An entertaining but slight merger of social and personal history, via the lens of popular culture.



Amusing fusion of memoir and cultural critique, focusing on the family saga none of us could refuse.

Broadway theater manager Santopietro (Sinatra in Hollywood, 2008, etc.) asserts that with the 1972 release of Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather, “notions of ethnicity in America had been upended in rather spectacular fashion” especially for young Italian-Americans who felt conflicted about many aspects of their heritage, including a stifling emphasis on family ties, love for America paired with distrust of authority and, of course, a convenient stereotype of pervasive criminal involvement. The author claims that it was his early viewings of the film and its sequels that revealed to him “just what had transpired in my grandfather’s leap to L’America,” allowing him to transition into a family history in which his grandparents settled in Waterbury, Conn., around 1917, where the effects of anti-immigrant prejudice were evident despite the Italian community’s established local roots. Since his most of his mother’s family were locally prominent WASPs, this resulted in an embarrassed confusion regarding his upbringing and inner identity. His narrative shifts between this personal history and an examination of the production and impact of the three Godfather films. He discusses many intriguing aspects of the original production, including studio resistance to Coppola and the actors Al Pacino and Marlon Brando (their indelible performances notwithstanding), and the long-rumored presence of actual mobsters on the set. He also explores other relevant cultural tangents, such as the many shoddy pastiches of mob culture (and some good ones, like The Sopranos) and the transformative impact of unapologetic paisano Frank Sinatra. The writing is slick, and most engaging when Santopietro looks back nostalgically at his personal history, but many of the observations drawn about the Godfather trilogy’s effect on American society since then seem familiar.

An entertaining but slight merger of social and personal history, via the lens of popular culture.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-250-00513-7

Page Count: 320

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Dec. 13, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2012

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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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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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