book reviews, celebrities

Repost: A look at Linda Gray’s The Road to Happiness Is Always Under Construction

Here’s an as/is repost of a book review I wrote for my original blog. It appeared on February 6, 2017. I was reminded to repost this review after watching The Love Boat, yesterday. Juliet Prowse was a guest star and they showed off her fabulous legs. I was reminded of Linda Gray, writing about her “stems”.

Lately, I’ve been watching old episodes of Dallas.  They offer a flashback to my youth, a time when I didn’t care about things like politics.  I was very young when Dallas first started airing and a young woman when it finally went off the air.  So, I guess for that reason, Dallas is a comfort.

Many people know that actress Linda Gray played a pivotal role on Dallas.  She was Sue Ellen Ewing, J.R. Ewing’s long suffering alcoholic wife.  Later, Gray starred in Models Inc., an Aaron Spelling spin off of the 90s hit Melrose Place, which was itself a spin off of Beverly Hills 90210.  Models Inc. flopped and was cancelled after one season.  But in 2012, a reboot of Dallas came along and Gray was able to be Sue Ellen again for three seasons.

I like life stories, so that’s probably why I decided to download Gray’s 2015 book, The Road to Happiness is Always Under Construction.  I finally got around to reading it and finished it yesterday while in my sick bed.  It’s basically Linda Gray’s life story mixed with the odd recipe, cute anecdotes, and Gray’s self help philosophies.  I understand the book was written to commemorate Gray’s 75th birthday.  She still looks good.

I learned some new things when I read this book.  I never knew that Gray had polio when she was a child.  She spent several months in bed and almost ended up in an iron lung.  Fortunately, that treatment ultimately wasn’t indicated and Gray eventually recovered.  Gray is also the daughter of an alcoholic.  Her mother, who was apparently a very talented artist with a great sense of style, drank to numb the boredom of simply being a wife and a mother.  I’m sure growing up with an alcoholic mother gave Gray some cues as to how she should play alcoholic Sue Ellen.

There are a few anecdotes about Dallas, as well as a couple of funny stories about Larry Hagman, who was one of Gray’s dearest friends.  Gray also writes about how she came to capture the part of Sue Ellen.  Although she’d been a model and commercial actress for years, at the time she got her big break, she was married, 38 years old, and the mother of two kids rapidly approaching adolescence.  Her husband had not wanted her to work, but Gray was finding life as a housewife unfulfilling and boring.  She went against her husband’s wishes and soon became a star.  The marriage fell apart, but Gray finally found a purpose other than being a mother and a housewife.  She thrived.

I did take notice when California born and bred Gray wrote about learning how to speak like a rich woman from Dallas.  She writes that she met Dolly Parton, who told her to just emulate her.  Gray said Dolly didn’t sound “Texan”.  She asked Dolly where she was from and claims Dolly said “Georgia”.  Um…  Dolly Parton is not from Georgia!  She’s from Tennessee!  I guess Gray isn’t a fan of country music.  Gray ended up finding a voice coach who taught her some tricks.  She also hung out at Neiman-Marcus in Dallas a lot, to see how rich women from Dallas behaved.

I mostly enjoyed Gray’s book.  It looks like she wrote it herself, with no help from a ghost writer.  I think she did a fairly good job, although there are a few small snafus like the one I mentioned in the previous paragraph.  I liked that Gray came across as very normal and approachable. 

On the other hand, toward the end of the book, she offers some advice to her readers that I don’t think she herself takes.  For instance, she writes about how off putting it is when people brag.  She kind of does some bragging herself.  Not that I wouldn’t have expected her to brag somewhat; she is a famous actress who has had an unusual life.  But it does seem disingenuous when an actress tells her readers about how annoying she finds braggarts right after she writes about her “come hither” eyes and “amazing stems” (legs).  Acting is not exactly a profession for people who aren’t a little bit self-absorbed (although I am sure there are exceptions).  Self help advice from a celebrity often rings hollow anyway.  A little bit goes a long way. 

At the end of the book there are pictures.  Many of them are too small to see, at least on an iPad. 

I probably could have done without the self help sections, with the exception of Gray’s life “principles”, which were cleverly conceived and included funny anecdotes.  She also includes a couple of recipes– one for a conditioner she uses on her hair and another for some kind of meat pie she made for her kids, which doesn’t seem to jibe with her advice to eat clean.

I give this book 3.5 stars on a scale of 5.  It’s not bad, and parts are interesting and enjoyable.  But self help advice usually puts me off, anyway.

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politicians, politics

And now I feel like Pam Ewing after the Dream Season on Dallas…

Pamela Ewing wakes up to a surreal surprise…

Well, we did it. Donald Trump has lost the election and will be moving out of the White House in a couple of months. I’m sure the next couple of months will be pretty crazy, but it’s so nice to see a light at the end of the Trump tunnel. As I was watching the news last night, and hearing the bells that pealed all over Europe (though not in my town), it dawned on me that I have not set foot in the United States since November 2014. And since I have no plans to visit the USA anytime soon, that means I have pretty much “missed” Trump’s presidency.

Oh… I don’t mean that I missed being affected by his leadership. It’s more that I’ve been watching it from afar, in a weird position of being an American thousands of miles away from my homeland as it became more bizarre and dangerous by the day. It saddens me somewhat that the race was so tight and so many Americans were fine with Trump’s hateful rhetoric. But I am delighted that Biden prevailed and that may mean a return to decency. I even sent Bill to buy the bubbly in the photo above when it became clear that Biden was going to win.

I remember in 2016, when Trump won. I felt sick to my stomach that morning. I tried to be brave about it… and I posted this video in my blog post for that day, because Trump reminded me so much of Ming the Merciless.

And I must say, Trump is really not unlike Ming the Merciless…
And now Flash Gordon has finally arrived to save the day.

I consoled myself with this song from Avenue Q, comforted by the idea that everything is only “For Now”… and realized that kvetching about the election was pointless, since there was nothing I could do about it.

So… if you’re unhappy about the results of the election, just remember that everything is only “for now”… That’s what I told myself in 2016.

Donald Trump is only for now… just like Joe Biden will be, once he’s installed in the White House.

Until Trump came along, I mostly didn’t care about politics. I paid little attention to them, even when I had a job tracking healthcare policy. If there is one thing Trump has done, it’s made people much less complacent about politics and politicians. More people got out and voted this year because of Trump. Some voted because they wanted him to go. Some voted because they wanted him to stay. What’s important is that people exercised their rights to choose.

I don’t usually feel elated when we get a new president, as I do today. In fact, don’t usually vote for either of the main candidates, unless the election is particularly important or I’m living in a swing state. This year, I decided I would vote Democrat because it was important to me that Trump left office. I think he’s been a terrible leader and a wretched example of Americans to the rest of the world. I’ve been horrified to watch the hatred and violence from afar.

This Golden Girls storyline worked in the 80s because kids could write to world leaders back then… Imagine a kid writing to Trump!

I kept thinking about how, when I was a child, Ronald Reagan was the president. Kids would write letters to him and he’d answer them. We all knew about his love for Jelly Bellies. He was a Republican, and some of his policies weren’t popular. But– I don’t remember him representing hate and divisiveness the way Trump has. I remember being in school, learning about Reagan and seeing him as someone I could look up to, even though I was a kid and knew nothing about politics.

10 year old Samantha Smith, now sadly deceased, famously wrote a letter to Soviet leader Yuri Andropov, because she was so concerned about the prospect of nuclear war. She went to the USSR and made many friends there, doing so much to foster goodwill and friendship. I can’t see this scenario with Trump.

Samantha Smith spent two weeks in the former USSR, being shown that people in the Soviet Union aren’t that different than Americans are. Her visit in 1983 was groundbreaking, and she became a heroine to people all over the world. Sadly, Samantha died in a plane crash a couple of years after she visited the Soviet Union. I guess nowadays, we have Greta Thunberg… who very wittily trolled Trump by advising him to go see a movie with a friend as he melted down over the election results. Trump had advised her to do the same last December.

Seems kind of tone deaf to talk about the military while standing next to the Easter Bunny…

If I had a child, I wouldn’t encourage him or her to write to Trump. I can’t see Trump caring about answering a letter from a child, the way other presidents have. I remember him talking to children at Easter, remarking about how none of the children had a weight problem as he gave them candy. And the above clip shows him talking about the military and money while the Easter Bunny just stands there, mouth agape. It’s pretty surreal.

I can see Joe Biden enthusiastically answering letters from children. I can see his wife, Dr. Jill Biden, working to get education back on track and improve literacy in the United States. I can see Joe Biden engaging with people of all classes, races, and creeds, and actually caring about them. Will he be perfect? No one ever is… but he’s chosen a dynamic Vice President in Kamala Harris. I have great hope that things will get back to some semblance of normalcy… or at least basic decency. And I feel a lot better today than I did four years ago. The Trump nightmare is about to end at last! Or, at least, for now…

Well, it’s time for breakfast, so I’m off… Enjoy your Sunday!

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