LOU'S ON FIRST: A Biography of Lou Costello by Chris with Raymond Strait Costello

LOU'S ON FIRST: A Biography of Lou Costello

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Distressed by Bob Thomas' 1977 Bud and Lou (and a subsequent TV movie), Lou Costello's youngest daughter Chris sets out to make it clear that the Lou portrayed therein--temperamental, moody-- was a) not the whole story, and b) very different from the Lou before his only son drowned as a baby in a 1943 pool accident. So there are lots of domestic anecdotes here, plus long quotes from friends and colleagues--about Lou's pre-drowning cheerfulness, his lifelong generosities, his devotion to his kids, etc. Otherwise, however, there's little of substance that wasn't in the Thomas book--from vaudeville beginnings to Kate Smith's radio show to a Broadway revue to Hollywood and television. To her credit, Costello does not shy away from her mother's alcoholism--which was aggravated by Lou's silent blaming of her for the baby's death, by Lou's interfering family, by the movie-star's-wife syndrome (""Truly, she was the best dressed, most bejeweled lonely woman in Hollywood""). Lou's gambling is here too, his bouts with rheumatic fever, and his IRS problems (covered in detail by Thomas); but his all-out support of McCarthyism gets only once-over-lightly treatment. And though a few of the Abbott & Costello routines are quoted, the professional side is handled far less well than in the Thomas book: the tensions with Abbott (an alcoholic), the decline and breakup. For the rest, it's all family stories, some faintly bitter testimony from sister Carole (who bore the brunt of Mother's problems), and many saccharine asides: ""His entire philosophy about life was like that of a little boy who sees the world as a lavish birthday party with more than enough ice cream and cake for everybody."" Well-meaning, then, but a superficial family portrait for only the most devoted fans.

Pub Date: Aug. 21st, 1981
Publisher: St. Martin's