Lewis’ (Flower Drum Songs, 2006, etc.) memoir recounts his love affair with Hollywood.
At the beginning of this tale of unrealized Hollywood dreams, Lewis warns the reader, “If you go to Tinseltown wishing upon too many stars, beware.” Raised in a family of aspiring actors and dancers, Lewis was captivated at an early age by the aura of stardom. The local movie halls and dance studio, the radio with its colorful broadcasts, and the television with its live-action serials: each presented Lewis with different avenues to celebrity. From his first “acting” gig as an extra in a Bette Davis movie filmed in his hometown, Lewis embarked on a career in musical theater with his friend and collaborator Mike. The two entered the world of Los Angeles stage productions, competing with actors and pretenders at the beginnings and ends of their careers. Encountering the sheer mass of people, talented and otherwise, who were also attempting to “make it,” they were quickly dissuaded of their dreams of meteoric success. The road was long and beset by many tragedies (particularly for Mike), but Lewis saw a glimmer of vindication when he learned that his musical about the Ringling brothers was Broadway-bound. Lewis narrates his story with a mix of wide-eyed awe and amused hindsight that allows the dreamy Hollywood magic of it all to remain more or less intact. He doesn’t come across as bitter; his loves for spectacle and celebrity are still found in his descriptions of the industry. A number of celebrities make cameos over the course of the memoir, but by far the most fascinating characters are the anonymous aspirants trying to live the dream with a strange combination of ambition, fantasy, and narcissism.
An entertaining, insightful, and tragic memoir about trying to make it in show business.
Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.
Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").
Noted jazz and pop record producer Thiele offers a chatty autobiography. Aided by record-business colleague Golden, Thiele traces his career from his start as a ``pubescent, novice jazz record producer'' in the 1940s through the '50s, when he headed Coral, Dot, and Roulette Records, and the '60s, when he worked for ABC and ran the famous Impulse! jazz label. At Coral, Thiele championed the work of ``hillbilly'' singer Buddy Holly, although the only sessions he produced with Holly were marred by saccharine strings. The producer specialized in more mainstream popsters like the irrepressibly perky Teresa Brewer (who later became his fourth wife) and the bubble-machine muzak-meister Lawrence Welk. At Dot, Thiele was instrumental in recording Jack Kerouac's famous beat- generation ramblings to jazz accompaniment (recordings that Dot's president found ``pornographic''), while also overseeing a steady stream of pop hits. He then moved to the Mafia-controlled Roulette label, where he observed the ``silk-suited, pinky-ringed'' entourage who frequented the label's offices. Incredibly, however, Thiele remembers the famously hard-nosed Morris Levy, who ran the label and was eventually convicted of extortion, as ``one of the kindest, most warm-hearted, and classiest music men I have ever known.'' At ABC/Impulse!, Thiele oversaw the classic recordings of John Coltrane, although he is the first to admit that Coltrane essentially produced his own sessions. Like many producers of the day, Thiele participated in the ownership of publishing rights to some of the songs he recorded; he makes no apology for this practice, which he calls ``entirely appropriate and without any ethical conflicts.'' A pleasant, if not exactly riveting, memoir that will be of most interest to those with a thirst for cocktail-hour stories of the record biz. (25 halftones, not seen)