Doesn’t it make you miss the early ’90s heyday of the Supermodel? Christy, Linda, Naomi, where are you? Fashion seemed more “real” back then, and the industry didn’t need an anorexic trainwreck like Lindsay Lohan to help sell their wares. Another thing: the Todd Oldham of MTV House of Style was so much more fun and appealing than the waxy looking, monotonous creature currently hosting Bravo’s Top Design. The mag of record back then was the Liz Tiberis-edited, Fabien Baron-designed Harpers Bazaar, but that turned out to be a blip of brilliance in an otherwise vapid marketplace. It was an “anything goes” time that made you think of the creative possibilities. Okay, I think I’m done being nostalgic for now.
Locally, we have a huge yearly used book sale handled by a local charitable organization every February. Me and Christopher always make a point of going, not only since we love books but also because they hold it only steps away from our home. After waiting outside for an hour, we finally got in and immediately dived into the arts/entertainment and biography sections. We spent four hours there, and I never even got to look at the other sections! Here’s what I came away with. All of these books were a dollar each, unless otherwise noted:
From Rags to Bitches: An Autobiography by Mr. Blackwell (1995). An interesting looking impulse buy. When I brought it home, I discovered it was inscribed from the author: “Judy, enjoy the ‘book’. Love, Mr. Blackwell.” Why he used quotes around the word “book”, we’ll never know.
Girl Singer: An Autobiography by Rosemary Clooney (1999) Normally I tend to prefer bios over autobios, but this one got a lot of favorable reviews for Ms. Clooney’s candidness and warm writing style. Though I don’t favor her kind of music much, the lady appears to have lived a turbulent, fascinating life.
My Way of Life by Joan Crawford (1970) We had a copy of this camp classic which we sold on eBay a few years back. It’s a hoot. Miss Crawford writes this “how to” manual as if it were still 1933 and her millions of fans eagerly await her take on ettiquette, fashion, etc. I especially love the part on how to pack a suitcase, illustrated with pics of Crawford’s maid arranging clothing on her bed!
Arlene Francis: A Memoir by Arlene Francis (1978) .Entering the sale, I told C.: “If Arlene Francis wrote a memoir, I want it.” Sure enough, I came across this one near the end of the day, tucked away in a box on the floor. I’m a What’s My Line nut who’s already read the WML chapter in Bennet Cerf’s book. Can’t wait to find out the lovely Ms. Francis’ recollections. In addition to game shows, Francis was a stage and screen actress and a sparkling television personality.
Becoming Mae West by Emily Wortis Leider (1997). I like bios that don’t follow a simple bio formula, so this one looked more intriguing than usual (although the reviews at Amazon have not been kind).
Leonard Maltin’s 2004 Movie & Video Guide (2004). To replace the dog-eared 1996 edition I’ve had for a decade.
Hollywood Sings! An Inside Look at Sixty Years of Academy Award Nominated Songs by Susan Sackett ($2; 1995). I stayed up past midnight reading many of the delicious tidbits in this book. It’s surprising how many long-forgotten duds of a song have received an Oscar nom in the past.
Turn the Beat Around: The Secret History of Disco by Peter Shapiro ($2; 2005). Also looks totally fascinating, with a nicely annotated discography in the back.
The Years with Ross by James Thurber ($2; 1959). Christopher bought this for me, another New Yorker saga. Although Harold Ross’ biographer said this book is very slanted, making Ross look like a country bumpkin idiot, I’d like to give it a try. Plus the 1950s gold plated binding is beautiful.
Completely unrelated: Ken Jennings blogs on his experience guesting on NBC’s 1 vs. 100. Interesting reading with Jennings pointing out the obvious shortcomings of the show. I watched one and only one installment. Cool set, nice concept, non-engaging gameplay, unbelievably stupid questions. A Television Without Pity forum poster accurately desribed the show as “Jeopardy with a lobotomy”.