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.
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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I am reposting this blog entry from August 31, 2016 because I think it’s a good topic. Gene Wilder died in 2016, though, so please don’t think this is new news. It’s not. I just think the overall subject matter is worth a reshare. Sometimes people don’t think. The screen shot is from a tribute to Gene and Gilda. I have no problem with people memorializing them now, since Gene has been gone for five years. I just thought it was wrong to do it just after his death, when he left a wife behind who had been with him for 25 years.
In case you didn’t know, actor, screenwriter, director and author Gene Wilder died a couple of days ago. He had lived a very full life and was 83 years old at the time of his passing. He’d also suffered from Alzheimer’s disease, which kept him out of the spotlight over the past few years.
I first became familiar with Gene Wilder in the 80s. He was still a fairly prolific actor back then. I still have not seen Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory or Young Frankenstein, but I did see The Woman in Red, Stir Crazy, and Blazing Saddles. I always thought he was funny and charming. I may have to read his novels, too. I bet they were excellent. But I am not writing about Gene Wilder this morning because I want to memorialize him.
Gene Wilder died a married man. His fourth wife, Karen, married him in 1991. That was twenty-five years ago. Karen stuck by him as he aged and got sick. He was married to her longer than he was the three wives before him combined.
But people seem to want to remember him with his third wife, Gilda Radner, the adorably funny comedienne who starred on Saturday Night Live in the 70s. They were married in 1984 in the South of France and their marriage ended tragically five years later, when Gilda got a very aggressive form of ovarian cancer. I read her book, It’s Always Something, when I was in high school. It was published in 1989, the year she died.
I will not dispute that Gene Wilder and Gilda Radner were deeply in love. I remember reading about their love in Gilda’s book. And I’m sure, if there is a Heaven, the two of them embraced and celebrated when he finally reached the Pearly Gates. Maybe they’re rejoicing being together again. I really don’t know.
I get that Gene Wilder is timely news right now. I get that he and Gilda had a special love for each other. But, in my opinion, the media could have waited awhile before they went ahead with this reminder of Gene’s past love life. He has a widow now who is presumably grieving. Where is the deference for her? Couldn’t this reminder of Gene and Gilda have waited until the sheets had gone cold?
What kills me is that most of the comments I’ve read on that one story alone were very positive. They were all about how deeply Gene and Gilda loved each other. Only a few people spared a passing thought for Gene’s fourth wife, Karen, who must have also loved him very much. Most people were writing things like “What a beautiful love story!” “They are together again!” “Such a positive story for a change!” (really?). It just seems kind of thoughtless to me.
This issue is not new, though. If you’ve read this blog for any length of time, you may already know how I feel about a certain essay that regularly circuits the Internet. It’s called “Paradox of our Time” and it often gets falsely attributed to George Carlin, who read it and thought it was a “sappy load of shit”. The essay was, in fact, written by Dr. Bob Moorehead, a pastor. In fact, this is what Mr. Carlin himself had to say about “Paradox of our Time”.
“PARADOX OF OUR TIME” One of the more embarrassing items making the internet/e-mail rounds is a sappy load of shit called “The Paradox of Our Time.” The main problem I have with it is that as true as some of the expressed sentiments may be, who really gives a shit? Certainly not me.
I figured out years ago that the human species is totally fucked and has been for a long time. I also know that the sick, media-consumer culture in America continues to make this so-called problem worse. But the trick, folks, is not to give a fuck. Like me. I really don’t care. I stopped worrying about all this temporal bullshit a long time ago. It’s meaningless. (See the preface of “Braindroppings.”)
Another problem I have with “Paradox” is that the ideas are all expressed in a sort of pseudo-spiritual, New-Age-y, “Gee-whiz-can’t-we-do-better-than-this” tone of voice. It’s not only bad prose and poetry, it’s weak philosophy. I hope I never sound like that.
But anyway, there is a version of “Paradox of our Time” circulating that adds a bit more to the essay. Some uninformed jerk decided to turn the essay into a love story by adding that Carlin wrote it right after his first wife, Brenda Carlin, died of liver cancer. Then, they add that Carlin quickly followed her to the grave.
Folks, Brenda Carlin died in May 1997 of liver cancer. George Carlin died in June 2008. And guess what? He had remarried! His second wife, Sally Wade, even published a book about their relationship. They were together for about ten years. “Paradox of our Time” was written in 1998, a year after Brenda Carlin died. But it was not inspired by her, nor was it written by George Carlin.
Now… I don’t know Sally Wade. I did read her book about life with George, though, and she strikes me as a pretty tough cookie. Still, I’m sure it was annoying to see her husband not only associated with a piece of writing that he thought was a “sappy load of shit”, but to also see people fabricating a false history. George Carlin did NOT die of a broken heart right after his first wife died, though he did die of heart failure about eleven years later. To fabricate a tall tale about how he “followed Brenda to the grave” is just disrespectful, not just to George, but also to his second wife, Sally.
I understand that people want to admire their heroes. People also love a good story. We’d like to think that love is forever and that when someone’s first true love dies, he or she is waiting for them up in Heaven. And maybe that’s what will happen– or maybe not. But if someone whose first love dies has the good fortune to love again, isn’t it more respectful and kind to pay deference to the person left behind when he or she passes? Maybe Karen came after Gilda and wasn’t as famous as Gilda was, but she stuck around for 25 years and presumably took care of Gene Wilder when he needed her the most.
In the case of Gene and Gilda, I would say it’s fine to write about their relationship at some point. They were genuinely in love with each other and I don’t think it’s wrong to wax poetic about that. But I don’t think it’s appropriate to romanticize Gene and Gilda when Gene hasn’t even been dead 24 hours and has a grieving widow now acutely dealing with his death. It’s just tacky and rude, and shows no consideration for his wife.
But… in the interest of not being a hypocrite, I will not go around flaming the people who do write about Gene and Gilda “together again at last”, even if it does make me shake my head… When it comes down to it, people have the right to express themselves, even if they’re being tacky and rude in the process.
I get it. They don’t like Joe Biden. They claim he has dementia. They repeatedly bring up his son, Hunter, and Hunter’s “shady dealings” in Ukraine. They’re tired of virtue signaling, holier than thou, politically correct liberals who want to tell them what to do, how to speak, and the “right” way to live. I get it.
Believe it or not, I don’t like a lot of the liberal mindset, either. I, for one, am super weary of reading shaming social media posts about everything from wearing face masks to what constitutes proper character. I think most people are who they are and believe what they believe, and no stale Facebook meme or falsely attributed wise quote is going to change their behavior. BUT…
I truly don’t understand why so many people are so wedded to having Donald Trump as the leader of our country. As far as I can tell, his leadership has been a complete and total disaster. Every president in recent times has been somewhat moderate and had some sense of decency. Trump doesn’t care about ANYONE but himself. How can you be a good person and support such a man as a world leader?
I get being conservative and identifying with the Republican party’s stated values. It wasn’t so long ago that, I too, identified with being politically conservative on a lot of issues. Trump isn’t really a conservative, though. He doesn’t make decisions based on a fiscal or moral compass. It’s all about being in charge and stroking his massive ego, satisfying his libido and insatiable need for admiration and regard from his minions. He would not deign to spit on you if you were on fire. He literally DOES NOT GIVE A SHIT about anyone but himself… and maybe Ivanka, whom he has said he’d like to date if she weren’t his daughter. Ivanka, for her part, appears to be following in Trump’s footsteps, albeit in a slightly more polished way.
Last night, I read the article I linked immediately above– it’s from Vanity Fair, written by Lysandra Ohrstrom, who attended prep school with Ivanka in Manhattan in the 1990s. For years, she considered herself Ivanka’s best friend. As they grew older, it became clear that they didn’t share the same values. This happens a lot as children and teenagers develop into adults. It happened with me and my former best friend, although I also determined that she wasn’t a good friend in general. I know what it’s like to face the painful realization that someone you counted as a loyal friend turns out to be a fraud. Based on this article, that’s what happened with Lysandra and Ivanka. But, just as it was between my former friend and me, the signs were there. And the signs that Donald Trump is a vile, inappropriate, uncaring person were also there. Consider this anecdote from the Vanity Fair piece:
I’m not surprised by this anecdote. There have been plenty of others over the years. If there had only been one or two stories about Trump being so gross, maybe I could dismiss them the way some of my friends and relatives have. But there have been so many stories of Trump’s piggish behavior toward women that I just can’t turn a blind eye. He’s even said he enjoys grabbing women by their genitals and kissing them, even if they don’t consent to his attentions. I don’t think a person with such a low opinion of other people ought to be leading them.
I am delighted that Joe Biden won the presidency. It’s not because I think he’s a fantastic candidate. I don’t actually know that much about him. But he’s clearly a much more decent person than Trump is and will think more about the people he’s been tasked to lead rather than himself. And, you know what? If something happens to Biden and he can’t complete the term, I would support Kamala Harris as president. At the very basic level, a world leader should care about other people. Trump does not. A man who can treat a teenaged girl like a feast for his eyes isn’t worthy of running the country.
I’ve seen a lot of people doggedly championing Trump, though. I don’t understand why. If you just want a conservative leader, why not champion someone who is conservative, but doesn’t treat others with such obvious contempt? Why not expect your leader to be a basically decent person who has respect for other people? What is so incredible about Trump, other than the fact that he emboldens white supremacists?
A couple of days ago, I was chatting with one of my sisters and I remarked that one of our cousins recently unfriended me. My sister asked me why. I wrote that it was probably because I am vocal about despising Donald Trump and I cuss a lot. But then I added, “Anyone who has a problem with my language, but supports a man who explicitly brags about grabbing women by the pussy is a hypocrite, as far as I can tell.”
I know this cousin is a devout Christian. I have always known her to be a decent and good person. But she admires Trump, despite his obviously unChristian, inhumane, disrespectful and outright cruel behavior. It makes me wonder if, deep down, she’s hiding a dark side I never knew. How can any decent person support Trump?
I have another cousin who grew up a Jehovah’s Witness. JWs are famously anti-government. They aren’t supposed to join the military or salute the flag. Her family left the JWs, ostensibly because the local church leaders wanted to install a child molester as a leader. Since leaving the JWs, they’ve become rabidly Republican, and this cousin of mine who is a mother of five and has a beautiful daughter, has posted a lot of political crap about how the election was “stolen” from Trump. I have to wonder if she’s intellectually disabled.
How can anyone accuse Joe Biden of “stealing the election”? He wasn’t the one who installed political appointees who did everything they could to suppress voters. He had nothing to do with appointing Louis DeJoy, a Trump supporter with no post office experience, as the Postmaster General, who apparently did everything he could to suppress mail in ballots during a global pandemic. Even if Biden “cheated”, it seems to me that Trump is also guilty of cheating. But I don’t think Biden cheated. I think a lot of people are just fucking fed up with Trump’s embarrassing shitshow and want him gone, so they legitimately voted for Biden because he could actually win. We all want our lives back, and Trump’s policies don’t facilitate getting things back to normal, nor do they inspire respect from other citizens of the world.
I really do try to respect people’s opinions. I do think it’s important that people vote their consciences as much as possible. I understand that everyone has their reasons for feeling the way they do. I just don’t understand how anyone with a conscience can ignore just how awful Donald Trump and his family are. It’s not just gossip or hearsay. The proof is abundant, and if he weren’t a filthy rich, famous white guy with powerful friends, he would probably be sitting in prison right now for rape.
I read an article in the Army Times last night and noticed the comments… some ignorant woman mentioned Joe Biden’s “dementia”. He does not have dementia. If you ever spent any time with someone with dementia, you’d know just how awful it is to joke about it or speak about it in an ignorant way. Dementia is devastating. My father had dementia, and I saw it change him from a vital, intelligent, strong-willed and strong-bodied man, to a feeble, frightened, helpless shell of himself. I didn’t always have a great relationship with my dad, but I would not wish what happened to him on anyone. It’s truly heartbreaking to watch. How can any decent person make the claim of dementia about Joe Biden, especially if they don’t know him? How can they joke about it? Believe me, it’s not a laughing matter. Dementia is nothing to joke about.
So I posted that Joe Biden doesn’t have dementia, which earned me a bunch of “laughing” reactions from the moronic Trump supporters who refuse to see that their hero is a morally bankrupt buffoon who wouldn’t deign to offer them a squirt of piss if they were dying of thirst. From what I’ve read about Mr. Biden, he lives a healthy lifestyle and does not have dementia. He does make a lot of verbal gaffes. He has issues with stuttering, which only shows that his brain works faster than his mouth does. But I have seen no evidence that he has dementia, and to make light of that condition is reprehensible and disgusting. This is a good read regarding Biden and his non-existent “dementia”…
Anyway… I’m getting to the point at which I’m having trouble separating my Trump supporting friends from their beliefs. I’m still trying to understand, but it’s getting harder and harder. I look forward to Joe Biden taking office. At the very least, maybe he’ll bring some civility and dignity back to the office. If he manages to accomplish anything good, I’ll count it as a bonus. The bar for success is set very low at this point.
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