GHOST OF A CHANCE by Peter Duchin


A Memoir
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 A chatty self-portrait, much of it via press clips and other friends' recollections, of life in the entertainment wing of the Social Register. Duchin's early history is dramatic. The press called his parents' marriage ``a romance between Broadway and Park Avenue,'' but Duchin contends that his society bandleader father's Ukrainian Jewish background made acceptance difficult within his mother Marjorie Oelrichs's debutante circle. His mother died six days after his birth, and his father traveled constantly, so he became an ``orphan,'' growing up an honorary WASP on the estate of Averell Harriman, a friend of Marjorie's. Duchin describes life in the mansion with a fond richness of detail. Harriman was parsimonious and self-involved, but his wife, Marie, acted as a parent to Peter, shepherding his entrance into Hotchkiss and Yale, approving of his junior year abroad in Paris, where he lived the high life with George Plimpton and the rest of the Paris Review crowd. Duchin slid (effortlessly, it seems) into a showbiz career and, despite his reservations about the famous Duchin piano style (young Peter dug Bud Powell and disliked frilliness), found himself seeking society gigs in the mold of his father, Eddy. Duchin is cheerily upfront about his advantages, and his musical observations can be sharp, as in his discovery that WASPs can't dance but respond to a march beat, or a description of the night he met Arthur Rubinstein, who played ``a majestic Chopin polonaise with the same improvisatory approach I might have used for jazz.'' Duchin is what he is, and the book overflows with brief tales of Averell and Jock, Gloria and Brooke, Leland and Kitty. True to his piano style, it's upbeat and smartly paced--though you get the sense he's dutifully marching you through. (32 pages b&w photos, not seen) (Author tour)

Pub Date: June 1st, 1996
ISBN: 0-679-41418-5
Page count: 400pp
Publisher: Random House
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15th, 1996


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