book reviews, celebrities, family

Repost: There Was A Little Girl, by Brooke Shields… 

In the interest of augmenting today’s fresh content about Mother’s Day, here’s a repost of a book review I wrote in December 2014 about Brooke Shields’ famously complex relationship with her mom, Teri.

This morning, I finished Brooke Shields’ latest book, There Was A Little Girl: The Real Story of My Mother and Me.  Having grown up when I did, I well remember Brooke’s movies and her famously enmeshed relationship with her mother, Teri.  All I remembered about Teri Shields, who died at age 79 on Halloween in 2012, was that she was often called a notorious stage mom.  She raised Brooke as a single woman, since her marriage to Frank Shields didn’t last, and she was very involved in Brooke’s acting and modeling career.

Though she was well-known for being controlling and domineering, Teri Shields had a fun and flamboyant side to her, which Brooke Shields writes a lot about.  She also writes of her mother’s love of booze and how her mother’s drinking affected her as she came of age.  In her reflective memoir, Brooke reveals how co-dependent growing up with her mother made her.  As a young girl, Brooke declared to her mother, “If you die; I will die.”  She grew up thinking her mother was always right.

I was happy to read that Brooke enjoyed a good relationship with her father, his wife Didi, and her step and half siblings.  Her upbringing was mostly in New York, Newark, and New Jersey, but she was also exposed to her father’s wealthier side of the family in the Hamptons.  Brooke’s father, Frank Shields, would never watch Brooke’s films, but he did enjoy her show, Suddenly Susan, a sitcom I never got into but am now somewhat curious about.  And he no doubt remembers her infamous Calvin Klein ads, too.

Brooke actually discusses this ad in her book…  apparently it helped her in a science class.
And of course, this ad is very famous…

Some years ago, I read and reviewed Brooke’s book Down Came the Rain, which was about her experiences with postpartum depression.  She does touch a bit on that in There Was A Little Girl, since she outlines what it was like having her two daughters, Rowan and Grier.  She writes a little about being married to Andre Agassi and her current husband, Chris Henchy.  But really, this book is all about Brooke and her mom and their very complicated relationship.

I related a bit to Brooke’s story, since I also grew up with an alcoholic.  My parents were not divorced, but my mother was very co-dependent and put up with abuse because she either didn’t want to be raising her kids alone or didn’t think she’d be able to.  I also know she loved my dad very much, even though he could be infuriating and insufferable at times.  I get the sense that Brooke Shields also loved her mother very much and she even spells out how she felt like she wouldn’t be able to live without her.  And yet, she spent a lot of her youth taking care of her mother, even to the point of giving her a livelihood.  There is some bitterness that comes out in Brooke’s writing that indicates that it wasn’t easy to be Teri’s daughter.

I do think There Was A Little Girl probably could have been edited a bit.  It seemed to take forever to finish this book, despite several concentrated sessions.  On the other hand, I liked that Brooke seemed to come across as so normal and human.  Here she is, this famous, beautiful, wealthy woman who seems like she could be a next door neighbor.  And yet, she’s been in many movies, including The Blue Lagoon and Pretty Baby, movies that were controversial because of her age when she did them and the amount of nudity in them (she used body doubles).  There is a photo section at the end of the book that really show how much Brooke looks like her mother.

 I see on Amazon.com that There Was A Little Girl gets mixed reviews.  Some people seemed to love it, while others are quick to pan it.  I thought it was a decent effort and would probably give it about 3.5 stars.  I think I would have given it four stars if it hadn’t rambled on so much. 

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A review of Sally Field’s life story, In Pieces…

Four years ago, weeks before we moved to Wiesbaden, actress Sally Field, who was then 71 years old, published her memoirs, titled In Pieces. I downloaded the book in October of that year, fully intending to read it immediately. But then stuff happened. We moved, and other books and current events came up. Sally’s book drifted further and further down my “to be read” list, in favor of other books that I considered more pressing because they covered current events or otherwise “hot” or interesting topics.

Recently, Sally Field commented about the trend of right wing politicians trying to take away women’s rights to choose whether or not they want to be pregnant. Field said in an interview for Variety,

“Those men who are doing that, and they’re mostly male governors who are doing it, are so backward, so ignorant and really just power hungry,” the two-time Academy Award winner, 75, said. “I think it’s criminal.”

“They’re so wanting to roll back the achievements and important progress for women, for Blacks, for the LGBTQ community.”

She continued:

“I can’t say enough horrible things about what I feel about those men,” she said. “If you see them coming toward me, those two governors specifically, lead me out of the way because I cannot be responsible for what I would do. [Addressing her publicist] Heidi, do you hear me? Lead me away.”

I had basically forgotten about Sally Field’s memoirs until a few weeks ago, when I read a news article about the war on abortion. A journalist for People Magazine mentioned that Sally Field had an abortion in the 1960s, when she was a young actress struggling to break into the entertainment industry. The year was 1964, and Field was just 17 years old. She had to go to Tijuana, Mexico to have the procedure, since it was not legal in the United States. The story about her abortion was in her book, In Pieces, which reminded me that I bought the book several years ago. It was because of her comments about abortion that I decided it was time to read Sally’s life story. I believe very strongly that people should have the right to have an abortion, and it’s no one else’s business.

I finally finished the book last night. I’ve always liked Sally Field as an actress, and now that I’ve read her book, I like her even more as a person. Curiously, some people on Amazon commented that this book was “whiny” and “poorly written”. I don’t agree with them. I’m not sure what would have made the book better for them. This is Sally Field’s story. Everybody has a story. This is hers. There are aspects of her story that may be distasteful for some people. Yes, she had an abortion. She did not have a good relationship with her biological father, a man named Dick Field, whom she says she didn’t enjoy visiting after he and her mother divorced. She was also sexually abused by her stepfather, Jocko (Jacques O’Mahoney), and had a difficult relationship with the late Burt Reynolds, who also had a difficult relationship with Loni Anderson, whose life story I read years ago.

In spite of all of that, Sally Field has had an amazing career as an actress on television and the big screen. She’s done everything from sitcoms to high drama, and she’s been incredibly successful. And she’s raised three sons, whom she obviously loves very much. I will be 50 years old in June; Sally’s been acting since before I was born, and one of her sons is my age. I think I’ve always liked her because she reminds me a lot of my sister, Becky.

This was way before my time…
Not one of Sally’s favorite roles.

One thing I would mention about In Pieces is that this book isn’t mainly about Sally’s roles. Anyone who picks up this book wanting to know a lot about Sally’s experiences starring on ER as a bipolar mother, or her turn as a housewife turned comedienne in Punchline with Tom Hanks, will be disappointed. She does write about some of her roles– notably Norma Rae, which was a fabulous movie from 1977– and Sybil, a made for television movie she made in 1976. She also writes about Gidget and The Flying Nun, and how neither of those roles were very exciting or challenging for her. Actually, I get the sense that Field hated being The Flying Nun, and hadn’t wanted to do that show at all. But she was advised by her stepfather, Jocko, himself an actor, that she should take the work. Sally’s mother, Margaret Field, who was also an actress, was always present in her life– kind of in an unhealthy way. They were basically enmeshed. Sally’s mom needed to live her own life, but every time she started to try to break away from Sally, something would happen. Her mom would end up depending on Sally, and Sally would depend on her mom.

People were always telling Sally what to do, and perhaps because she felt the need to please people, she did what they said… until she finally learned that she should listen to her own counsel. As someone who is married to an overly responsible people pleaser, I could really appreciate that part of Sally’s story. She ties it up nicely toward the end of the book, as she’s talking to a therapist, who turns a “light” on in her psyche and delivers wisdom in a figurative thunderbolt of insight. She got that insight in time to share it with her mother, just before her death in 2011.

Field writes about her sister, Princess, who was the product of her mother’s marriage to Jocko, and there’s a bit about her older brother, Rick, who is a scientist. Poor Rick never got along with his and Sally’s father, Dick, who was in the military and went off to fight in World War II. When he left, his wife was a homemaker. When he came back, she had a career as an actress and had taken up with Jocko. His marriage was destroyed, and his children wanted nothing to do with him. I felt kind of sad for him, but I also realized that, based on this book, Sally Field had a lot of bad experiences with important men in her life. But, based on her story, it sounds like her mother was a big part of the reason why her relationships were difficult. Her mom would do things to try to sabotage her romances, telling her that the men she wanted to be with weren’t “good” for her. It wasn’t until she was quite old that she finally told her mother what happened with her stepfather. And her mother, to her credit, took responsibility for her part… and turning a blind eye to the abuse.

One of Sally’s best performances!

I will warn readers that this isn’t a particularly “happy” story. Sally Field has had a messy life, parts of which were quite difficult. Anyone who is hoping for a positive, uplifting story will probably be disappointed. Personally, I enjoyed In Pieces. It gave me some insight into who Sally Field is as a person, as well as some insight about Burt Reynolds, who was a similarly complicated and interesting person. I see that most of the negative reviews about this book mention that Sally seems “whiny”. I guess for those who see her as a larger than life movie star with lots of money and privilege, maybe she does seem that way. But she has led an extraordinary life. I appreciated the glimpse behind her persona, even the negative reality checks about how there was a time when she needed public assistance and was signing autographs as she stood in line to get financial aid. Acting can be a very tough, unforgiving, unglamorous, and poorly paid gig. Sally made it big, and was able to provide her sons with educations at prestigious universities, but she had to work hard to get there. I see her book as a glimpse of that process, and a reminder that life as a star isn’t all hearts and flowers.

On a more personal note… I like that Sally Field enjoys swearing. Apparently, Burt Reynolds didn’t like it when she swore… one more reason to ditch him. And she uses interesting metaphors, like “flopped like a juicy fart at a family reunion”, which some people might find crude. But, of course, I found it charming. I’ll have to add it to my own personal collection of funny and gross things to say.

Out of five stars, I think I’d give In Pieces three and a half. Sally Field does present her very human side, complete with foibles and personal problems. Some people may not like that, and will think she’s confused her book with a therapy session. Some readers would rather read about her acting and roles she’s had, rather than Sally Field as an actual person. I’m inclined to give her more of a break than they did, even if I can see their point. I’m not sorry I read the book, though.

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A review of Bright Lights, Prairie Dust: Reflections on Life, Loss, and Love from Little House’s Ma, by Karen Grassle…

If you were growing up in the 70s and 80s, it’s a fair bet that you might know who Karen Grassle is. For eight years, she played Caroline Ingalls– Ma– on the hit NBC show, Little House on the Prairie. I was born in 1972, so I was a child when that show was airing on prime time. I remember watching it on Monday nights, probably starting at the time I was about eight years old or so. By then, the show had been airing for some time, and was starting to jump the shark a bit. It wasn’t until I started watching reruns on TBS during my college years that I really became a fan.

Although I loved Little House, I wasn’t necessarily a fan of Michael Landon’s. I always thought he was kind of weird. One time, I saw a comedian do a hilarious imitation of the way he smiled, screwing his eyes a bit and twitching his jaw, as if he was trying to keep from crying. The comedian had him down perfectly, and every time I see Landon on screen, I’m reminded of it, as well as why he never came across as particularly handsome to me. Edited to add: I think the comedian might have been Jim Carrey. Here’s a clip.

When I got older, I started to understand why people found Michael Landon so charismatic. He had this “saint like” image that he tried to project in his projects. A lot of people were fooled by him, thinking that he was much like his saintly characters, especially Charles Ingalls– which was probably his most famous role. He was well-known for being generous and he certainly had a gift for making television programs that appealed to the masses. A lot of women thought he was “hot”, too, although it’s clear to me that he knew it, which I find kind of repellant.

As Karen Grassle points out in her recently published memoir, Bright Lights, Prairie Dust: Reflections on Life, Loss, and Love from Little House’s Ma, there was a lot more to Michael Landon than met the eye. And he was no saint. But then, neither is she. I just finished her eye opening memoir last night, somewhat surprised by her story.

Karen Grassle talks to Megyn Kelly about her book and working with Michael Landon. In this interview, Grassle says Victor French was a “wonderful actor”. And he was. But he also had a problem with alcohol.

Karen Grassle’s life started off normally enough. She was born February 25, 1942 in Berkeley, California. She grew up in Ventura, the daughter of a real estate agent and a teacher. She also has a younger sister named Janey and an adopted son named Zach. When she was very young, Grassle was captivated by her Baptist faith. She studied ballet, acted in school plays, and was popular among her peers.

Her first year of college was spent in New Orleans, Louisiana at H. Sophie Newcomb Memorial College, which was the women’s branch of Tulane University. Grassle couldn’t hang in New Orleans. She found the atmosphere too offensive with the rampant racism in the South during the early 1960s. With help from her mother, Grassle went back to California and enrolled at the University of California, Berkeley, from which she graduated in 1965, with bachelor’s degrees in English and Dramatic Art.

After college, Grassle won a Fulbright Scholarship and moved to London for a year. Living in London gave Grassle the chance to travel around Europe, and she writes a bit about her experiences seeing the continent. She even includes a passage about riding on a train with a young Italian man and his father and having sex with the Italian guy while his father snored beneath them. I could relate to the train experience to Italy, minus the sex part. I once rode in a sleeper car with an Asian family on my way from Vienna to Venice and listened to the dad of the family snore all night. A little sex might have done me some good.

Grassle later moved to New York City, where she struggled financially, and picked up roles at the many theaters there. She drank a lot and smoked too much, and picked up interesting odd jobs to make ends meet, including a stint working as a size eight model for garment makers. Although she worked steadily, she didn’t really become financially successful in any sense until she moved back to California and auditioned for the role of Caroline Ingalls. The rest is history.

Yesterday, I wrote about Betty White, and how I think sometimes people mistook Betty White for her characters. I think the same may be true for Karen Grassle. On Little House on the Prairie, Grassle portrayed a beautiful, God-fearing, kind, gentle woman. Michael Landon portrayed a male version of that same ideal. But, as I mentioned in yesterday’s post, actors are often not at all like the roles they play. That is apparently very true of Karen Grassle and Michael Landon. Grassle writes that the two of them didn’t get along very well after the first year of the show’s eight season run. Although on screen, they looked like they were deeply in love, they really were just acting…

In Bright Lights, Prairie Dust, Grassle gives readers a glimpse of what was going on behind the scenes on Little House, but readers shouldn’t expect an exhaustive tell all about the show. This book is really a book about Karen Grassle. The title is a bit misleading, which is why I think Grassle got some low ratings from Amazon readers. I think a lot of people read Grassle’s book hoping for stories about Little House on the Prairie, and what they got is a book that is pretty much just about Karen Grassle’s life, with only a little bit about the show that made her a star. There’s also quite a bit of throwing Michael Landon under the bus and airing of “dirty laundry”. As someone who also often airs dirty laundry, I can understand why she wrote about these things… but I can also see why other readers found the revelations off-putting.

I mostly enjoyed reading Karen Grassle’s story. I don’t judge her for her life choices or mistakes. We all make them. Karen Grassle admits to being an alcoholic who had many difficult relationships with men, including an unfortunate tryst with actor Gil Gerard (Buck Rogers) that led to a sexually transmitted infection. She’s been married a few times. She’s had a couple of abortions. She turned away from Christianity. She didn’t get along with Michael Landon and, in fact, even judged him for infidelity, even though she had herself been unfaithful to at least one of her partners. I’d say she’s pretty much the antithesis of Caroline Ingalls, a role she played so convincingly.

Karen Grassle writes that she loved working with Scotty MacGregor, otherwise known as Mrs. Oleson.

I’m sure a lot of readers will judge Karen Grassle for not being Caroline Ingalls. I guess I can understand why they might, since the title implies that she’s going to impart wisdom the way “Ma Ingalls” did. But again, I think readers should understand that actors are human, and memoirs are the ultimate project in self-promotion. Of course the book is about Karen Grassle, and Karen Grassle isn’t “Ma Ingalls”. That was just the most famous one of the many roles she’s played over her long career. I, for one, was interested in reading about Grassle’s lesser known work on the world’s stages.

I appreciated reading about Karen Grassle’s work toward promoting women’s rights. She grew up in a time when racism and sexism were rampant, and anyone who wasn’t a white man had less power simply because they weren’t a white male. I think it’s pretty clear that Grassle is politically very liberal, and she feels very strongly about protecting women’s rights, including the right to have an abortion. Grassle had two experiences with abortion. The first one happened when she was 20 years old. She had to go to Mexico, and it was done secretly. The second one was done ten years later, in New York, where in 1972, abortion was legal. She compared the experiences, which I found interesting, and a bit frightening for today’s young women, who may soon lose the right to privacy and bodily autonomy. Some readers may have less sympathy for her, later in the book, when she laments how she eventually wanted a baby of her own. She did eventually adopt a son.

Grassle is also very involved in Jungian therapy, which I found intriguing, since my husband is also into Jungian therapy. She writes a bit about dream analysis, and some of the cool insights she got from some of her therapists. I probably wouldn’t have noticed that part of the book if Bill wasn’t working with a Jungian therapist. If I had read Karen Grassle’s book a year ago, I probably wouldn’t have cared about her revelations regarding Jungian psychology. But I guess it just goes to show you that as one’s life evolves, so do one’s interests.

The one thing I distinctly didn’t like about Karen Grassle’s book was a certain contrived quality it had. It was like she was trying really hard to write in an evocative way that came across as insincere. Her writing wasn’t terrible; it just seemed to lack some authenticity. Like she was trying too hard to turn a phrase or something.

I do think the title of the book is misleading. I’m sure it was purposely given that title to make sales, but plenty of people who bought it for the potential of Grassle’s “spilling the tea” about life on the Little House set will “spill the tea” that the book is only a little bit about the show. There’s very little about the children who played the Ingalls’ children, but she does include a couple of less flattering comments about Victor French (Mr. Edwards), as well as a few more positive comments about Scotty MacGregor (Harriett Oleson) and Charlotte Stewart (Miss Beadle). I think a lot of people will expect much more about the show. They won’t necessarily get that information in this book, which may disappoint some readers.

The last comment I want to make is that the book ends rather abruptly, just as Karen Grassle has married her second husband of three. I’m not sure why she chose to end the book at that point. Maybe it’s because it was just as the show was ending, in the early 1980s. But the book is clearly not just about Little House on the Prairie. Grassle wrote a lot about her young life, her years as a struggling actress, and what led up to her turn as “Ma Ingalls”. If the book had been more about the show, I might understand why she ended in the early 80s. But it’s clearly NOT just about the show. Again… I think a more accurate title would have served her better.

There are some photos included, though they aren’t so easy to see on my Kindle app.

I’m glad Karen Grassle was able to quit drinking, since it clearly affected her in a negative way and was problematic, particularly regarding her relationships with other people, as well as her image. As a fellow adult child of an alcoholic, I could relate to some of her comments about what it was like to grow up in that particular brand of dysfunction. I respect Karen Grassle’s talent, and some of her insights about working with Michael Landon. A lot of her complaints about Landon were about money, and how he allegedly wouldn’t agree to pay her what she felt she should be earning on a hit show.

This book could have been better, and should be retitled… and maybe even retooled. But overall, I’m not sorry I read it. I would just caution prospective readers not to expect a book that is just about Little House on the Prairie, containing heartwarming, homespun, words of wisdom from Ma Ingalls. Bright Lights, Prairie Dust is definitely not delivering much of that, in spite of its title.

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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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book reviews, celebrities

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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