book reviews, celebrities, divorce

A review of Sunshine Girl: An Unexpected Life, by Julianna Margulies…

Last spring, I happened to come across an article about actress Julianna Margulies, and the book she had just published, Sunshine Girl: An Unexpected Life. Although I never got into Julianna Margulies’ career beyond her stint on E.R., the article had made her new book sound compelling. Maybe it was because the article also mentioned George Clooney, an actor who didn’t impress me when I first saw him on the early 80s era sitcom, E/R, with Elliott Gould, or when he was on The Facts of Life during its shark jumping years. E.R. gave me new respect for George Clooney, and Julianna Margulies had great chemistry with him on that show. It was probably one of my favorite shows in my lifetime. I downloaded the book, but only now have gotten around to reading it.

I just finished Sunshine Girl this morning. I don’t know what I was expecting when I bought it. I think I was excited to get it, but for some reason, kept putting off reading it. And now that I’ve read it, I have huge new respect for Julianna Margulies. Wow– what an amazing life she’s led, on so many levels! She reveals a surprisingly intelligent, insightful, and experienced person beneath the roles she’s famously played on TV– Nurse Carol Hathaway on E.R., and then attorney, Alicia Florrick on The Good Wife. She can now add “successful author” to her long list of accomplishments. Aside from writing Sunshine Girl, Margulies is also the author of a children’s book titled Three Magic Balloons.

Margulies basics

Margulies was born the third daughter and youngest child to her parents, Paul and Francesca Margulies. Paul Margulies was a successful New York based ad executive. He’s the one who came up with the famous slogan for Alka-Seltzer, “Plop, plop, fizz, fizz, oh what a relief it is.”

Julianna’s dad came up with this.

Julianna Margulies’ mother, Francesca, was a ballet dancer who taught eurythmy and was an expert in anthroposophy, concepts championed by Rudolf Steiner, an Austrian philosopher, scientist, and artist. It is Steiner’s ideas that propelled the educational movement behind Waldorf Schools. A Waldorf or Steiner Education focuses on developing students’ “intellectual, artistic, and practical skills in an integrated and holistic manner.” Julianna’s parents were incompatible, and got divorced when Julianna was very young. They were both of Jewish heritage, although Julianna’s mother converted to Christianity when Julianna and her sisters were children. She writes in her book that she considers herself Jewish, but is not religious.

For some reason, Julianna’s mother– referred to as Francesca in the dedication, as well as in other sources– is pictured at the end of the Kindle version of this book with the name Janice Marylin Gardner (nee Goldberg). I’m not sure if that was an error, or her mom changed her name. In any case, Julianna, and her two older sisters, Alexandra and Rachel, grew up moving from place to place as their mom worked in different Waldorf schools. Julianna was fluent in French because her mother had moved to France so that the girls could be close to their father, who was working in Paris. Then, they moved to Sussex, England, where Julianna developed a perfect British accent; she got mocked for it when she later moved to New York, only to move back to England for a couple more years. Then she landed in New Hampshire, where she had to learn to decipher the thick New England accents she encountered there.

All of the moving around was traumatic for Julianna and her sisters. Her eldest sister, Alexandra, had so much trouble dealing with their mother’s idiosyncrasies that when she became a teenager, she refused to live with her anymore. Alexandra was a talented ballet dancer and went to the School of American Ballet, while Rachel and Julianna continued to flit from place to place on two continents and through different countries. At one point, they were supposed to live in Germany, but Julianna’s mother had hated Germany. It reminded her too much of Hitler. She moved to England, abruptly changing the plans for Julianna and Rachel, and causing them massive stress from the upheaval.

The Sunshine Girl…

The incredible stress caused from living “hand to mouth” as a child– constantly leaving friends and beloved pets– and dealing with her mother’s penchant for loving and leaving different men– caused Julianna Margulies to become a people pleaser. This is a quality that reminds me a lot of my husband, who would rather die than hurt someone.

Julianna Margulies writes so many anecdotes about how she bent over for others, tolerating abuse from everyone from customers in restaurants where she waited tables to family members. She spent over ten years in an abusive relationship with another actor who took her for granted and expected her to cater to his needs. She tolerated abusive work environments, constantly pushing herself to the limits for other people and never taking the time to enjoy the fruits of her labors and talents. All the while, even though she was a “sunshine girl” to others, she was denying herself. Her mother had dubbed her the “sunshine girl” as a term of endearment, but that label became an albatross as she constantly yielded to other people’s needs, not wanting to rock the boat.

Why did Sunshine Girl affect me so much?

I think I was moved by Julianna Margulies’ life story because her story reminds me so much of my husband and his daughters. My husband, Bill, has two daughters with his ex wife. He wasn’t allowed to see or communicate with them after he and his ex wife divorced. We’re finding out now how that situation affected Bill’s younger daughter; the older one is still estranged. Julianna Margulies’ story, while not quite as tragic as Bill’s has been, is somewhat similar. I actually gained some perspective reading Sunshine Girl, and also some validation. I even read some of it aloud to Bill.

Julianna Margulies met some really good people– dear friends who have stayed in her life and offered her wisdom and kindness. She’s stayed down to earth and humble, in spite of her massive success as an actress. I felt like I could really relate to her as a person. She seems like someone I’d love to have as a friend, in spite of her unconventional life. Actually, Julianna Margulies’ life isn’t that strange to me, having heard my husband’s story. In many ways, they have things in common with each other… as do my husband’s daughters. My husband, in particular, could write a book, and probably should.

Julianna’s epiphany

Anyone who loved E.R. remembers how Julianna Margulies famously turned down 27 million dollars to extend her contract. So many people told her she was crazy to leave the show. She was in her early 30s at the time, and people didn’t expect her career to flourish beyond what seemed like the pinnacle. But Julianna ignored all of the advice given to her by so many people. She decided to quit because she wanted to act in a play. She didn’t like living in Los Angeles as much as she did New York, where the seasons change. The playwright had written a role expressly for her. It was a challenge that excited her. And she wisely realized, with help from her father, that money isn’t everything. Sometimes, you have to take a risk to get the most out of life.

Margulies writes that people were merciless to her in the wake of that decision. She got raked over the coals by the pundits on The View. Barbara Walters and Joy Behar were both particularly nasty and haughty about Margulies’ decision. Walters even asked, “Who does this girl think she is?” And Behar predicted Margulies would never work as an actress again. Happily, Margulies proved them BOTH wrong, when she landed her role as Alicia Florrick on The Good Wife, a show that went on for seven successful seasons. I never got into that show myself, but now I might have to watch it.

Julianna confronts her parents…

One other aspect of the book really stands out to me. That’s when Margulies confronts her parents for the way she was raised. On one hand, she really did live an interesting and unexpected life. Despite being “broke” a lot of the time, she had some pretty cool experiences in England and France, and she got to attend Sarah Lawrence College, a very expensive and exclusive institution of higher learning. She also completed a semester abroad in Florence, Italy, but she actually hated it there. Like me, when I was growing up, she rode ponies and competed in horse shows. She even took care of a pony she “found” in England who had been cast out as too stubborn to work with. I related to that, too… And, like me, Julianna is also a Gemini.

In spite of those experiences, though, she largely grew up without her father in her life. He stayed in New York, so she didn’t get to spend much time with him. Her mother was erratic and irresponsible. Julianna and her sisters had to grow up fast. When Julianna was pregnant with her son, she read a bundle of letters she’d written to her dad. He had given them to her as a Christmas gift, thinking she would love to read them. What the letters actually did, though, was remind Julianna of how difficult her childhood was, and how much she’d missed her father. She confronted him, and he ended up explaining his perspective. She hadn’t had all of the information about how he’d been affected by the divorce. She hadn’t known how much he’d missed her, and how much he’d struggled emotionally and financially, after the divorce. I was glad to see that she acquired wisdom, as she also found the answers to questions that obviously plagued her when she was coming of age.

I have witnessed this same phenomenon, as my husband’s younger daughter has been filling Bill in on life after divorce. Likewise, he’s explained to her what it was like for him. Together, they have come to a mutual understanding. Julianna was lucky in that her parents seemingly were able to work together. She wasn’t totally estranged from her dad, like my husband’s daughters have been. But she did have a mom who was self-absorbed and inconsiderate on many levels, and very stubborn when it came to doing whatever she wanted, regardless of other people’s needs.. Thankfully, Julianna also confronted her mom, and her mom was able to apologize… in her own sort of histrionic way. Julianna explains the apology was all she needed.

I’m glad Julianna Margulies was able to reconcile these issues with her parents. Her father passed away in 2014, the same year my dad died. I’m sure she would have been devastated if she’d never been able to work this out with her dad before his life ended.

Caveats

I will caution to anyone looking for “dirt” about ER or The Good Wife that this book may not be what they want to read. This isn’t a “dishy” book about her shows. This is a book about Julianna Margulies. I think her life’s events make for an excellent story, in and of itself. Maybe someone should turn it into a mini-series. Maybe someone will.

I also note that some of the stories in this book can be found in articles online. Those who have followed Julianna Margulies’ career closer than I have may be frustrated that they’ve heard on Oprah or read in magazines some of the material that is presented in this book. That was not an issue for me, though, because I haven’t heard or read anything about her in the years since she left E.R., and I would not expect to read about Margulies’ co-stars in a book that is clearly about Julianna Margulies’ life.

Julianna Margulies talks about her book.

Overall

I found Sunshine Girl: An Unexpected Life to be a very satisfying read. So often, when it comes to celebrity memoirs, it turns out the author has nothing to say. I don’t think that’s true in Julianna Margulies’ story. She’s led a “fairytale life”, as her dad put it, but she’s definitely paid her dues. She’s humble, wise, and real, and yet has a very intriguing history. I’m grateful she was able to share it in her book. I truly got a lot out of Sunshine Girl, and found it to be a fast paced and well-written book. I also enjoyed the photos of Julianna and her family, and appreciated getting a sense of who she is off camera.

If you’re interested in a good life story, I think Sunshine Girl is well worth reading. I think learning about anthroposophy and eurhythmy alone is worth the price of the book. Not surprisingly, my husband already knew all about both. 😉

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Repost: A review of Sachi Parker’s book, Lucky Me…

Here’s a repost of my review of Sachi Parker’s book, Lucky Me, which I originally read and reviewed on Epinions.com in June 2013. I previously reposted this review on my original blog when I wrote it for Epinions, but I included some extra commentary. I am including my extra comments in this repost, which appears as/is.

From the Blogspot OH repost in June 2013:

Sachi Parker is the only child of actress Shirley MacLaine and her late ex husband, Steve Parker.  When she was two years old, young Sachi was bundled up and sent off to Japan to live with her father, while her mother stayed in Los Angeles to build her very successful film career.  What Shirley didn’t know back then was that Steve Parker had a mistress, a Japanese woman named Miki who proved to be very Machiavellian. 

Sachi would see her mother sporadically.  She describes their meetings as fun for the first four hours or so.  After that, her mother’s eyes would sort of glaze over and she would be done… ready for her child or anyone else clamoring for attention to go away.  Shirley MacLaine was reportedly stingy with money and compliments.  She expected her daughter’s loyalty and honesty.  She employed draconian methods to get Sachi to do her bidding.  One time, when Sachi lost expensive plane tickets from England to Japan, to get Sachi from her boarding school back to her father’s home, Shirley accused her of cashing them in for money.  She collected her daughter and her friend, Yuki, in London and locked the two of them in separate hotel rooms.  She denied them food until Sachi confessed that she’d been “lying”, even though she’d actually been telling the truth.  When Sachi later told her mom that she’d lied about lying, her mother starved her again, this time in a New York City hotel room.

One time, when Sachi’s school year ended at a Swiss boarding school, she waited in vain for one of her parents to pick her up.  When they didn’t show, she went with a classmate, whose father worked in an Eastern Bloc country.  For two weeks, she tagged along with this family while they were on vacation in Europe, trying in vain to call her parents.  One night, she went out on the streets of Trieste where she ran into an old Italian prostitute who very kindly took care of her and got her back to her hotel.  She tucked her into bed.   

The family took her to Yugoslavia.  After growing tired of sponging off her classmate’s family, she told them she was taken care of.  They left her, believing they had helped her as best they could.  She went into a cheap hotel and started crying.  An elderly Yugoslavian couple that didn’t speak English took pity on Sachi and took her home with them.  She spent two weeks living with this couple, helping them on their farm, all the while trying to call her parents. 

Sachi’s father wasn’t much better.  As a young girl, Sachi was expected to accompany her father when he went out on the town.  He would make inappropriate comments about her body.  He would take her to bars.  One night he took her to a gay bar where all the waiters were nude.  The waiters had an interesting way of serving drinks.  They would stir cocktails with their dicks.  Sachi’s dad actually had to stop one of them from stirring his daughter’s Shirley Temple that way.

Sachi later found out that her father had bilked her mother for millions of dollars.  And yet, Shirley wouldn’t give her daughter any money to help her when she needed it.  When Sachi turned 18 and was done with high school, Shirley presented her with an expensive diamond necklace and told her she was on her own.

Lucky Me is a pretty amazing book.  Some people have said that it’s full of lies, probably because some of Sachi’s claims are so incredibly far-fetched.  And yet, knowing what I do about narcissism, I believe she’s written the truth.  The book is a bit trashy… and parts of it are pretty tasteless.  And yet, I found it fascinating because they really show what a narcissistic mother is like.  If what she’s written is true, Shirley MacLaine is completely lacking in empathy and keeps people close to her on edge at all times.  It’s sad, because even though she was apparently very abusive, I got the sense that her daughter loves her very much… despite airing all their dirty laundry.

I hope Sachi’s book does well.  She’s been through a lot.  Having a narcissistic mother must be a massive mind fuck.  As talented as I think Shirley MacLaine is, I have to say I see her differently now.

Sachi Parker has few terms of endearment for her mom, Shirley MacLaine.

Below is my review, originally published on Epinions.com.

Actress Shirley MacLaine is one of Hollywood’s legends.  She has put out some extraordinary films over her long, illustrious career.  She’s also well known for being very much into new age thinking; spirits, mediums, and psychics have been the subjects of her many books.  Until a couple of weeks ago, I knew nothing about her only daughter, Sachi Parker.  But when I saw that Parker, MacLaine’s daughter with Steve Parker, had written a book called Lucky Me: My Life With- and Without- My Mom, Shirley MacLaine (2013), I had to read it. 

I love a good tell-all, even if it’s kind of trashy.  A lot of people who have reviewed this book have openly doubted its truthfulness, mainly because of some of the wild and occasionally tasteless stories the author shares.  In fact, I think this book is pretty trashy myself… and yet, I do think Sachi Parker has been truthful, even if she hasn’t been discreet.  The irony is, throughout this book, Sachi explains that she grew up in Japan, where society demands decorum, discretion, and maintaining dignity.  She writes that for much of her life, she was like a Japanese woman who looked Irish on the outside.  Culturally, she identified with Japan because she had lived there from the age of two with her father, Steve Parker, and his mistress and later wife, Miki.  Sachi rarely saw her mother when she was growing up.  When she did see her, the visits were a confusing mix of great fun, high drama, and even higher anxiety.  As I finished reading, it occurred to me that if Sachi Parker has written the truth, there’s a good chance Shirley MacLaine has at least one personality disorder.

Make no mistake about it; Lucky Me is full of weirdness.  Sachi Parker writes of situations that are just plain bizarre.  She describes situations in which both of her parents were abusive and neglectful to the point of being very cruel.  She writes of trying very hard to win their approval and stay in their good graces.  Some of her stories are extraordinary.  Being the daughter of a star had its perks; yet once she graduated high school, Parker was expected to take care of herself.  Her mother presented her with an expensive Belgian diamond necklace and wished her luck because as far as Shirley MacLaine was concerned, Sachi was on her own. 

Although she spent her early years with her father in Tokyo, she wasn’t particularly close to him, either.  One time, he called her on her birthday and said he wanted to spend time with her, but alas, he was in Italy on business.  The phone call was complete with the static one would expect in a long distance 70s era phone call and a woman speaking Italian, supposedly the operator.  At the time, Sachi was working at hotel where her father had a suite that was off limits to her.  She managed to con the front desk into giving her a key to the suite.  She went there to check it out and found her father there having a marijuana fueled sex orgy.  He didn’t see her; she was able to bow out quickly.  But he had told her a convincing lie that she would have believed had she not gotten forbidden access to his suite and seen with her own eyes what he was doing.

Sachi writes of her mother turning her emotions off and on as if she had a switch.  She describes Shirley MacLaine as being very mercurial and lacking in empathy.  At times she was generous with compliments, but then her opinions would spin on a dime.  As I read her book, I realized that Sachi Parker was describing someone with extreme narcissistic personality disorder, complete with the crazymaking behaviors that come from a person who has a cluster B personality disorder.  She never outright claims that’s what her mother’s issue is, but having studied NPD extensively, that was the impression I got.  And since Sachi never writes that she thinks her mother has NPD and I recognize the behaviors so well, it makes me think that she’s probably written the truth. 

Unfortunately for Sachi, her father’s behavior wasn’t much better.  From what she writes, he basically used Shirley MacLaine for her money.  The two were married, but she lived in Los Angeles and he lived in Tokyo with his Japanese mistress.  Neither parent was emotionally available to their daughter; she was expected to handle situations as a child that were way beyond what was appropriate.  At one point, Sachi writes about her father taking her out on the town on school nights.  She’d long to go to bed because she had school in the morning and would always be tired the following day, but he insisted that she come with him.  One time, he even took her to a gay bar where the wait staff were all naked men.  Though the food was exquisite, the wait staff had an unusual way of serving cocktails.  Let’s just say at that place, the term “cocktail” was literal.

Sachi Parker writes of many situations in which her parents abandoned her.  From my perspective, she’d been trained from an early age to crave their attention and approval and do everything possible not to make them angry.  When they were angry, it was epic… and she would suffer for it.  On the other hand, both parents would reward her if she did what they wanted her to do.  She craved that reward and kept coming back to them again and again for that rare beam of love that normal loving parents deliver with ease.  Someone who hadn’t grown up craving that love probably would have cut ties years prior. 

Although some readers might find Lucky Me to be distasteful, I find it to be kind of refreshing.  If what Sachi Parker writes is true, then writing this book must have been very liberating.  Children of narcisssistic parents live their lives in chains, constantly monitoring themselves to keep their parents happy and approving.  They are carefully taught not to incur the wrath of the narcissistic parent because when they do, there is hell to pay. 

Writing this book and revealing all the weird, abusive, neglectful stuff that happened to her over the years is a way for Sachi to take control of her own personal power.  Putting it out there for the world to read, I’m sure, was her way of sending her mother a good hearty “fuck you”.  Many people might say she should have “risen above” airing her dirty laundry.  Sachi had done that for most of her life and it hadn’t gotten her anywhere.  Abusive people thrive on other people keeping their secrets and not holding them accountable.  The way to escape abuse it to shine a light on it from a safe distance.  When it comes down to it, abusive people are cowards who are rightfully ashamed of themselves.  And yet, despite the fact that Sachi wrote this very bold, revealing, and damning book, I still get the sense that she still longs for her mother’s love and approval.  Sadly, at age 57, Sachi Parker is probably now considered dead to her mother.

Parker includes photos.  They showed up great on my iPad.

Overall

I suspect Sachi Parker is going to catch a lot of hell for writing this book.  From what I’ve read in other reviews, a lot of people doubt her story.  Shirley MacLaine is a highly respected, extremely talented actress.  Her many fans will not like this book.  Other people who recognize extreme narcissism will applaud Sachi Parker for writing this book.  And some people who don’t care one way or the other will enjoy this book because it’s really juicy… not just for what Sachi Parker writes about her parents, but because Parker has led a life that has taken her to some very strange, exciting, and dangerous places.  Say what you want about Lucky Me’s trashiness;  it is definitely NOT a dull read.

I give it four stars.

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book reviews, celebrities, homosexuality

Repost: A review of Meredith Baxter’s Untied

I originally wrote this review for Epinions.com in March 2011. I am reposting it here, as/is.

As a child of the 1980s, I would have had to have been living under a rock not to know who Meredith Baxter is. The beautiful blonde actress had made her mark back in the 70s with television shows like Bridget Loves Bernieand Family, but I knew her as Elyse Keaton, feminist matriarch of the Keaton family on NBC’s hit sit-com, Family Ties. In those days, she was known as Meredith Baxter-Birney, having married her Bridget Loves Bernieco-star, David Birney. Baxter and Birney later divorced; recently, Baxter made headlines by coming out as a lesbian. I learned about all of this and more by reading Baxter’s brand new memoir, Untied: A Memory of Family, Fame, and Floundering (2011). I purchased this book for my Kindle last week and found it a quick and interesting read. 

Meredith Baxter’s beginnings

After a brief introduction, explaining how she came out as a lesbian, Baxter begins describing her childhood. Meredith Baxter’s mother was an actress named Nancy Ann Whitney, who later came up with the stage name Whitney Blake. From a very early age, Baxter was required to call her mother Whitney, because Whitney didn’t want people thinking she was a mother. Baxter’s father, Tom Baxter, was a sound engineer specializing in live television and radio. Though her parents were married for ten years and had three children, their union ended when Baxter was just five years old. After the divorce, Tom Baxter remained a very small part of his children’s lives. Meanwhile, Whitney remarried twice.  

Baxter grew up in southern California on the fringes of show business. Her first stepfather, Jack Fields, was an agent who helped Whitney Blake get parts that later blossomed into a successful career on television. Baxter describes Fields as cruel, manipulative, and strict, but it was Fields who helped Baxter with her own foray into show business when she was a child.  

A complicated life

Though Meredith Baxter grew up to be a beautiful young woman, she comes across as a bit mixed up. In confessional prose, she admits to dabbling in drugs and alcohol, half-heartedly attempting suicide, and getting married for the wrong reasons. Nevertheless, she was both lucky and talented and eventually started working as an actress. She had two children with her first husband, Robert Bush, and three with her second husband, David Birney.

Bitterness toward Birney

Meredith Baxter has a lot to say about her second marriage to David Birney. Baxter was married to Birney for about 16 years. Their union lasted three times longer than her marriages to Robert Bush and Michael Blodgett. However, the added length of the marriage seems to have tripled Baxter’s pain. She makes some very unflattering comments about David Birney and basically describes him as an abusive narcissist.  

A book about Meredith Baxter, not Family Ties… 

Though Meredith Baxter does dish quite a bit about being on Bridget Loves BernieFamily, and Family Ties, as well as a few of her better known made for television movies, I want to make it clear that this book is really about her life. And she has led a very complicated but interesting life, fraught with struggles, including alcoholism, breast cancer, and coming to terms with her homosexuality. But while there were times I kind of cringed while reading this book, I do think that ultimately, Baxter has put out a very positive memoir.  

Toward the end of the book, Baxter writes about what it was like to meet and fall in love with her current partner, Nancy Locke. Though she is “out of the closet”, I still get the feeling that being out is kind of hard for her. She very candidly explains how difficult it was for her to admit and accept her feelings for women. She also explains how hard it was for her to come out to people she loves… and how their reactions to her big news were surprisingly low key.  Untied also includes plenty of pictures.

Overall

I enjoyed reading this book, mainly because I’m a child of the 80s and I love biographies. I think Meredith Baxter did a fairly good job writing her life story. She really comes across as extremely human and somewhat down-to-earth. I do think she’s still in some real pain over her relationship with David Birney, but she seems to have learned from the relationship as well. I think Untied is worthy reading for those who are interested in Baxter’s life story.

As an Amazon Associate, I get a small commission from Amazon on sales made through my site.

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Reposted review of Rose McGowan’s BRAVE…

I’ve decided to migrate my review of Rose McGowan’s book, BRAVE, to my new and improved blog. This book review was originally composed for my old blog. It was posted on February 13, 2019. Enjoy! (Edited to add: I had no idea yesterday, when I reposted this review, that Rose McGowan would be in the news and this book would be mentioned.)

Before I read her 2018 book, BRAVE, I wasn’t at all familiar with Rose McGowan’s career.  Rose McGowan now bills herself as a “former actress”.  Now that I’ve read her book, I can see why she’s supposedly left Hollywood. Her book, BRAVE, is mostly a tale about an industry that abuses and exploits women.  As I was reading the last pages of her story, I recognized the crescendo that can come from a person who is gathering steam, telling off someone whose had it coming for a really long time.

Rose McGowan was born September 5, 1973 to her American parents, Daniel and Terri McGowan, in Certaldo, Tuscany, Italy.  Her parents were members of the sex cult, Children of God.  The late actor River Phoenix, and his famous siblings, Summer, Joaquin, Liberty, and Rain, were also in the Children of God.  I was interested in reading more about this cult, which seems to have attracted so many talented people and enticed them to live a life of poverty and exploitation for its charismatic leader, the late David Berg.

McGowan’s family left the cult when she was still a child.  Her parents were abusive and neglectful, and after they left Italy, she had a very troubled upbringing in the Pacific Northwest and Colorado.  She was shuffled between her parents, both of whom were apparently kind of “fucked up”.  Her mother was a writer and her father was an artist.  It was through her father that Rose McGowan got her break into show business, first as a child model when she was still living in Italy.  When her parents divorced, McGowan’s lifestyle became more troubled.  For a time, she was a runaway and associated with drag queens.  At 15, she became emancipated, and moved to Los Angeles.  She had her first credited film role in 1992, playing Nora in the movie Encino Man.

Despite her rather unconventional upbringing, McGowan was able to break into Hollywood.  She modeled and acted, appearing in Scream, and eventually becoming the “face” of the clothing brand Bebe.  She also made music, starting while she was dating Marilyn Manson.  

This sounds like the career of dreams for many ambitious people.  Rose McGowan has led a life of fame and fortune, rubbing elbows with legendary actors and musicians and having her face displayed on the covers of many magazines.  And yet, according to McGowan’s book, BRAVE, the lifestyle apparently makes her miserable.  Actually, apparently, it’s the men in the lifestyle that make her miserable.

Starting in the early 90s, when she was still somewhat unknown, McGowan dated a man who bought her exercise equipment and encouraged her to lose weight.  She writes that she felt like a “failure” when she couldn’t manage to get below 92 pounds.  As she became more famous, she ended up in more abusive relationships with men, including one she refers to as RR (Robert Rodriguez).  She describes him as very possessive and obsessive.  One time, after working very hard all day on a movie set, she came home to find what appeared to be a man in her bed.  RR had put a male dummy in her bed with a cowboy hat, apparently to scare her if she’d come home with another man.

McGowan describes working with the director Quentin Tarantino on the film Death Proof.  She writes that Tarantino hates women.  Apparently, all of the women in his films, particularly the powerful ones, end up dying horrible, violent deaths.  McGowan writes that she tried to give her character, Pam, an “angelic” quality so that audiences would feel something for her when she inevitably dies.  I haven’t seen Death Proof, so I have no idea if McGowan was able to pull off that quality in her character.  But I did find her comments about movie directors interesting.  She says you can tell how a director feels about women by how the female characters in their films are treated.

Rose McGowan also starred in the series Charmed, joining the cast after actress Shannen Doherty departed.  She played the long lost half-sister Paige Matthews.  I only saw a few episodes of Charmed, and I don’t think they were the ones that included McGowan.  Still, I grew up with Aaron Spelling’s television shows, so McGowan’s comments on working on Charmed were interesting to me.  They kind of made me want to watch Charmed.  McGowan was not herself a viewer until she was asked to meet Aaron Spelling.  She writes that she watched the show’s pilot while flying, and she has never seen Charmed offered on any other flight since then.  Apparently, being offered that role was like “kismet”.

BRAVE reads a bit like a manifesto.  McGowan rails against sexism in Hollywood, even comparing it to a cult.  She apparently doesn’t like the constant pressure to be thin, beautiful, and accepting of the way women are treated by the men in charge.  It doesn’t surprise me that Rose McGowan experienced sexism and sexual harassment in Hollywood.  And yet, so many people would trade places with Rose McGowan.  Regular people dream of being stars, even though she makes it sound like a miserable experience.  People don’t realize that stars work very hard.  The hours are long and not that glamorous, and there’s constant pressure to measure up to physical standards that are very difficult to maintain.  McGowan’s disdain for the way her image was marketed to the masses is palpable.  This book is her way of calling out the industry.  She flat out writes that she “despises” Bill Cosby, and claims she faked an orgasm with Harvey Weinstein.  Both of these men have been accused by many women of exploiting them sexually.  For what, though… a career the women wanted in Hollywood?

To be honest, it took me awhile to get into BRAVE.  From the beginning, it’s a very confrontational book to the point of being kind of unpleasant.  McGowan uses raw language and seems very angry, which isn’t the most soothing thing to read before you go to sleep.  I usually read before sleeping, so McGowan’s style was kind of jarring to me.  But then, as I kept reading, I found her book more interesting.  I think she really was brave to write it, given that she’s been in an industry that blackballs people.  In fact, she writes that she was “blacklisted” at least once.  On the other hand, there were times as I read this book that I kind of felt like she had a choice.  Rose McGowan had a choice to leave Hollywood.  It wasn’t like she was forced to be an actress or a model.  Like anyone else, she could choose to go a different way.  I suppose she kind of has with this book… but I won’t be surprised if she eventually stops referring to herself as a “former” actress.

Anyway, if I were rating BRAVE, I’d give it 3.5 stars out of five.  I see that it’s a pretty controversial book on Amazon, with people seeming to love it or hate it.  I thought it was reasonably well-written and interesting, but the writing is very much “in your face”.  Some people will like that and others will not.  My guess is that Rose McGowan is a complicated and, probably, a very troubled woman.  McGowan seems to think all men are the same, which I think is a shame.  Not all men are abusive bastards.

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