Tell-all memoirs of the tempestuous, sometimes tortured relationship between two personalities cast by fate and a whole bunch of money as comic and straight man.
Give Lewis credit for selective candor, but what he reveals about himself in the process of telling his side of the Martin (1917–95) and Lewis story is often more trenchant than his conflicted report of what went wrong, and occasionally right, with the partnership that lasted a lime-lit ten years. While Lewis opens and closes with heartfelt admiration and—yes, at one point they do affirm it to one another—love for what he calls the best straight man ever to tread a stage, in this book’s long interim, Martin’s character suffers the death of a thousand condescensions. Even as Lewis starts by recalling their last, choked-up performance together in 1956 at New York’s Copacabana, for example, he muses that while “truth was my greatest ally . . . Dean could lie if it would spare someone’s feelings. I had difficulty with that.” And from the beginning, it’s the older Martin, in a “big brother” role Lewis conjures for himself, introducing the kid to hard liquor (although Martin’s later boozy TV persona was a well-calculated act), mobsters, marijuana and, most of all, “other” women. Jerry eventually rationalizes philandering as just part of showbiz; he confesses they made the scene together with peaches-’n’-cream MGM actresses June Allyson and Gloria DeHaven (both married to Hollywood actors at the time) in what is described as an extended Manhattan shack-up. It’s Martin’s consistent insensitivities and ingratitude, often tinged with ridicule, that start to grind, however. He plays golf and reads comic books while Lewis deals with business, etc., and at one point is a no-show at a charity commitment. Lewis blows up (he claims he initiated the split), and after a nasty onstage fall—solo—winds up gobbling Percodans.
Jewish comic scorned—venting, revealing, regretting and maybe even meaning it.