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Sofronski’s life story would be sad if it weren’t so funny—or vice versa.

A fizzy, champagne-laced cocktail of a memoir—with more than a dash of bitters—by a septuagenarian New Yorker.

Born in 1938, Sofronski has, according to this sprawling yet slender book, most certainly been there and done that. While pursuing an acting career that culminated in a memorable, if star-killing, cameo in Martin Scorsese’s Mean Streets, Sofronski built a business as a court reporter, lived the glamorous life of a pretty, professional homosexual in cities here and abroad, used and abused the standard substances and somehow managed to survive the Army, the Swinging ’60s, the sexual revolution, AIDS and finally 9/11. With minor variations, it’s a familiar story to anyone who has read authors such as Andrew Holloran, Edmund White or Alan Hollinghurst, or been to a party where some aging auntie was holding forth at her brittle best. Such glitz aside, the most compelling stories in Sofronski’s book are separated by many decades. His fascinating memories of life as a young gay man growing up in a troubled family are almost unbelievably deadpan and engaging—even as he recounts anecdotes of molestation by his gym coach or humiliation at the hands of teachers and other children. Even more poignant are tales of his butch, alcoholic mother—a tough lesbian in post-World War II Pennsylvania—swapping her leather jacket for a dress to see Sofronski at a school function, caring for her secret lover (an abused neighbor) or going deep-sea fishing with “the girls.” Flash-forward to the present and Sofronski’s dry-eyed account of being old, gay and alone—and, to many, invisible—is the stuff that great theatrical monologues are made of, a la Quentin Crisp, Elaine Stritch or other such famous survivors. But finally, it’s all just too fabulous—especially for its being true—and Sofroski’s contentious asides about how Roy Cohn got a raw deal or that “Puerto Rican sissies” killed the downtown bathhouse scene make even Larry Kramer seem populist and inclusive.

Sofronski’s life story would be sad if it weren’t so funny—or vice versa.

Pub Date: March 22, 2011

ISBN: 978-1456565787

Page Count: 158

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: April 12, 2011

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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

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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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