I originally reviewed this book for Epinions.com in January 2006. I reposted the review on my Blogspot version of this blog in November 2014. In my previous repost, I included videos from Rachel Jacobs’ career. I am not including the videos this time, because they tend to get schwacked for copyright reasons.
A few days ago I was on YouTube, watching an old Pop-Tarts commercial from the mid 1970s. Someone asked who the little girl in the ad was. I knew, because I was an avid fan of Diff’rent Strokes back in the day. There was an episode in 1979 that featured a cute little girl named Rachel Jacobs as Arnold’s “girlfriend” when they were in the hospital together.
Rachel Jacobs went on to act in a number of TV shows, as did her brothers, Parker and Christian. Their father, Kimball Jacobs, went on to write a book about his kids and their show business careers. I read and reviewed his book. It wasn’t good. But I am reposting my review of Faith and Fortune anyway, because I know I have a lot of Mormon and exMormon readers who might be interested.
Pros: A little bit of gossip. Probably the only book about the Jacobs kids.
Cons: Horribly written. Typos and grammatical errors galore. Preaching.
The Bottom Line: Writing this review might be my one good deed for today.
Since I am an aspiring writer, I take a strange form of comfort from the sheer suck factor of the 2002 book, Faith and Fortune: A Mormon Family in Hollywood written by Kimball Jacobs. This book is probably the worst one I’ve read in a very long time. But before I get into how hard this book sucks, let me explain who Kimball Jacobs is and why I read Faith and Fortune in the first place. After all, as I quickly found out, Jacobs’ book is not on any best seller lists– thank heavens!
Kimball Jacobs is the father of three former child actors who worked mostly during the late 1970s and 1980s. His daughter Rachel, and his two sons Christian and Parker Jacobs, were in a number of commercials, television series, and movies. I am a child of the 1970s and 1980s. That means I remember a lot of cheesy television sitcoms from that era. Sometimes, I can be persuaded to watch re-runs of shows that aired during that time. Anyway, the other day, I was watching a re-run of Diff’rent Strokes and remembered the episode in which the character Arnold (played by Gary Coleman) gets a case of appendicitis. He goes to the hospital and shares his room with an adorable little girl named Alice, played by Rachel Jacobs. They become friends, much to Alice’s bigoted father’s (Dabney Coleman) chagrin.
What transpires in the Diff’rent Strokes episode is not important as it relates to this review. Suffice to say that I became curious about the little girl who played Alice, so I went off to the Internet Movie Database and found Rachel Jacobs’ bio. It was there that I discovered that she had two brothers who were also in show business and she’s a Mormon. Besides being a fan of crappy 80s sitcoms, I’m also the wife of an inactive (now resigned) member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (aka the Mormons). Being married to Bill has led me to learn more about the LDS faith, especially since Bill’s children are still members of the church. I noticed that Rachel Jacobs and her brothers were the subjects of Kimball Jacobs’ book. I looked up Faith and Fortune on Amazon.com and found that it got two one star ratings. One of the ratings appeared to be from a disgruntled family member, perhaps his ex wife. Apparently, this book was unauthorized. Now that I’ve read it, I can see why.
Actual review from Amazon: This is a totally unauthorized version of exploiting your own family. Each child involved feels used. Each child involved requested that it not be printed and Dad went right ahead… not only that, even if the story is interesting, it is terribly written and tweaked in its approach …Mom thinks this is unforgivable.. (This review was written by someone named Rebecca.)
Some of you might be wondering why I read this book if it got such poor ratings. Well, Bill has been out of town all week, so I needed something to do. Besides, I’ve been reading entirely too many decent books lately. Against my better judgment, I went to Booklocker.com and downloaded Faith and Fortune. Thank God I didn’t pay full price for the paperback edition. The ebook version of Faith and Fortune runs for 120 pages. Actually, that’s not an entirely true statement. It runs for about 113 pages. The ebook was 120 pages long, but for some reason, quite a few pages were left blank. As I looked at all of those wasted blank pages, I was even happier that I didn’t buy a paper version of this book. What a waste of trees!
Faith and Fortune starts off with Kimball Jacobs explaining how he and his first wife, Rebecca, met at Brigham Young University’s drama department. In his very affected writing style, Jacobs explains that it was his older brother, David, who introduced the two, because David felt he was too old for Rebecca. Kimball and Rebecca Jacobs were married and they moved to Ririe, Idaho to embark on their lives together. Kimball Jacobs got a job as a teacher and wrestling coach and his wife became a teacher’s aide.
It wasn’t long before Rebecca Jacobs gave birth to their first child, Rachel, the adorable little girl I saw on Diff’rent Strokes. A year and a half later, Christian Jacobs was born. Then, the family moved to Ogden, Utah, so that the Jacobs’ family could try their hand at running a restaurant, an adventure that lasted a year, during which time Parker Jacobs was born. It’s at this part that I’m starting to think that perhaps the exuberance of youth had gotten the best of the Jacobs family. Here they were with three young children, trying to launch a restaurant, a stressful venture under the best of circumstances. It sounded like a recipe for disaster and apparently it was. But Jacobs doesn’t dwell too much on this part of the book. He has bigger fish to fry.
While Kimball and Rebecca Jacobs were trying to launch their restaurant business, they remained active in local theater. Little Rachel showed a talent for acting, so her parents started looking for an agent who could launch their cute daughter’s acting career. They got in touch with Hollywood child star agent, Mary Grady, who told them that they should be living in Los Angeles for best results. The young family left their safe Utah haven for Los Angeles, literally living on prayers. They used their formidable connections within the church to secure an apartment in Los Angeles. Then Jacobs got himself a minimum wage job, while his wife got their three children hooked up with Mary Grady, the Hollywood agent. In fact, the whole family started looking for show biz work in Hollywood, but the kids saw more action.
What follows is Kimball Jacobs’ story of how his three older kids (youngest son Tyler was born after Rachel, Christian, and Parker had become established actors) became child actors. I won’t call them stars, though, because none of them ever really made it big. Jacobs points out that at one point, all three kids were regulars on network series, but that success was short-lived.
In my opinion, Jacobs really comes off like a stage dad. It looks like he was really wanting his kids to become big stars and perhaps, ride on their coattails. This book reads like a poorly written resume, with Jacobs’ kids accomplishments listed and little else besides a gratuitous amount of self-important preaching. Faith and Fortune is also riddled with typos and grammatical errors. Jacobs uses awkward sentence constructions and seems to have a particularly irritating penchant for writing in the passive voice. It’s clear to me that this book was never edited by a professional or even its author, for that matter.
Faith and Fortune does not include any pictures, which would have made this book a little bit more worthwhile. Instead, it’s full of testimony bearing for the LDS Church and moralizing. Jacobs continually states that he and his family have high conduct standards and were constantly butting heads with agents and Hollywood types over the lines their kids would say, the products they would endorse, and how they would dress. I don’t really fault them for having standards, especially when it comes to how their kids were portrayed, but I got the feeling that Jacobs was expecting his family to make it big. And they weren’t willing to play by Hollywood’s rules in order to achieve that end. As it stands now, none of the Jacobs kids are still working in Hollywood (ETA: As of 2014, it looks like Parker and Christian may be back in the biz). What’s more, I got the impression (though I may be wrong about this) that the Jacobs kids were completely financially supporting their parents!
Faith and Fortune does include some interesting gossip about other kid stars from the 1980s. Jacobs dishes a little bit about Ricky Schroder, who apparently had a crush on Rachel. He shares a little bit about jobs that his kids had on popular sitcoms like Family Ties, Growing Pains, Silver Spoons, and the short-lived All in the Family spinoff, Gloria. But the information that he provides is not very worthwhile and it is, very much, gossip. It’s not even firsthand gossip, either, since most of what he writes about are things that he heard about from his kids.
I think that Kimball Jacobs could have written a decent book, had he taken the time to expand his story a bit, added some pictures, and included more insight into his experiences as a Hollywood dad. I do think that this book is more about his experience as a Mormon Hollywood dad than it is about his children’s experiences as child actors. And, while I’m not knocking Jacobs for having great faith in his religion, I do think that he pushed it a little too much. I think he could have written about his faith without constantly beating his readers over the head with it.
Yes, Faith and Fortune: A Mormon Family in Hollywood has a high suck factor. Fortunately for you, dear readers, this book takes some effort to find. It’s not likely that you’d buy this book by mistake. I’m offering my opinion so that anyone who might be curious about reading it on purpose will think twice about it. Unfortunately, it’s garbage like this that give print on demand books a bad name.
As an Amazon Associate, I get a small commission from Amazon on sales made through my site.