Tag Archives: Marilyn Monroe

Spend time with Babs Streisand gabbing while on her shrink’s couch

Looking to relax on the couch and read about Babs’ loves and lifestyle? Yearning to learn just what makes Mrs. James Brolin tick (and tock)?

The On the Couch series by Alma Bond, Ph.D. gives readers an opportunity to discover the “secret” lives of Marilyn, Hillary and Jackie O through the eyes of renowned New York psychoanalyst, Dr. Darcy Dale. According to the powers-that-be, “the fictionalized biographies provided a unique and revealing perspective of their lives.”

In Barbra Streisand: On the Couch  (Bancroft Press, $27.95), Bond captures the details found in other biographies dedicated to the life of Babs in a way that provides deep insight into her personality and character. Dr. Darcy Dale―a Madhattan psychiatrist whose expertise is confronted by Babs, dismayed after 30 years of minimally successful therapy.

Throughout a year, Dr. Dale conducts an intimate psychoanalysis, breaking through ego defense mechanisms, and repressions to go deep into the heart and mind of one of America’s last remaining superstars. Babs’ many dimensions come alive as we hear her story in her own words. She fluctuates between self-inflation and insecurity. She cracks wise. She becomes angry. She weeps. For better or worse, Dr. Dale sees her client in all of her raw, most human, aspects, giving readers unprecedented access to her pain and joy.

Babs is funny, a bit abrasive, but very intelligent. Bond provides interesting insights into what Barbra could have been thinking during pinnacle times in her life, and her state of mind from a psychoanalyst’s point of view. While this book is technically fiction, the facts themselves are all true. Only the thoughts and feelings attributed to Barbra are fictitious, along with the story of her “analysis.” Dr. Bond’s extensive research into the life of Streisand, along with her professional knowledge of psychology and her beautiful style of writing, give fans of Barbra’s work and her persona fresh insight into a complicated woman, making this biography “thoroughly enjoyable,” according to Kitty Kelley, who used to write unauthorized celeb bios about every three days.

The book contains no photographs (an obvious money/legal reason) but a slew of rather unattractive illustrations. Funny, girl.

 

A month of best books from Simon & Schuster . . . make the time!

Simon & Schuster’s literary line-up for May is a winner. Here are the best books to read and savor. You’ll even learn a few things!

The Broken Road (May 2, $19.99), the first book in a much-anticipated new trilogy by beloved storyteller Richard Paul Evans, is an engrossing, contemplative story of redemption and grace and the power of second chances. It is an epic journey you won’t soon forget. Chicago celebrity Charles James can’t shake the nightmare that wakes him each night. He sees himself walking down a long, broken highway the sides of which are lit in flames. Where is he going? Why is he walking? What is the wailing he hears around him? By day, he wonders why he’s so haunted and unhappy when he has all he ever wanted-fame, fans and fortune and the lavish lifestyle it affords him. Coming from a childhood of poverty and pain, this is what he’s dreamed of. But now, at the pinnacle of his career, he’s started to wonder if he’s wanted the wrong things.  Then a twist of fate changes everything. Charles is granted something very remarkable: a second chance. The question is: What will he do with it?

A timely and relevant look into America’s Doomsday preparedness, Garrett M. Graff’s Raven Rock: The Story of the U.S. Government’s Secret Plan to Save Itself—While the Rest of Us Die (May 2, $28) tracks the evolution of the government’s plan for surviving a catastrophic attack on U.S. soil.  The book provides the eye-opening truth about the multibillion-dollar Continuity of Government (COG) program. Used only once—on September 11th, 2001—this complex Doomsday machine still exists but remains out of sight: book coverIt shadows Presidents wherever they travel, tracks the whereabouts of congressional leaders hour by hour, and is ready to be unveiled at America’s darkest hour. Calling upon, for the first time, thousands of pages of recently declassified plans and White House documents, Raven Rock—which takes its name from the Pentagon’s sprawling secret 650-acre bunker complex in the Pennsylvania mountains—is equal parts a presidential, military, and cultural history.

At 27, Lauren Marks had everything she wanted in life: She was pursuing a PhD, she was an actress, a director, a voracious reader, had a dedicated boyfriend and a loving family, and was an extensive traveler. One night, while traveling in Scotland, Lauren suffered a sudden brain aneurysm. Although she was lucky to be alive, Lauren was left unable to write, speak or read. Her identity before the aneurysm now seemed to be crafted around a language she could no longer access, because of a diagnosis she couldn’t understand. A Stitch of Time:  The Year a Brain Injury Changed My Language and Life (May 2, $26) is Lauren’s gripping account of her recovery from the injury and her life with aphasia. Although an uncommon term, aphasia affects 1 in every 250 people, making it more common than Parkinson’s or M.S. Lauren’s loss of language is told through stories of her life before, during, and after aphasia, using the journals she actually kept while in recovery.

Dr. Rock Positano, an internationally renowned foot specialist in New York City, was introduced to Joe DiMaggio by the dean of New York sports writers, Bill Gallo, in 1990. During the time Dr. Positano successfully treated the Yankee Clipper, a friendship slowly developed. book coverThe stories and experiences he shared with Rock Positano comprise Dinners with DiMaggio: Memories of an American Hero (May 9, $26), an intimate portrait of one of the great stars of baseball and one of the icons of the twentieth century.

Similar to Saving Private Ryan in the way it reminds us of the strength of family in moments of unspeakable uncertainty, the difference with The Jersey Boys (May 9, $28) is that this story is true. A WWII saga like no other, the tome tells the story of Bill and Benny Mott—both Navy men—who embark on a complex rescue mission to save their youngest brother after he finds himself a POW in the Pacific.
What makes it even more remarkable is that Sally Mott Freeman is the daughter of one of the brothers, which adds a whole separate layer of intrigue and purpose to this important book.

Acclaimed journalists Tom Oliphant and Curtis Wilkie provide a behind-the-scenes, revelatory account of John F. Kennedy’s wily campaign to the White House with The Road to Camelot: Inside JFK’s Five-Year Campaign (May 9, $28). The most comprehensive account based on a depth of personal reporting, interviews and archives, the book reveals him as a tough, shrewd political strategist who kept his eye on the prize. JFK and his young warriors invented modern presidential politics. They turned over accepted wisdom that his Catholicism was a barrier to winning an election and plotted a successful course to that constituency. They twisted arms and they charmed. This is one of the great campaign stories of all time, appropriate for today’s political climate and the 100th anniversary of JFK’s birth.

From James Dodson comes a funny and nostalgic journey of self and sport in which the author completes his golfing “bucket list.” Dodson recently rediscovered a list titled “Things to Do in Golf” that he’d written when he was 13 years old. Realizing he had yet to complete the list, Dodson (now in his 60s) expanded the list into a golfing “bucket list” of the people and places he had yet to meet and see in the golf world. book coverFrom rounds with John Updike to intimate conversations with Arnold Palmer to scoring a memorable 13 on a hole at St. Andrews, The Range Bucket List (May 9, $25) is an exhilarating armchair adventure.

Many people recognize Sidney Blumenthal’s name as a journalist and political advisor, but what you may not know is he has been formidably building a major contribution to Lincoln scholarship that focuses on Lincoln’s political life. https://catalog.simonandschuster.com/Thumbnails/9781501153785.jpgWith Wrestling With His Angel:  The Political Life of Abraham Lincoln Vol. II, 1849-1856 (May 16, $35), Blumenthal vividly and insightfully describes the most decisive period of Lincoln’s political life—after losing re-election to the House of Representatives, Lincoln is exiled back to Illinois to practice law, where he helps create the Republican Party.

From Andrew Pyper, the internationally bestselling author of The Demonologist, comes a radical reimagining of literature’s most haunting protagonists, their most sinister traits found in one terrifying man. Straight from the canon of horror fictions like Frankenstein, Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and Dracula, the monster featured in The Only Child  (Maay 23, $25) tells Dr. Lily Dominick three things: That he is more than 200 years old, that he personally provided the inspiration for those three horror classics, and that he is her father. Fusing the page-turning tension of a first-rate thriller with a provocative take on where thrillers come from, The Only Child will keep you up until its last unforgettable revelation.

Holiday Gift Guide 2016: The Best Fox (as in 20th-Century) Finds

The laughs continue as one of television’s wittiest comedies returns for a hilarious fifth season–and its landmark 100th episode. Welcome to New Girl: The Complete Fifth Season. Although Jess (the brilliant Zooey Deschanel) and Nick (Jake Johnson) remain broken up, Schmidt and Cece (Max Greenfield and Hannah Simone) are headed down the aisle. Disaster arrives when the loft becomes an Airbnb, Schmidt’s bachelor party hits the road, and Cece’s judgmental mom shows up. Meanwhile, Jess lands a fantastic teaching gig, only to learn her boss is dating her ex, and Winston (Lamorne Morris) gets a great new girlfriend. Or does he? This series boasts fresh writing, standout performances and popular guest stars Henry Winkler, Julie Hagerty, Fred Armisen and Nasim Pedrad. New Girl simply does not get old.

Rebels, radicals, mavericks, and change makers. I Am Rebel is a documentary series about unfamiliar yet game-changing characters who prove that beneficial change can happen when you break the rules.

These stories are seemingly disparate, but they share a common thread–outsiders finding their voices in the underworlds of vice. Out of this darkness comes lightning bolts that lead to progress.

How outrageous can the animal kingdom get? Whether it’s out-of-bounds behavior or savage instincts run amok, when animals act out they’re a force to be reckoned with. From the mysterious depths of the deep blue sea to the jungle’s untamed edge, see just how rough, rowdy, and lawless Mother Nature’s most unruly creatures can be. Yes, the third season of Animals Gone Wild prove they do. And can.

For the first time, a human herd of Americans joins the great wildebeest migration across the Serengeti. They must use their expert survival skills to navigate without a map or compass–carrying limited food rations–and survive in the face of the world’s deadliest predators as they cross two hundred miles of brutal terrain. Do they have what it takes to reach the Mara River? We think future seasons of Myrations: Season One will be just as riveting.

From America’s coastline to exotic beaches around the world, the number of reported shark attacks has increased in the last half century. Many of the attacks are popping up in new and surprising locations. When Sharks Attack: Season Three investigates these terror-filled events, with underwater photography, compelling news archives, and gripping testimony exploring recent attacks to see what is affecting some of nature’s most feared fish.

Meet Dr. Michelle Oakley, vet to pretty much everything that moves in the Yukon. Follow the experienced veterinarian as she sees clients and makes house calls across thousands of square miles in the Yukon, helping animals big and small, wild and domestic, including an angry musk-ox,a caribou with a tumor, a defensive mama lynx, and a great grey owl with an amputated wing.  The (mis)adventures of Dr. Oakley Yukon Vet: Season Three! Accompanied by her teenage daughters and armed with humor as sharp as a scalpel, Dr. Oakley deftly juggles being a full-time vet, wife, and mother, while taking us across some of the most rugged and remote landscapes in
the world.

Starring Emmy nominees Rob Lowe and Fred Savage, The Grinder is a comedy about two brothers: Dean (Lowe) is a spotlight grabbing actor who plays TV’s most popular lawyer, and Stewart (Savage) is a real-life, small-town attorney who has yet to find his spotlight. When Dean’s series is cancelled, he moves back to his hometown where it doesn’t take long before he’s inserting himself into every aspect of Stewart’s life, both in the courtroom and at home. But when the brothers stop arguing with each other, and start arguing together in court, they make a formidable team. Sort of.

If the plot sounds familiar–a Broadway producer Bill and his actress-wife Julie, unable to have children, find an imaginative orphaned girl and decide to adopt her–the 1946 gem Sentimental Journey was remade in 1958 as The Gift of Love starring Lauren Bacall and Robert Stack.

The original stars Maureen O’Hara and John Payne.  A nostalgic valentine from Fox’s vaults. This and the following are goodies from the Fox Cinema Archives.

Maureen O’Hara return in the treasure Sitting Pretty, a 1948 comedy film which tells the story of a family who hires a man, Lynn Belvedere, with a mysterious past to babysit their children. It stars Robert Young, Maureen O’Hara and Clifton Webb. So popular was the character of Belvedere, Webb reprised his role in two more movies: Mr. Belvedere Goes to College (1949) and Mr. Belvedere Rings the Bell (1951).  Some trivia: Photographer Loomis Dean visited the set to photograph the filming for Life magazine and photographed Webb together with then unknown actress Marilyn Monroe, who does not appear in the film. And get this! This is one of few films Webb made where he dances.

Webb and Bacall resurface in the 1954 comedy Woman’s World, a subtle comedy with feminist overtones. Webb plays Gifford, an executive with a large automobile manufacturer who is having trouble deciding who to hire as his chief sales manager. His three candidates are equally competent, so he brings their wives with them to New York headquarters, planning to hire the one whose wife is most suited to be an executive’s wife. The cast is super: There’s Cornel Wilde, June Allyson,  Van Heflin,  Arlene Dah, even underrated Margalo Gillmore! Funny stuff.

Set at the turn of the century, smooth talking con man Eddie Johnson weasels his way into a job at friend and rival Joe Rocco’s Coney Island night spot. Eddie meets the club’s star attraction (and Joe’s love interest), Kate Farley, a brash singer with a penchant for flashy clothes. Eddie and Kate argue as he tries to soften her image. Eventually, Kate becomes the toast of Coney Island and the two fall in love. Joe then tries to sabotage their marriage plans.

A great score, a gorgeous Betty Grable and a warning. Fifteen seconds into the film there’s a character in blackface; later there is an entire musical number in blackface.  And, yikes!, the finale has a number in blackface.

Fritz Lang directed a western? No, he also  directed The Return of Frank James (1940). Western Union is a 1941 Western film starring Robert Young, Randolph Scott, and Dean Jagger. Filmed in Technicolor on location in Arizona and Utah, the flick’s about a reformed outlaw who tries to make good by joining the team wiring the Great Plains for telegraph service in 1861. Conflicts arise between the man and his former gang, as well as between the team stringing the wires and the Native Americans through whose land the new lines must run. In this regard, the film is not historically accurate; the installation of telegraph wires was met with protest from no one. The film is based on the novel Western Union by Zane Grey, although there are significant differences between the two plots.

 

Holiday Gift Guide 2016: The Year’s Best Celebrity (Auto)Biographies (Part Two)

In Such Good Company (Crown Archetype, $28), Carol Burnett pulls back the curtain on the 25-time Emmy-Award winning show that made television history, and she reminisces about the outrageously funny and tender moments that made working on the series as much fun as watching it. Carol delves into little-known stories of the guests, sketches and improvisations that made The Carol Burnett Show legendary, as well as some favorite tales too good not to relive again. While writing this book, Carol rewatched all 276 episodes and screen-grabbed her favorite video stills from the archives to illustrate the chemistry of the actors and the improvisational magic that made the show so successful. This book is Carol’s love letter to a golden era in television history through the lens of her brilliant show. Get the best seat in the house for “eleven years of laughter, mayhem, and fun in the sandbox.”

Grammy and Academy Award–winning songwriter Carole Bayer Sager shares the remarkably frank and darkly funny story of her life in and out of the recording studio, from her fascinating (and sometimes calamitous) relationships to her collaborations with some of the greatest composers and musical artists of our time. While her professional life was filled with success and fascinating people, her personal life was far more difficult and dramatic.
In They’re Playing Our Song (Simon & Schuster, $28), Sager tells the surprisingly frank and darkly humorous story of a woman whose sometimes crippling fears and devastating relationships inspired many of the songs she would ultimately write. The book will fascinate anyone interested in the craft of songwriting and the joy of collaboration, but Sager’s memoir is also a deeply personal account of how love and heartbreak made her the woman, and the writer, she is.

Seventeen-time all-star; scorer of 81 points in a game; MVP and a shooting guard second only to Jordan in league history: Kobe Bryant is one of basketball’s absolute greatest players, a fascinating and complicated character who knew when he was a mere boy that he would be better than Jordan on the court. The debate about whether he achieved that is a furious one–but Kobe has surpassed Jordan on the all-time scoring list and has only one less championship than Jordan (5 to Jordan’s 6). He is set to retire after the 2015/16 season, just in time for Roland Lazenby’s Showboat: The Life of Kobe Bryant (Little, Brown and Company, $32) Provocative stories mixed with good old-fashioned basketball reporting make for a riveting and essential read for any hoops fan.

She inspired songs—Leon Russell wrote “A Song for You” and “Delta Lady” for her, Stephen Stills wrote “Cherokee.” She co-wrote songs—“Superstar” and the piano coda to “Layla,” uncredited. She sang backup for Eric Clapton, Joe Cocker, and Stills, before finding fame as a solo artist with such hits as “We’re All Alone” and “(Your Love Has Lifted Me) Higher and Higher.” Following her story from Lafayette, Tennessee to becoming one of the most sought after rock vocalists in LA in the ’70s, Delta Lady (Harper, $25.99) chronicles Rita Coolidge’s fascinating journey throughout the ’60s-’70s pop/rock universe. A muse to some of the twentieth century’s most influential rock musicians, she broke hearts, Delta Lady is a rich, deeply personal memoir that offers a front row seat to an iconic era, and illuminates the life of an artist whose career has helped shape modern American culture.

Call her a woman of letters. Mary Astor detailed her marital affairs as well as the many, many, many dalliances of some of Hollywood’s biggest names. The studio heads, longtime controllers of public perception, were desperate to keep such juicy details from leaking.  With the complete support of the Astor family and unlimited access to the Mary Astor estate, Joseph Egan has painted a portrait of a great film actress in her most challenging role; an unwilling but determined mother battling for her daughter regardless of the harm that her affairs and her most intimate secrets would do to her career, the careers of her friends, or even Hollywood. The Purple Diaries: Mary Astor and the Most Sensational Hollywood Scandal of the 1930s ( Diversion Publishing, $16.99) is a look at Hollywood’s Golden Age as it has never been seen before, as Egan spins a wildly absorbing yarn about a scandal that threatened to tarnish forever the dream factory known as Hollywood.

“Casanova” is a synonym for “great lover,” Over the course of his lifetime, he claimed to have seduced more than 100 women, among them married women, young women in convents, girls just barely in their teens, and in one notorious instance, his own illegitimate daughter. Yet the real story of this remarkable figure is little known. He was intellectually curious and read forbidden books, for which he was jailed. He staged a dramatic escape from Venice’s notorious prison, the only person known to have done so. He then fled to France, where he invented the national lottery that still exists to this day. He crisscrossed Europe, landing for a while in St. Petersburg, where he was admitted to the court of Catherine the Great. He corresponded with Voltaire and met Mozart and Lorenzo da Ponte, assisting them as they composed the timeless opera Don Giovanni. A figure straight out of a Henry Fielding novel: Erotic, brilliant, impulsive, and desperate for recognition, Casanova was a self-destructive genius. Casanova: The World of a Seductive Genius (Simon & Schuster, $32.50) is a witty, roisterous biography exposes his astonishing life in rich, intimate detail.

The curtain has gone up on the complete memoirs of playwright Neil Simon, now with a new introduction and afterword. Neil Simon’s Memoirs (Simon & Schuster, $35) combines Simon’s two memoirs, Rewrites and The Play Goes On, into one volume that spans his extraordinary five-decade career in theater, television and film. Rewrites takes Simon through his first love, his first play, and his first brush with failure. One touching section is as he describes his marriage to his beloved wife Joan, and writes lucidly about the pain of losing her to cancer. The Play Goes On adds to his life’s story, as he wins the Pulitzer Prize and reflects with humor and insight on his tumultuous life and meteoric career.
Now, with the whole story in one place, Neil Simon’s collected memoirs trace the history of modern entertainment over the last fifty years through the eyes of a man who started life the son of a garment salesman and became the greatest—and most successful—American playwright of all time.

Claude Monet is perhaps the world’s most beloved artist, and among all his creations, the paintings of the water lilies in his garden at Giverny are most famous. Monet intended them to provide an asylum of peaceful meditation. Yet, as Ross King reveals in Mad Enchantment (Bloomsbury, $30), his magisterial chronicle of both artist and masterpiece, these beautiful canvases belie the intense frustration Monet experienced at the difficulties of capturing the fugitive effects of light, water and color. They also reflect the terrible personal torments Monet suffered in the last dozen years of his life. The book tells the full story behind the creation of the “Water Lilies,” as the horrors of World War I came ever closer to Paris and Giverny, and a new generation of younger artists, led by Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso, were challenging the achievements of Impressionism.

It’s widely known that Oscar Wilde was precociously intellectual, flamboyant and hedonistic—but lesser so that he owed these characteristics to his parents. Oscar’s mother, Lady Jane Wilde, rose to prominence as a political journalist, advocating a rebellion against colonialism in 1848. She opened a salon and was known as the most scintillating hostess of her day. She passed on her infectious delight in the art of living to Oscar, who drank it in greedily. His father, Sir William Wilde, was acutely conscious of injustices of the social order. But Sir William was also a philanderer, and when he stood accused of sexually assaulting a young female patient, the scandal and trial sent shockwaves through Dublin society. As for Oscar, the one role that didn’t suit him was that of Victorian husband, as his wife, Constance, was to discover.  In a major repositioning of our first modern celebrity, The Fall of the House of Wilde (Bloomsbury, $35) identifies Oscar Wilde as a member of one of the most dazzling Irish American families of Victorian times, and places him in the broader social, political, and religious context.

He’s best known for his wistful movie scores, with “You’ve Got a Friend in Me,” from the Toy Story soundtrack leading the pack. He’s been nominated for 20 Academy Awards, and has twice won Oscars for Best Original Song. But Randy Newman was also a quintessentially American pop powerhouse before he turned his formidable talents to scoring films. A songwriter since the age of 17, his earliest compositions were recorded by ’60s luminaries like The Fleetwoods, Gene Pitney, Jackie DeShannon and the O’Jays. Yet very little has been written about his personal life, including his marriages and his diagnosis with Epstein-Barr virus. Maybe I’m Doing It Wrong: The Life of Randy Newman (Overlook, $28.95) is a primer for newcomers to his work and a rewarding handbook for the aficionado.

Yes, it’s her, again. Her Again: Becoming Meryl Streep (Harper, $26.99) explores her beginnings as a young woman of the ’70s grappling with love, feminism and her astonishing talent. Michael Schulman brings into focus Meryl’s heady rise to stardom on the New York stage; her passionate, tragically short-lived love affair with actor John Cazale; her marriage to sculptor Don Gummer; and her evolution as a young woman of the 1970s wrestling with changing ideas of feminism, marriage, love, and sacrifice.Featuring eight pages of black-and-white photos, this captivating story of the making of one of the most revered artistic careers of our time reveals a gifted young woman coming into her extraordinary talents at a time of immense transformation, offering a rare glimpse into the life of the actress long before she became an icon.

Mary Martin was one of the greatest stars of her day. Growing up in Texas, she was married early to Benjamin Hagman and gave birth to her first child, Larry Hagman. She didn’t make a dent in the movie industry and was lured to New York where she found herself auditioning for Cole Porter and his new show “Leave It to Me!”. After she sang the bawdy “My Heart Belongs to Daddy”, she ended up on the cover of Life magazine. Six years later, she became the Toast of Broadway. Her personal life was just as interesting: In NYC, she met and married Richard Halliday, a closeted upper-class homosexual who adored her and interior decorating. There were rumors about Martin, too, being in a lesbian relationship with both Janet Gaynor and Jean Arthur.  Savor the stuff in David Kaufman’s Some Enchanted Evenings (St. Martin’s Press, $29.99)

Still known to millions primarily as the author of The Lottery, Shirley Jackson has been curiously absent from the mainstream American literary canon. A genius of literary suspense and psychological horror, Jackson plumbed the cultural anxiety of postwar America more deeply than anyone. Now, biographer Ruth Franklin reveals the tumultuous life and inner darkness of the author in Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life (Liveright, $35). Placing Jackson within an American Gothic tradition that stretches back to Hawthorne and Poe, Franklin demonstrates how her unique contribution to this genre came from her focus on “domestic horror.” Based on a wealth of previously undiscovered correspondence and dozens of new interviews, the tome―an exploration of astonishing talent shaped by a damaging childhood and turbulent marriage―becomes the definitive biography of a generational avatar and an American literary giant.

On May 25, 1977, a problem-plagued, budget-straining, independent science-fiction film opened in a mere thirty-two American movie theatres. Conceived, written and directed by a little-known filmmaker named George Lucas, Star Wars reinvented the cinematic landscape, ushering in a new way for movies to be made, marketed, and merchandised. And if that wasn’t game-changing enough, Lucas went on to create another blockbuster series with “Indiana Jones,” and completely revolutionized the world of special effects, not to mention sound systems. His work and legacy have led to a rash of innovation and democratization in film and television. Brian Jay Jones does a splendid job detailing Lucas’ fame and fortune in George Lucas: A Life (Little, Brown and Company, $32).

Why were Americans so attracted to John F. Kennedy in the late ‘50s and early ’60s . . . was it is glamorous image, good looks, cool style, tough-minded rhetoric and sex appeal? As Steve Watts argues in JFK and the Masculine Mystique: Sex and Power on the New Frontier (Thomas Dunne Books, $29.99), JFK was tailor made for the cultural atmosphere of his time. He benefited from a crisis of manhood that had welled up in postwar America when men had become ensnared by bureaucracy, softened by suburban comfort, and emasculated by a generation of newly aggressive women.  By examining Kennedy in the context of certain books, movies, social critiques, music, and cultural discussions that framed his ascendancy, Watts shows us the excitement and sense of possibility, the optimism and aspirations that accompanied the dawn of a new age in America.

For too long Tippi Hedren’s story has been told by others through whispered gossip and tabloid headlines. In Tippi: A Memoir (William Morrow, $28.99), she sets the record straight, recalling how a young and virtuous Lutheran girl from small-town Minnesota became a worldwide legend as one of the most famous Hitchcock girls, as an unwavering animal activist, and as the matriarch of a powerful Hollywood dynasty that includes her movie star daughter Melanie Griffith, and rising star Dakota Johnson, her granddaughter. Hedren digs deep into her complicated relationship with the man who discovered her talent, director Alfred Hitchcock, the benefactor who would become a repulsive and controlling director who contractually controlled her every move. She speaks openly about the dark pain she endured working with him on their most famous collaborations, The Birds and Marnie. Filled with 16 pages of beautiful photos, Tippi is a rare and fascinating look at a private woman s remarkable life no celebrity aficionado can miss.

In a career that has spanned more than 60 years, Robert Wagner has witnessed the twilight of the Golden Age of Hollywood and the rise of television, becoming a beloved star in both media. During that time he became acquainted, both professionally and socially, with the remarkable women who were the greatest screen personalities of their day. I Loved Her in the Movies (Viking, $tk) is his intimate and revealing account of the charisma of these women on film, why they became stars, and how their specific emotional and dramatic chemistries affected the choices they made as actresses as well as the choices they made as women. Among Wagner’s subjects are Joan Crawford, Bette Davis, Marilyn Monroe, Gloria Swanson, Norma Shearer, Loretta Young, Joan Blondell, Irene Dunne, Rosalind Russell, Dorothy Lamour, Debra Paget, Jean Peters, Linda Darnell, Betty Hutton, Raquel Welch, Glenn Close, and the two actresses whom he ultimately married, Natalie Wood and Jill St. John.  As fun and entertaining as RJ himself.

Was it magic? In Presto!: How I Made Over 100 Pounds Disappear and Other Magical Tales (Simon & Schuster, $26),  Penn Jillette tells how he lost 100 pounds with his trademark outrageous sense of humor and biting social commentary that makes this success story anything but ordinary.  Topping 330 pounds and saddled with a systolic blood pressure reading over 200, he knew he was at a dangerous crossroads: If he wanted to see his small children grow up, he needed to change. And then came a former NASA scientist and an unconventional innovator, Ray Cronise, who saved Penn Jillette’s life with his wild “potato diet.” Penn describes the process in hilarious detail, as he performs his Las Vegas show, takes meetings with Hollywood executives, hangs out with his celebrity friends and fellow eccentric performers, all while remaining a dedicated husband and father. Presto is an incisive, rollicking read.

We have never forgiven Maggie Smith for stealing Liza Minnelli’s Oscar (look it up), but Michael Coveney’s biography shines a light on the life and career of a truly remarkable performer, one whose stage and screen career spans six decades. From her days as a West End star of comedy and revue, Dame Maggie’s path would cross with those of the greatest actors, playwrights, and directors of the era. Whether stealing scenes from Richard Burton, answering back to Laurence Olivier, or playing opposite Judi Dench in Breath of Life, her career can be seen as a “Who’s Who” of British theater. The book, written with the actress’ blessing and drawing on personal archives as well as interviews with immediate family and close friends, is a portrait of one of the greatest actors of our time.

Born a Crime: Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood (Spiegel & Grau, $28) is the story of a mischievous young boy who grows into a restless young man as he struggles to find himself in a world where he was never supposed to exist. It is also the story of that young man’s relationship with his fearless, rebellious, and fervently religious mother—his teammate, a woman determined to save her son from the cycle of poverty, violence, and abuse that would ultimately threaten her own life. His name is Trevor Noah. The stories collected here are by turns hilarious, dramatic, and deeply affecting. Whether subsisting on caterpillars for dinner during hard times, being thrown from a moving car during an attempted kidnapping, or just trying to survive the life-and-death pitfalls of dating in high school, Trevor illuminates his curious world with an incisive wit and unflinching honesty.

Felix and Oscar? No way. The oddest couple was Michael Jackson and Elizabeth Taylor. Donald Bogle skillfully recreates the moving narrative of Taylor and Jackson’s experiences together and their intense emotional connection, without shying away from the controversies that swirled around them. Through interviews with friends and acquaintances of the two stars, as well as anonymous but credible sources, Elizabeth and Michael: The Queen of Hollywood and the King of Pop―A Love Story (Atria, $26) emerges as a tender, intimate look at this famous odd couple and a treasure to their millions of fans.

The first book from Ruth Bader Ginsburg since becoming a Supreme Court Justice in 1993—a witty, engaging, serious, and playful collection of writings and speeches from the woman who has had a powerful and enduring influence on law, women’s rights, and popular culture. My Own Words (Simon & Schuster, $30) offers Justice Ginsburg on wide-ranging topics, including gender equality, the workways of the Supreme Court, being Jewish, law and lawyers in opera, and the value of looking beyond US shores when interpreting the US Constitution. Throughout her life Justice Ginsburg has been (and continues to be) a prolific writer and public speaker.

In 2009, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band performed at the Super Bowl’s halftime show. The experience was so exhilarating that Bruce decided to write about it. That’s how this extraordinary autobiography began. Over the past seven years, Bruce Springsteen has privately devoted himself to writing the story of his life, bringing to these pages the same honesty, humor and originality found in his songs. Born to Run (Simon & Schuster, $32.50) will be revelatory for anyone who has ever enjoyed Bruce Springsteen, but this book is much more than a legendary rock star’s memoir. This is a book for workers and dreamers, parents and children, lovers and loners, artists, freaks, or anyone who has ever wanted to be baptized in the holy river of rock and roll.

Unlike The Boss, Stephen Foster still has no (real, true) fame. The subtitle of a new bio,  The Life and Songs of Stephen Foster: A Revealing Portrait of the Forgotten Man Behind “Swanee River,” “Beautiful Dreamer,” and “My Old Kentucky Home”  (9Rowman & Littlefield, $45) says it all. He died in poverty, in New York’s Bellevue Hospital, three days after falling in his Bowery bathroom and severely cutting his throat on the broken basin. His last words? “I’m done for.” A friend found his alcohol-ravaged body at the local morgue, a body whose purse contained 38 cents and a scrap of paper on which the words “dear friends and gentle hearts” were written . . . possibly the opening line to a new song.

Cerphe’s Up:  A Musical Life with Bruce Springsteen, Little Feat, Frank Zappa, Tom Waits, CSNY, and Many More (Carrel Books, $34.99) is an incisive musical memoir by Cerphe Colwell, a renowned rock radio broadcaster for more than forty-five years in Washington, DC. Cerphe shares his life as a rock radio insider in rich detail and previously unpublished photographs. His story includes promotion and friendship with a young unknown Bruce Springsteen; his years at radio station WHFS 102.3 as it blossomed in a new free-form format; hanging out with George Harrison, the Rolling Stones, Van Morrison, John Entwistle, Jackson Browne, and many more; testifying on Capitol Hill with friend Frank Zappa during the “Porn Rock” hearings; and managing the radio syndication of both G. Gordon Liddy and Howard Stern.

In 2015, the U.S. women’s national soccer team won its first FIFA championship in 16 years, culminating in an epic final game that electified soccer fans around the world. It also featured a gutsy, brilliant performance by team captain and midfielder Carli Lloyd, who made history that day, scoring a hat trick—three goals in one game—during the first 16 minutes. But there was a time when Carli almost quit the sport. In 2003 she was struggling, her soccer career at a crossroads. What Carli lacked were fitness, mental toughness and character. Despite all the naysayers, the times she was benched, moments when her self-confidence took a nosedive, she succeeded in becoming one of the best in the world. The candid When Nobody Was Watching: My Hard-Fought Journey to the Top of the Soccer World (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $26) candid reflection on a remarkable turnaround will take readers inside the women’s national team and inside the head of an athlete who willed herself to perform at the highest levels of competition.

To have been alive during the last 60 years is to have lived with the music of Paul Simon. The boy from Queens scored his first hit record in 1957, just months after Elvis Presley ignited the rock era. As the songwriting half of Simon & Garfunkel, his work helped define the youth movement of the ’60s. On his own in the ’70s, Simon made radio-dominating hits. He kicked off the ’80s by reuniting with Garfunkel to perform for half a million New Yorkers in Central Park. Five years later, Simon’s album “Graceland” sold millions and spurred an international political controversy. And it doesn’t stop there. Peter Ames Carlin’s Homeward Bound: The Life of Paul Simon  (Henry Holt, $32) is a revelatory account of the life of beloved American music icon, a story replete with tales of Carrie Fisher, Leonard Bernstein, Bob Dylan, Woody Allen, Shelley Duvall, Nelson Mandela, drugs, depression, marriage, divorce and more.

Taking a fresh (and often funny) look at “Movie Comedians of the 1950s”

We’ll make it fast. Wes D. Gehring makes it funny.

With his new book Movie Comedians of the 1950sDefining a New Era of Big Screen Comedy (McFarland, $39.95), Gehring takes a detailed look at just how the ’50s were a transitional period for film comedians; for example, the artistic suppression of the McCarthy era and the advent of television often resulted in a dumbing down of motion pictures. Cartoonist-turned-director Frank Tashlin contributed funny, but cartoonish, effects through his work with Jerry Lewis and Bob Hope. A new vanguard of comedians appeared without the stock comic garb or make-up-fresh faces not easily pigeonholed as merely comedians, such as Tony Randall, Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis. Some traditional comedians, like Charlie Chaplin, Red Skelton and Danny Kaye, continued their shtick, though with some evident tweaking.

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The book provides insight into a misunderstood decade of film history with an examination of the “personality comedians.” The talents of  Martin and  Hope are reappraised and the “dumb blonde” stereotype, as applied to Judy Holliday and Marilyn Monroe, is deconstructed.

“Beyond a general revisionist look at 1950s film comedy, the goals of the work were to knock down Lewis’ perspective that Martin was just a straight man, to undercut the dumb blonde stereotype, and to examine game-changing TV, often via the neglected Frank Tashlin” says Gehring. “I really think I provided important new insight on Tashlin by reading his films through his children’s books.”

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The underrated Holliday. Begin a new chapter in your film fandom and read about her genius.
Those born yesterday and the some who like it hot will enjoy the the introductions to the funny girls and boys.

“American Masters” celebrates its 30th anniversary with the launch of “In Their Own Words: The American Masters Digital Archive”

Everything old is new again. And in the case of THIRTEEN’s American Masters, the old is very new and very special. The series made in debut in 1986 on PBS with Private Conversations: On the Set of “Death of a Salesman, a cinéma vérité documentary about the making of Arthur Miller’s masterpiece for network television, and its stars Dustin Hoffman and John Malkovich.

Today, American Masters celebrates its 30th anniversary with the launch of In Their Own Words: The American Masters Digital Archive and the American Masters Podcast, featuring previously unreleased interviews filmed for the documentary series: 2,156 tapes, approximately 1,388 digitized hours, 800-plus interviews and counting.

A selection of short-form videos showcasing interviews with David Bowie, Gloria Steinem, Herbie Hancock, Bernadette Peters, Mike Nichols and other luminaries discussing America’s most enduring artistic and cultural giants are available now on the American Masters website (pbs.org/americanmasters). New videos will be released on an ongoing basis as the archive is digitized.

The American Masters Podcast, hosted by series executive producer Michael Kantor, will feature long-form interviews from In Their Own Words. The first season, “Women on Women,” presents interviews with influential women discussing women cultural icons. Episode one features Gloria Steinem in conversation with the late, multiple Emmy-winning filmmaker Gail Levin taking a critical look at the life and career of Marilyn Monroe from 2006’s American Masters Marilyn: Still Life. New episodes will be released biweekly on the American Masters website, iTunes, Soundcloud and Stitcher.

All full-length, digitized interviews will be archived by the American Archive of Public Broadcasting (AAPB), a collaboration between WGBH and the Library of Congress to preserve and make accessible significant historical content created by public media.
“I’m thrilled that the National Endowment for the Arts has provided major funding to get this project off the ground so we can finally share gems from the cutting room floor with the public,” says Michael Kantor, executive producer of American Masters. “Series creator Susan Lacy built a rich library of more than 200 documentary films, which is a treasure trove of American arts, culture and intellect, and the amazing interviews that informed these films are largely unseen. While we are still seeking funds to create a comprehensive, interactive digital archive website, we are confident that In Their Own Words and the American Masters Podcast will inspire and entertain a broad audience both today and in the future.”
Here, A gem of Betty White chatting about her (and my) pal Carol Burnett.