ARSENIO HALL: A Biography by Norman King


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Another centimeter-deep celebio from King (Madonna, 1991; Everybody Loves Oprah!, 1987, etc.), and one with no research acknowledgements, pointing up King's failure to land an interview with Hall or anyone close to him. As with Oprah and Madonna, King again chooses a subject whose big mouth supplies the author with magnetic filler for lending a sense of life here and there. HaH was born in Cleveland to an abusive Baptist preacher 20 years older than his wife, and today attributes his talk-show smarts to time spent watching his dad work the church crowd. A single child, Hall would stay up late to watch TV and found his real family of friends on The Tonight Show. Like Johnny Carson, he became a drummer and child magician. In high school, Hall was ever the class clown and, with his first tape recorder, seriously began interviewing classmates, much to the despair of their embarrassed parents. At Kent State, he brought down the house in his speech class when he announced that ""I plan on making my living with my oratory skills, and I'd like to be a talk-show host."" In short, Hall was as born to the tube as Mozart was to the pianoforte. Hall began moving into the big time as a warm-up act for the Temptations, Dionne Warwick, and Nancy Wilson. His buddy Eddie Murphy drafted him into Coming to America as the hero's sidekick and, though the moneymaking film turned off most critics, reviewers singled out Hall's performance. Meanwhile, HaH had long seen a hole in late-night talk shows--blacks didn't get to chat with Carson as often as whites--so he chose to become ""bicultural"" on his late show. His self-definition: ""I'm just a guy from Cleveland. I ask real ordinary Midwestern questions."" But he wears $900 suits. Mr. Stardust battles bad vibes from the critics and wins the moon.

Pub Date: Jan. 21st, 1993
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: Morrow