GYPSY & ME: At Home and on the Road with Gypsy Rose Lee by Erik Lee Preminger
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GYPSY & ME: At Home and on the Road with Gypsy Rose Lee

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A real-life Auntie Marne memoir with irony and warmth instead of camp--as Preminger recalls his growing-up years with a stingy, luxury-loving, ambitious, insecure, giddy, tough-minded single mother: Gypsy Rose Lee. This relaxed, ruefully smiling chronicle begins on New Year's Eve, 1956; twelve-year-old Erik, trouping with stripper Gypsy since infancy, is helping her set up for yet another performance of her old act, this time in tacky Ft. Lauderdale; but, after even stormier pre-show wrangles than usual, Mother quietly announces ""I'm forty-two years old. Too old to be taking off my clothes in front of strangers."" So Gypsy and Erik return to their gorgeous Manhattan townhouse--where Mother, ""neurotically obsessed with a fear of going broke,"" will spend the next decade in a series of get-rich, stay-famous projects, punctuated by buying sprees and anxietyattacks. The first venture is the most successful: Gypsy's autobiography--leading to a hit musical that brings in years of lovely royalties. (Gypsy buys a new Rolls, goes antiquing--with a sharp eye and shrewd bargaining--across France.) Later projects are less fortunate: for years, Gypsy works on an evening of home-movies-with-cute-narration--a flop in every one of its many manifestations; there are grueling, unrewarding expeditions into summer stock; she almost opts for a permanent end to money worries, via marriage to Billy Rose. (Sexy Gypsy lived a happily sexless life after her divorce from husband #2 Julio.) And at every turn teenager Erik is there to serve as photographer, projectionist, gofer, dresser, valet, coach-when not complaining about his ridiculously shabby wardrobe, stealing obsessively from skinflint Mother, fighting with her over his first car, experimenting with smoking and sex. . . and coming to realize that Gypsy, loving yet selfish, ""was a prisoner of her own ego."" Preminger handles the later years with economy, tact, and grace: his discovery that his real father was Otto Preminger (not Michael Todd, as he long suspected); Gypsy's fading years in California, with a slight boost from TV, till her death from cancer. Throughout, in fact, he strikes just the right balance between the admiring/appalled portrait of irresistible Gypsy and his own rough (yet underplayed) traumas--making this the most beguiling celebrity-offspring memoir in quite some time.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1984
Publisher: Little, Brown