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Today in My History

2000: A Simple Faith
2001:  I'm a Yankee Doodle Dandy
2002:  No Easy Answers
2003:  Little Things
2004:  Sunflowers and Pears
2005:  It's So Hard to Be a Goddess

2006:  And Then There Were Three
2007: Lost Monday
2008:  The Old Cedar Chest
2009:  Holding Court
2010:  ...and then I ate
2011:  The Table Cloth

Bitter Hack
Updated: 4/3

Books Read in 2012
 Updated: 4/3
"Travels with Alice"

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Easter 2012 from Bev Sykes on Vimeo.

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My 70th Year

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My 70th Year



10 April 2012

In this case, "me" is not me, but several other people who have written about their lives, or had their lives written about.

I guess I got interested in Hollywood stars when I was a kid and my mother liked to read movie magazines.  We know now that there was probably more fiction in those magazines than there is on a fiction book shelf, but at the time I took everything printed as gospel and lived vicariously through those puff pieces.

When I got older, I discovered biographies and autobiographies.   I have lots of them, most of them either the autobiographies or the biographies of celebrities, but some political figures and athletes like Greg Louganis (well, he's the only athlete whose autobiography I have read or am likely to read!).  I have already given away a lot, mostly those I'd read that I thought were terrible (Ed McMahon's autobiography comes to mind!)

Of course there was a time when I bought every single book about Judy Garland that I could ever find.

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She never attempted to write her autobiography, so these are all biographies, some with special emphasis (like the abominable book that Mel Torme wrote about The Judy Garland Show).  I have actually read most, but not all, of these books.

These are the books that I have read and not yet given away.

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You can't see the title and it's a small book, sandwiched in between Liberace and Shirley MacLeaine, but it is a biography of Paul Muni (The Good Earth, among other films).  A friend loaned it to me way back in the 1980s and it was the best biography I'd ever read to that point.  Now, I haven't read it since then so I can't remember what made it so good, or if it holds up to the books I've read since then, but I was so blown away by it that I went out and got my own copy. 

Likewise, James Lipton, while his book is supposed to be about Inside the Actors Studio, takes half of the book to get there and tells his own story along the way. His autobiography was absolutely fascinating and I was actually sorry to get to the part about the Actors Studio because it paled in comparison.

I read the first couple of Shirley MacLaine's books and got caught up in all of her past lives stories, but I grew tired of them after awhile and haven't read one of her books in decades. 

There are two biographies of James Mason on this shelf.  I bought them both in London (Walt complained about my buying BOOKS to take home, given the weight!) and just loved them.  I also have a couple of biographies of Anthony Hopkins, but I don't see them on the shelf and may have given them away in a small book purge.  I loved his story, but once I'd read it, I didn't see the need to keep it (apparently unlike the James Mason books).

George Burns' "Gracie: A Love Story" was just that.  A love story about his 40 year marriage to Gracie Allen.  It was beautiful and the thing I remember most from it was learning that the reason she aways wore long sleeved blouses was that she had a minor physical defect on one arm (he doesn't describe it further than that) and kept it covered up.

The Hepburn-Tracy story was also a wonderful love story, and not only did I read the book about their long romance, but read the biography of him and the autobiography of her (appropriately titled "Me.")

Alan Alda's book was quite different, very fluffy but great fun and I'm glad I read it.  There was a man who knows how to write an "autobiography" while still keeping (most of) his private life private.  I loved Susan Hayward's book, though I read it so long ago that I don't remember why now, and I enjoyed several Cary Grant biographies, but am finished with them and don't need to read the new ones that have been published recently.

I loved Betty White's latest autobiography.  When you read it you realize that Betty White spans the entire history of television.   Her career in television began in 1939 and she is still going strong. She was the first female co-host on a variety show in 1949.  She was nominated for her first Emmy in 1950 and the first woman to form her own production company in 1952.  An amazing, and apparently very likeable person (how can you not like someone who loves animals so much?)

And of course I would be remiss if I left out "Lucy in the Afternoon," my friend Jim Brochu's account of spending the last year of her life with Lucille Ball, playing backgrammon and listening to her stories of old Hollywood.   It's out of print now, I believe, but if you ever come across it, I recommend buying it--not only because Jim wrote it, but because he's a damn good writer and this book is a delight.

I even have a bunch of NON-Hollywood/Broadway biographies and autobiographies, such as Dorothy Parker, John Steinbeck, Barbara Walters, a couple of women who work with elephants. etc., etc., etc.

There are also biographies on my Kindle, like the couple written by Michael J. Fox, an amazingly upbeat guy for all that he is dealing with

These are the books I have not yet read, and may never get around to.

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I don't imagine I'll ever get to Lauren Bacll or Anne Baxter, but I would love to tackle the imposing Chaplin book.  I had Sidney Poitier's book on this shelf for awhile, but I couldn't get into his eloquent prose and ended up giving it away. Likewise I tossed Charlton Heston's autobiography after "...from my cold dead hands"  became a watchword and I decided I really didn't care to know anything about him any more.

I have even listened to audio autobiographies.  Kirk Douglas' book written after his stroke was remarkably entertaining, and inspiring (I have his "Ragpicker's Son," written earlier, but I have not read that yet).  And I decided that Kristin Chenoweth's book should only be an audio book because it is read so charmingly by her, with occasional breaks into song, or conversations with friends.  You definitely would lose a lot by just reading it.

wpe1F5B.jpg (10586 bytes)Right now I'm a little over halfway through Diane Keaton's autobiography and it is proving to be an extraordinary read.  Charlotte has been encouraging me to read it for months now and has raved about it.

Now I know what she is talking about.  This is not your regular linear life story, but it skips around and borrows extensively from the journal her mother kept throughout her life, which in places document's Diane's life better than she could do herself.

But she does a pretty good job on her own and I am thoroughly enjoying it.  (Did you know Annie Hall was based on Keaton's own family, whom Woody Allen--her lover at the time--thought was hilarious?)

Char says she was sobbing at the end.  We know Diane doesn't die in it (though her mother does), so I am just keeping tissues at the ready for when the time comes that I am approaching the end of her story.

If you are an autobiography geek like me, go buy this one.  You won't be sorry.

Maybe I'm just a hopelessly shallow nerd, but I do love borrowing small pieces of people's lives through reading their books, or learning more about people I have admired on the big or little screen.


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What a fun afternoon I had with Mitch Agrus, Carol Foerster, my scrabble pal Joan Callaway
and Grainne Wilson, who comes back to Davis from Ireland at least four times a year.
We had lunch at the wonderful Ciocolat restaurant, a small bake shop here in Davis.



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