Tag Archives: autobiography

Playing with Myself Book Review

Overnight success is a misnomer. What is really is years of hard work and a few moments of luck that open the door to seeing a dream becoming reality.

Randy Rainbow‘s new autobiography, Playing with Myself, was released last month. Born in the suburbs of Long Island, he spent his childhood in both New York and Florida. Rainbow was a chubby, introverted child who was exposed to classic Broadway musicals at an early age. After coming out in his late teens, he returned to New York City and dreamt of being on Broadway.

When that didn’t come to pass, Rainbow took the out-of-work actors’ career route: working both at a restaurant and as a receptionist. Using his MacBook and the news as his raw material, he started creating videos. His career took off at the start of the 2016 Presidential election and the announcement that you know who was the Republican nominee. From there, he became the satirist, comic, and musical genius that has kept us laughing and sane for the last six years.

I loved this book. Rainbow is candid, funny, and authentic. He is uniquely himself in a way that is both universal, endearing, and charming. There is something universal in his struggle that I think we can all learn from while getting a few giggles in the process. And if anyone is still asking, that is his real name.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

Playing with Myself is available wherever books are sold.

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Filed under Book Review, Books, Music, New York City, Politics, Randy Rainbow

Hello, Molly!: A Memoir Book Review

Whoever said women can’t be funny has never seen Molly Shannon perform. This actress, comedienne, and Saturday Night Live alum have been making audiences laugh for more than twenty years.

Her new autobiography, entitled Hello, Molly!: A Memoir, which was co-written with Sean Wilsey, was published last month. Her life was forever changed at the age of four when her mother, younger sister, and cousin were killed in a car crash. Her father was behind the wheel. Raising his surviving daughters as best he could, Molly had a unique childhood that opened the door to her future career as a performer. While becoming a celebrated actor/comedienne, she struggled with the loss of her mother and her complicated relationship with her father.

I loved this book. It is candid, it is funny, and it speaks to the power of belief and rising above tragedy. What hooked me was her ability to deal with grief in a way that was not overpowering or stopped her from living.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

P.S. I cannot end this post without talking about my favorite character of Molly’s, Mary Katherine Gallagher. Mary Katherine was the rare comedic combination of insecure, fearless, and not afraid to be herself. The comedy love child of Lucille Ball and Chris Farley, this character never failed to make me laugh.

Hello, Molly!: A Memoir is available wherever books are sold.

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All About Me!: My Remarkable Life in Show Business Book Review

The word “genius” is often thrown around without anything to back it up. One of the few people who can legitimately be given that title is Mel Brooks. He has made audiences laugh for 70+ years, taking comedy in a direction that few have dared to.

His new autobiography, All About Me!: My Remarkable Life in Show Business, was released last November. The youngest of four boys, Brooks was born to a Jewish immigrant family in 1926. Raised in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn by his widowed mother, he grew up during the Great Depression and served his country during World War II. After the war, he joined one of the greatest comedy writing teams of all time as a co-writer of Sid Ceasar‘s Your Show of Shows.

Married to actress Anne Bancroft for five decades, Brooks directed (and in some cases starred in) such classics as Young Frankenstein, To Be or Not To Be, The Producers, Spaceballs, Robin Hood: Men in Tights, History of the World: Part I, etc. Telling his story as only he can, Brooks reveals his heart, his humor, his work ethic, and his acute ability to use laughter to delve into topics that many would not dare to touch.

In his mid 90’s, he has more energy and gusto many are half his age. It was an incredible insight into a man who has made generations of audiences laugh. What I loved was the revelation of the man behind the jokes. He reminds me of someone’s old uncle who is not quite politically correct. They know that they are crossing the line. But it is not out of spite or to cause trouble. It’s to make the audience laugh and while they are laughing, perhaps think about the message behind the joke.

As I read the book, two things jumped out at me. The first was that there was no mention of his first wife and not a lot of time focused on his older children. The second is that he refers to almost every woman first by her looks and then by her talent. Maybe it’s me or maybe it’s a generational thing. I get that it could be construed as a compliment, but I would rather be known for my abilities first and my looks second.

Other than that, do I recommend it? Absolutely.

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All About Me!: My Remarkable Life in Show Business is available wherever books are sold.

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Filed under Book Review, Books, History, Judaism, Movies, New York City, Star Wars, Television

True Stories from an Unreliable Eyewitness: A Feminist Coming of Age Books Review

We’ve all read our fair share of celebrity biographies, memoirs, and autobiographies. They range from being a dry retread of what we know about them to drowning in the overbearing “look at me” type profile.

In 2018, actress Christine Lahti wrote her own story. It is entitled True Stories from an Unreliable Eyewitness: A Feminist Coming of Age. One of six kids in a 1950s picture-perfect midwestern family, she was raised by her doctor father and homemaker mother. Coming of age in the 1960s and 1970s, she was transformed by the second wave of the feminist movement. Jumping from her childhood to her early adulthood to her current life and in between, this book is the story of a woman making her choices and standing on her own two feet.

I loved this book. I could hear her voice through the pages. It is honest, raw, emotional, messy, and most importantly, authentic. Her story is the story of a generation of women who fought for their rights, and in doing so, paved the way for future generations to do the same. For me, it is a reminder of how strong we are and how much we can accomplish when we stick to our guns.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

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Lilyville: Mother, Daughter, and Other Roles I’ve Played Book Review

The relationship with our parents is not always black and white. We love them, we respect them, and we are grateful for what they have given us. But we can also be plagued by their flaws and what we wished we had received from them as children.

Lilyville: Mother, Daughter, and Other Roles I’ve Played, written by the iconic Broadway performer Tovah Feldshuh, was released last month. In the book, Ms. Feldshuh talks about her life and career while detailing the sometimes difficult relationship, she had with her late mother, Lily. Born in the Bronx and raised in Westchester town of Scarsdale, she lived the comfortable life of a young lady growing up in the middle class in the 1950’s.

Trying to live up to the ideals that her mother believed in, Tovah never quite received the emotional support she craved. It was only years later after her father had died that mother and daughter finally had the connection that did not exist in Tovah’s childhood. Balancing work, marriage, and motherhood, she finally understood Lily in a way that only occurs in adulthood.

This is easily one of the best books of 2021. It’s heartfelt, its humorous, and authentic. Though the details are specific to her life, it could easily be the story of any complicated parent/child relationship. What I took from the book is that it is possible to move beyond the unspoken words between us and our parents. It would have not been unexpected to slide into CEN (Childhood Emotional Neglect). But the fact that they were able to not only get along, but understand each other, is a testament that it can be done.

I had the pleasure of seeing Ms. Feldshuh play Golda Meir in Golda’s Balcony years ago. It was one of the most powerful and enduring performances I have ever seen on stage.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

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A Promised Land Book Review

Political memoirs and autobiographies are an interesting subgenre. The perspective of the subject and their actions while in and out of office is often based on where the reader is on the political spectrum.

Former President Barack Obama published the first volume of his memoirs, A Promised Land last fall. The reader is taken on a journey from the President’s early days to the ups and downs of his first term. When we meet the future President at the beginning of the story, he is a young man who is driven and intelligent, but listless. As he matures, marries, starts his family, and his career in politics, he starts to become the man we know him to be today.

After four years of the chaos and noise of you know who, it is a pleasure to hear from a President who is thoughtful, well spoken, and at the very least listens and considers the opinions of others. What I appreciated was his honesty, especially on subjects that are controversial and/or complicated. It takes an adult to be open and candid, especially when dealing with the difficulties that are thrown our way.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

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