Few laughs here from television-comedy titan Caesar--as he recalls his career (with a rich, informative section on the...



Few laughs here from television-comedy titan Caesar--as he recalls his career (with a rich, informative section on the creation of those legendary TV shows) but concentrates on his lifelong problems with guilt, rage, insecurity, alcoholism, pill addiction, and therapy. Caesar traces his problems back, more or less, to his Yonkers, immigrant-Jewish childhood: papa Max was defeated by the Depression, so Sid would always feel guilty about success; both parents were often absent, busy at their luncheonette; and brother Dave, it seems, was a blithely cruel babysitter. So young Sid, stumbling into early triumph as the comic in Coast Guard musical revues (with help from composer-pal Vernon Duke and Max Liebman, ""the Great Ziegfeld of the Borscht Circuit""), couldn't handle the fame and money that came with B'way's Make Mine Manhattan. Despite constant support from wife Florence, he started drinking: all through the years of the supremely popular Your Show of Shows and Caesar's Hour, there were nightly drunks, frequent violent tantrums, occasional blackouts. Psychoanalysis provided only a little help. And when Caesar's Hour was cancelled in 1958, massive depression and paranoia set in--""I was being punished""--though Caesar managed to wow B'way with 1961's Little Me, ""'The Last Hurrah' of my glory days."" The next 15 years or so are a sad blur, then--up to 1978, when total breakdown on the dinner-theater circuit finally forced Caesar to hospitalize himself, dry out, to slowly achieve stability via a Jungian form of self-analysis-with-tape-recorder (long excerpts from the tapes are included). And so now, at last, Caesar knows that ""I didn't deserve self-punishment . . . that there were many good reasons to like myself"": he can control his behavior, has forged new links with his family, is rebuilding his creative career. A sincere, depressing (despite the outcome), generous, yet only very occasionally appealing memoir--with interpolated testimony from friends and family; still, while not really inspiring as a tale of recovery, there's enough TV-comedy detail here (writing sessions with Mel Brooks et al.) to engage many of Sid's passionate fans from the Fifties.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1982


Page Count: -

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1982

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