HOLLYWOOD KRYPTONITE

THE BULLDOG, THE LADY, AND THE DEATH OF SUPERMAN

A muddled look at the mysterious death of George Reeves, the first Superman, by poets and Hollywood buffs Kashner and Schoenberger (coauthors of A Talent For Genius: The Life and Times of Oscar Levant, 1994). The strong-jawed Reeves's real superpower seems to have been a capacity for alcohol. He also carried on a long affair with Toni Mannix, an older woman married to studio exec Eddie ``Bulldog'' Mannix, who approved of the affair. Reeves and Toni set up house in Benedict Canyon and generally lived a contented, suburban life, except for the 13 weeks in which Reeves was required to wear a blue and yellow padded suit and perform wonders on television. Reeves was a quiet fellow, well-liked on the set, though at times he was irritated by his brand of fame (he once greeted a young female fan, ``Hello, you little ovary clanker!''). But ten years into his affair with Toni, which the authors evoke with real tenderness, Reeves met Leonore Lemmon, a blonde party girl with an appetite for aging stars and gin. Toni was devastated by the breakup—by some accounts, she even had Reeves's beloved schnauzer put to sleep—and her incessant phone calls disturbed the new lovers day and night. Within a short time, Reeves was dead, apparently committing suicide in his room during a cocktail party on June 16, 1959. But rumors of a gunman persist—though just when the plot gets interesting (for Reeves comes off as little more than a cardboard figure, greatly overshadowed by his two lovers), the book becomes unhinged. The various accounts of Reeves's death are poorly presented—who was at the party? whose gun was it?—and characters flit in and out. The authors conclude it was murder, but they never assemble the pieces of the mess into a full and coherent picture. A sad life and death in Hollywood, but the gossip isn't much and the promising title turns to leaden prose.

Pub Date: Oct. 29, 1996

ISBN: 0-312-14616-7

Page Count: 224

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1996

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WHAT A WONDERFUL WORLD

A LIFETIME OF RECORDINGS

Noted jazz and pop record producer Thiele offers a chatty autobiography. Aided by record-business colleague Golden, Thiele traces his career from his start as a ``pubescent, novice jazz record producer'' in the 1940s through the '50s, when he headed Coral, Dot, and Roulette Records, and the '60s, when he worked for ABC and ran the famous Impulse! jazz label. At Coral, Thiele championed the work of ``hillbilly'' singer Buddy Holly, although the only sessions he produced with Holly were marred by saccharine strings. The producer specialized in more mainstream popsters like the irrepressibly perky Teresa Brewer (who later became his fourth wife) and the bubble-machine muzak-meister Lawrence Welk. At Dot, Thiele was instrumental in recording Jack Kerouac's famous beat- generation ramblings to jazz accompaniment (recordings that Dot's president found ``pornographic''), while also overseeing a steady stream of pop hits. He then moved to the Mafia-controlled Roulette label, where he observed the ``silk-suited, pinky-ringed'' entourage who frequented the label's offices. Incredibly, however, Thiele remembers the famously hard-nosed Morris Levy, who ran the label and was eventually convicted of extortion, as ``one of the kindest, most warm-hearted, and classiest music men I have ever known.'' At ABC/Impulse!, Thiele oversaw the classic recordings of John Coltrane, although he is the first to admit that Coltrane essentially produced his own sessions. Like many producers of the day, Thiele participated in the ownership of publishing rights to some of the songs he recorded; he makes no apology for this practice, which he calls ``entirely appropriate and without any ethical conflicts.'' A pleasant, if not exactly riveting, memoir that will be of most interest to those with a thirst for cocktail-hour stories of the record biz. (25 halftones, not seen)

Pub Date: May 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-19-508629-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1995

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IN MY PLACE

From the national correspondent for PBS's MacNeil-Lehrer Newshour: a moving memoir of her youth in the Deep South and her role in desegregating the Univ. of Georgia. The eldest daughter of an army chaplain, Hunter-Gault was born in what she calls the ``first of many places that I would call `my place' ''—the small village of Due West, tucked away in a remote little corner of South Carolina. While her father served in Korea, Hunter-Gault and her mother moved first to Covington, Georgia, and then to Atlanta. In ``L.A.'' (lovely Atlanta), surrounded by her loving family and a close-knit black community, the author enjoyed a happy childhood participating in activities at church and at school, where her intellectual and leadership abilities soon were noticed by both faculty and peers. In high school, Hunter-Gault found herself studying the ``comic-strip character Brenda Starr as I might have studied a journalism textbook, had there been one.'' Determined to be a journalist, she applied to several colleges—all outside of Georgia, for ``to discourage the possibility that a black student would even think of applying to one of those white schools, the state provided money for black students'' to study out of state. Accepted at Michigan's Wayne State, the author was encouraged by local civil-rights leaders to apply, along with another classmate, to the Univ. of Georgia as well. Her application became a test of changing racial attitudes, as well as of the growing strength of the civil-rights movement in the South, and Gault became a national figure as she braved an onslaught of hostilities and harassment to become the first black woman to attend the university. A remarkably generous, fair-minded account of overcoming some of the biggest, and most intractable, obstacles ever deployed by southern racists. (Photographs—not seen.)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-374-17563-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1992

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