number titled “I Could Love a Million Girls”.

Keep in mind: Nesbit was considered the most beautiful and notorious woman of her day; she was one of artist Charles Dana Gibson’s “Gibson Girls”; fans showered her with $50 bills wrapped around stems of roses tossed at her feet. White kept a Fifth Avenue love nest, where he pushed her in a red velvet swing as she wore nothing but the jewels he gave her.

The trial of Thaw and its aftermath mesmerized the nation. Americans overwhelmingly supported Thaw–he had avenged his wife’s honor; what else mattered? But the district attorney, Travers Jerome, ferocious, brilliant, and unflappable, was determined to send Thaw to the electric chair.

Nesbit’s scandalous testimony, that White had drugged and raped her, caused a sensation. The president of the United States,  Theodore Roosevelt, wanted to prevent distribution of her verbatim
account by the newspapers; and Thaw’s appeal eventually went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. The murder of White cast a long shadow: Harry Thaw twice attempted suicide and Nesbit battled a cocaine addiction during her acting career in Hollywood in the ’20s.

This riveting story–the first scandal of the century–broke Victorian taboos, heralded a new understanding of sex and sexuality, and ushered in the modern era. Simon Baatz has dome a magnificent job chronicling, detailing and dishing out the sensational story in The Girl on the Red Velvet Swing: Sex, Murder, and Madness at the Dawn of the Twentieth Century (Mulholland Books, $29).

Image result for evelyn nesbitNow, for the first time, comes an authoritative account of the brutal rape of Nesbit by famed architect White, whose attack of Evelyn Nesbit should have been called rape. The penalty for rape in 1901 was severe, more severe than in 2017, a prison sentence of 20 years under brutal conditions in the state penitentiary with no possibility of parole. Public opinion in 1906 (after the murder of White) overwhelmingly condemned White as a pedophile and rapist. But over the years, to burnish White’s
reputation as an architect, the rape was whitewashed as a
“seduction.”

Baatz’s book is a fascinating true-crime story, a thrilling account based on exhaustive research in the newspapers of the day. In 1901, Evelyn Nesbit, 16, an artist’s model and aspiring actress, dined alone with Stanford White, 47, at White’s Manhattan townhouse. That evening they drank champagne and Evelyn lost consciousness. She awoke, naked in bed, White lying next to her, tell-tale spots of blood on the bedsheets.

Picture of
White’s grave

Four years later Evelyn married Harry Thaw, playboy millionaire. One evening, at a performance of the musical comedy Mam’zelle Champagne, Thaw shot and killed White before hundreds of theatregoers. The trial of Thaw and its aftermath mesmerized the nation. Americans overwhelmingly supported Thaw–he had avenged his wife’s honor; what else mattered? But the district attorney, Travers Jerome, ferocious, brilliant, and unflappable, was determined to send Thaw to the electric chair.

 

Another bio on Prince Harry shares royal secrets and insights into his life, loss and loves

Katie Nicholl, “with her authoritative research and access to royal confidantes”, promises to bring readers closer to Prince Harry “than ever before.” (Another bio by another royal expert: theentertainmentreport.org/prince-harry-gets-his-inside-story-told-twice-in-one-good-book-and-one-nasty-tabloid-ouch.)

From his earliest public appearances as a mischievous redheaded
toddler, Prince Harry has captured the hearts of royal enthusiasts
around the world. Now, with his marriage to actress Meghan Markle set for May 19, comes a new biography that offers rare insight into Harry’s personal life and how he fell in love with his future bride. In Harry: Life, Loss and Love (Hachette Books, $27), Nicholl offers an unprecedented look at everyone’s favorite prince. She sheds new light on growing up royal, Harry’s relationship with his mother, and his troubled youth and early adulthood. She also traces Harry’s transformation from a wayward royal rebel into the beloved people’s prince. With insights from her unrivaled sources, Nicholl delivers the inside scoop on the relationships, romances, and personal experiences that shaped him as a young man.

From the devastating loss of his mother, Princess Diana, at the age of 12, to Harry’s mental health struggles and his military service in Afghanistan, which ultimately inspired him to create his legacy, The
Invictus Games, Nicholl speaks to Harry’s friends, colleagues, and former flames to paint a compelling portrait of his life. The book also features fascinating insights into Harry’s romance with Markle, including stories of their secretive early meetings and how they kept their relationship hidden from the world. She brings the romance right up to date, covering their engagement day, their forthcoming wedding and their plans for the future.

The book includes a series of compelling full-color photos of Harry from boyhood until present day, Harry: Lee, Loss, and Love is an unprecedented, exclusive look at a prince who has captured the hearts of the world.

“Diving for Starfish” is a 14-karat mystery, wrapped among the rich and famous and 71 cabochon rubies and 241 amethysts

It’s a fascinating read, a sparkling mystery wrapped in the world of the super-rich and priceless jewels. Literally. In Diving for Starfish: The Jeweler, the Actress, the Heiress, and One of the World’s Most Alluring Pieces of Jewelry (St. Martin’s Press, 26.99), Cherie Burns takes readers on a search for a dazzling, elusive starfish pin—one of the most coveted pieces of jewelry in the world. 

Created in the early 1930’s by a young designer in the workroom of the famous Parisian jeweler Boivin, the starfish pin was distinctive because its five rays were articulated, meaning that they could curl and conform to the bustline or shoulder of the women who wore it. The House of Boivin crafted only three of these gold starfish, each one encrusted with 71 cabochon rubies and 241 small amethysts. The women who were able to capture the rare starfish were as fabulous as the pin itself.

Millicent Rogers, socialite and fashion icon, and Claudette Colbert, Hollywood leading lady, were two of the women adorned by one of the three pins that exist today. Obsessed with the pin after she saw it in the private showroom of a Manhattan jewelry merchant, Burns set off on a journey to find out all she could about the elusive pins and the women who owned them. Her search took her around the world to Paris, London, New York and Hollywood.

Image result for starfish pin colbert
Millicent Rogers wearing her starfish brooch.

Both a history of fine jewelry coming out of Paris in the Golden Age and a tour through the secretive world of high-end, privately-sold jewelry, Diving for Starfish is a stylish detective story with a glittering piece of jewelry and the equally dazzling women who loved them.