Slips occasionally into hearsay and grievance but rivets readers with “a kind of fascinated horror.”

Through interviews with remnants of a long-gone Hollywood, a vivid sense of some of the great formative families emerges.

Readers of George Plimpton's Paris Review will be familiar with the interview structure of this compelling, occasionally gossipy, informative chronicle of the flamboyant personalities from a storybook Hollywood era and the great houses they inhabited in Beverly Hills and Malibu. Stein (Edie: An American Biography, 1982, etc.), formerly an editor at Paris Review and Grand Street, delves into the strange, incredible sagas of early Los Angeles oil baron Edward L. Doheny; Warner Bros. founder Jack Warner; schizophrenic teenager Jane Garland (and her coterie of male handlers); actress and wife of David Selznick, Jennifer Jones; and the author's father, Jules Stein, founder of Music Corporation of America—all of whom were more or less neighbors and party acquaintances in the area. The speakers, aside from their names, are not otherwise identified; readers have to scan the "biographical notes" in the back, a structure aiming no doubt to maintain a fluidity to the narrative. Indeed readable, this work, through its gradual fleshing-out of the biographical portraits, depicts these larger-than-life legends who were vulnerable to scandal and heartbreak. Doheny, one of the richest men in the country in the 1910s, endured the suicide of his first wife and the death of his son following the Teapot Dome trial of 1929. Warner, remembered by his son Jack Jr. early on as a lovable man before success corrupted him, did not live to see his grand house on Angelo Drive bought by David Geffen in 1990. Actress Jones became the ultimate Hollywood hostess while weathering tremendous emotional instability. Jules Stein, the son of Lithuanian immigrants in South Bend, Indiana, left his career as an ophthalmologist to start a band-booking business and created an entire empire.

Slips occasionally into hearsay and grievance but rivets readers with “a kind of fascinated horror.”

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9840-5

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Dec. 5, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2015


The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006



Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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