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.