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A charming memoir by a 76-year-old actor who began his career alongside Claude Rains in Darkness at Noon, worked as a talent agent for 22 years and eventually returned to the stage and screen.

The book is as appealingly self-deprecating as its title. Seff captions an early photo of himself, “the young actor, 20, vacuous,” and finishes a story about touring a play for the USO during World War II by writing “it’s a miracle that we won the war anyway.” Never a star, Seff was a sensitive and witty observer of the people around him, from Chita Rivera and Bob Fosse to Martin Scorsese. (In Taxi Driver, Seff played one of Travis Bickle’s customers, but writes that he never really met Robert De Niro: “It is clear that when he’s into a character, he is INTO him, and no polite ‘hellos’ are going to interfere.”) Colorful but never gossipy, the book is also a trove of theater trivia–for example, the story of how Rex Harrison influenced the title of My Fair Lady, by bellowing “It cannot say REX HARRISON in Lady Liza on a marquee!” Following the arc of his life, Seff describes changes in the acting industry, from the emergence of television and the domination of Hollywood to the popularization of method acting. More touching are the author’s sincere stories about his personal life, from growing up as a Brooklyn kid who saved his nickels to go to the movies to how he became a mature gay actor. His sentimental education, introduction to New York’s gay society and reminisces about his loves are sweet, refreshing intermissions between chapters about his professional life as an actor and agent.

A warm, detailed memoir that is a record of the author’s truest love–the theater.

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 2007
ISBN:  978-1-4257-3934-8
Program: Kirkus Indie
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NonfictionDRAMA by John Lithgow
by John Lithgow