In this debut memoir, entertainment journalist Merrill recalls her decadeslong career as an interviewer of Hollywood’s brightest stars.
When Merrill was growing up in 1950s Baltimore, she thought that her only strength was her pretty face and that her only option was to marry well. After she ended up a divorced mother of two by the age of 25, she decided to take her life in her own hands and turned her camera-ready face and love of talking into a career—first as an Emmy Award–winning local talk show host and later, as an entertainment journalist. Merrill interviewed numerous celebrities for short video profiles that were then distributed to television stations around the country to publicize movies. She shares anecdotes about her intimate conversations with such luminaries as Paul Newman, Jimmy Stewart, Tom Hanks and Cher. Her career eventually took her to film sets around the world, including a bleak Russian hotel where she had to barter Marlboros and Tootsie Rolls to get the electrical wiring fixed. However, Merrill’s story isn’t all name-dropping and globe-trotting. The author’s honesty is impressive, as she delves into her desperate search for a husband after her divorce, her sugar addiction that drastically affected her appearance and behavior, and her stubborn belief that she was always right. She tells it all with a drive that will leave readers with little doubt about how she became successful. However, although her voice makes her an engaging storyteller, it doesn’t always make her likable; some remarks about women in Hollywood, however truthful they may be, come off as rather sexist (“they could get away with their bitchiness as long as some powerful man protected them”), and her frequent use of “fat” as an insult may offend some readers. Nonetheless, Merrill’s willingness to admit her mistakes is refreshing, and her tales from the film-publicity trenches are consistently engaging.
An intriguing, honest look at the hidden side of Hollywood.