The hilariously juicy memoir of a successful novelist, playwright and screenwriter.
Though the hoopla of his literary career is in repose (“the lights dimming a bit”) Friedman (Three Balconies, 2008) is happy to share the grand ascent of his longstanding writing career. The son of a fashionable father and a pretty, theatergoing mother, the author often lost himself in movies and books, sparking an early fascination with media, a journalism degree and two years at a military magazine while in the Air Force in 1951. Friedman penned a “blatantly autobiographical” first story and boldly submitted it to the New Yorker, which “manicured” the prose and published it. While serving as the executive editor of several male-focused publications in 1954, he met and married model Ginger Howard and started a family. Crafted in just five months, his black-comedy breakout novel Stern was published years later while his marriage cracked. In literary circles, the author fondly remembers befriending Joseph Heller, but it was Mario Puzo who curiously wanted Friedman’s opinion on an organized-crime novel he was “moon-lighting.” In between awkwardly hobnobbing in Los Angeles and schmoozing at Elaine’s celebrity-laden Upper East Side enclave, Friedman hit the jackpot with several hit stage plays (Scuba Duba), box-office smashes (Splash, Stir Crazy) and a role in a Woody Allen movie. Whether inadvertently snubbing Marlene Dietrich, chauffeuring Natalie Wood or fist-fighting with Norman Mailer, there are plenty of stories here to solidify Friedman’s ranking as a supreme satirist. Readers with a taste for sensationalistic old Hollywood will particularly enjoy his not-so-casual namedropping, which serves the memoir’s chatty tone well.
A life story that consistently charms with candor and the seasoned wit of a master storyteller who’s certainly been around the block.