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.