book reviews, celebrities

A review of Rememberings: Scenes from My Complicated Life, by Sinead O’Connor

Until very recently, I was not one of Sinead O’Connor’s fans. I remember being in high school when she burst onto the music scene, scoring a smash hit with her cover of Prince’s “Nothing Compares 2 U”. I was aghast by her shaved head and hauntingly beautiful blue eyes. I was astonished by her powerful, raw, emotional vocals. But, for some reason, I never bought her albums. It could be because I had little money for music in those days, so what little I did have, I spent on people I really loved listening to, like Kate Bush. I was, and still am, a Kate Bush fanatic.

Still, I watched Sinead O’Connor’s antics, which came to a head in 1992 when she was the musical guest on Saturday Night Live. She made huge waves when she tore up a photo of Pope John Paul II on live TV. She immediately became a pariah and I’m not sure New Yorkers have forgiven her yet, even after all this time. Personally, when I think about all the furor that arose over Sinead’s decision to tear up that photo, all I can do is shake my head. We tolerated a sexually abusive, narcissistic, criminal moron like Donald Trump as our president for four years and people are still clamoring for him to be the president. Yet Sinead tears up a picture of the Pope, and her career goes straight down the shitter… temporarily, anyway.

Seriously? People hated Sinead O’Connor for this? It just seems so ridiculous now.

I don’t know what made me purchase Rememberings: Scenes from My Complicated Life, which was just released on June 1st. I didn’t even own any of Sinead O’Connor’s music until I started reading her book. Well… I did own a few songs she sang on compilation albums. She did a beautiful version of “Sacrifice” by Elton John on the Two Rooms tribute album. I prefer her version to the original, actually…. and I like to sing that one myself. I also have her version of Dolly Parton’s song, “Dagger Through The Heart”, which, in her book, O’Connor writes is one of her favorite songs. She writes that after she recorded her version, Dolly wrote her a lovely thank you letter. Sinead had it framed and gave it to her beloved stepmother, Viola. That’s another reason why I like Sinead. She loves her stepmother. Also, my great grandmother’s name was Viola, although I never had the chance to know her.

Because of Sinead’s book, I have bought several of her albums and am wondering what took me so long. Sinead O’Connor is a wonderful singer and, based on her book, I think she’s a pretty marvelous person, too. She’s certainly a good storyteller, even if her writing isn’t always grammatically perfect, as a British friend pointed out when I delightedly shared one of Sinead’s anecdotes on Facebook. I like Sinead’s writing style. It’s engaging. I felt like she was sitting in a room, talking to me as if I was a friend. That’s the way I like to write, too.

I often laughed at Sinead’s stories, some of which are legitimately hilarious and outrageous. Some of her other stories were very moving. Others were infuriating. Overall, I came away with the idea that Sinead O’Connor is a very complex person who feels deeply and emotes freely. And yes, she also suffers from mental illness, of which she openly admits. I would imagine that Sinead O’Connor is probably not an easy person to be around, especially when her temper is flaring. But she’s probably just as often kind of awesome… especially when she’s smoked weed. Sinead is also a big pothead, which she also freely admits.

It’s not that often that I feel compelled to share quotes from my Kindle on social media. As I read Rememberings, I found myself sharing a number of Sinead’s musings. She writes that she actually started writing her book in 2015, but then had a full hysterectomy in Ireland due to endometriosis. Apparently, the doctors in Ireland did not prescribe hormone replacement therapy for Sinead; they just sent her home with a follow up appointment and a bottle of Tylenol. Her uterus and ovaries were removed, which sent her into instant menopause. She claims that caused her to go a bit bonkers. She also writes that musicians are naturally crazy– especially if they’ve also had head injuries, which she also claims she suffered when she was a child. I don’t know if that claim is true, although I do think that most creative people are a bit eccentric and weird on some level. God knows, people have called me “weird” my whole life. Below is a gallery of some of the more interesting quotes I found in Rememberings. I particularly loved her comments about Mormon missionaries and her story about the “plump old nun” who drew a picture of a penis with huge balls. That’s the kind of story I like to tell.

Sinead O’Connor has definitely had an unconventional life, so there is truth in advertising in her book’s title. She has four children by four men, and she’s been married three times, although she only married one of her children’s fathers. Two of the men who fathered her children are still friends. The other two, she says would cross the street if they saw each other. She writes lovingly about her children… and she does seem to have great pride and affection for them. I do suspect that they’ve had their share of problems, though, because having a mentally ill parent, particularly one who is also a famous musician, is hard. But I don’t get the sense that Sinead is a narcissist, or anything. When Sinead O’Connor writes praises about her children, I don’t think she’s being fake. She openly acknowledges that they’ve had difficulties, in part, due to her career and her mental illness issues. She also suffered tremendous child abuse when she was growing up, and those traumatic experiences have no doubt affected her as an adult.

Sinead O’Connor talks about her book.

Sinead O’Connor has even had dealings with Dr. Phil, who put her in a treatment center. She was already being hospitalized when Dr. Phil stepped in, and being mentally ill, she decided to try his approach because he was “Dr. ‘fuckin’ Phil” and of course he could fix her. It turns out the people she saw at his behest were not helpful at all, and he basically exploited her for television. She says the psychiatrist at the first facility Dr. Phil sent her two offered her a fig bar, which immediately turned her off for some reason. She says fig bars are for “hippies”. It turns out the psychiatrist was a bit of a flake, and she kind of implies that Dr. Phil is in with the MAGA crowd, although he “faked” being disgusted with it. She offers a delightfully profane criticism of Donald Trump, and I wholeheartedly agree with her astute comments. She may have a mental illness, but she’s no dummy. Personally, I think Trump and Dr. Phil are cut from the same cloth.

This book also includes commentary about Sinead’s albums. She writes about her favorite songs, how she came to name her albums and songs she’s written, and why she made certain recordings. I appreciated the backstories to a lot of her music, many of which made me want to buy and listen to her songs. The other day, one of her songs came on my HomePod and I had never heard it before. It was a hilarious song called “Daddy I’m Fine”… and it just spoke to me. And I wouldn’t have heard it if I hadn’t read her book. I love that Sinead was so generous with her stories about how she created her music and the people who inspired her.

Love this.

Honestly, reading Sinead O’Connor’s book makes me want to visit Ireland again and hang out with funny people. Given that so much of my own ancestry is from Scotland, Ireland, and England, it stands to reason that I’d feel at home there. Alas, we can’t go anywhere near the UK or Ireland anytime soon, thanks to the fucking coronavirus. But I sure did enjoy reading Sinead’s book, even if she does seem oddly enamored of American culture and even American healthcare, which she seems to think is better than Irish healthcare. And maybe it is… who knows?

Anyway… I really liked Sinead O’Connor’s book, Rememberings: Scenes from My Complicated Life. I laughed; I sighed; I remembered things; I learned things; I became inspired… especially to spend money on music. Fortunately, Bill thinks music is a good investment. I know some people think Sinead O’Connor is “crazy”. And maybe she is… but at least she’s honest about it. I like her. I recommend her book. And now, I’m going to have to find the next book and hope it entertains me as much as Sinead’s has.

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book reviews, celebrities

Repost: A review of Going My Own Way by Gary Crosby…

Here’s a repost of a review I wrote on January 2, 2015 about Gary Crosby’s tell all book on growing up as Bing Crosby’s son, Going My Own Way. It appears here as/is.

For years, I heard about the controversial book the late Gary Crosby, eldest son of the late Bing Crosby, wrote about his parents.  The book, entitled Going My Own Way, was published in 1983 and was considered a “scathing” account of the reality of what it was like to grow up the son of a big Hollywood star who portrayed himself as the consummate family man.  I am a little too young for Bing Crosby, though I do remember the duet he did with David Bowie back in the 70s…

A classic Christmas duet circa 1977…

I didn’t actually see the Christmas special that spawned this version of “The Little Drummer Boy”, but over the years, the video has been replayed during the holiday season.  I also remember Mary Crosby, Bing’s daughter, who played Kristin Shepard on Dallas and was credited with shooting J.R. Ewing.  Aside from that, I only heard about Bing… and Bill has told me that a few years after Gary Crosby’s book came out, the late Phil Hartman, who was then on Saturday Night Live, did a spoof about how when Bing’s sons misbehaved, they needed to go have a “talk” in the library.

I was curious about the book and the cultural references to it, so I decided to purchase a used copy.  I recently finished reading Going My Own Way and, I must admit, it was very interesting.  As “scathing” memoirs go, I didn’t think it was all that bad.  Gary Crosby was Bing Crosby’s eldest son with his first wife, Dixie Lee.  He grew up in a huge house in Hollywood, surrounded by servants, many of whom were black.  Crosby’s mother was a strict disciplinarian and a serious alcoholic who relied on an Irish nurse named Georgie to keep Gary and his brothers, Phil, Denny, and Lindsay, in line. 

Like his wife, Bing Crosby was also a very strict disciplinarian who strongly believed in employing corporal punishment, strict rules, and verbal abuse to control his sons.  Crosby writes that it was difficult for him to have friends because his parents were so strict.  It wasn’t often that he was allowed to bring friends over or go to friends’ houses.  Crosby’s parents were quick to remind their sons that they were not special simply because they were Bing Crosby’s sons.  Though they were educated at private schools, they were not treated differently and didn’t hang out with Hollywood types.  Indeed,  from the time the boys were eleven until they were adults, each summer Bing Crosby sent them to work at a ranch he owned.  They learned how to herd cattle and make hay bales alongside men of much more modest means.  Crosby writes that he hated the ranch work because his father forced him to do it, though he might have enjoyed it a lot more if he’d been the one who chose to go. 

Gary Crosby had a weight problem when he was growing up.  His backside was wide, which caused his father to refer to him as “bucket butt” or “satchel ass”.  According to Gary, Bing would even call his son these names in public, particularly in front of Bing’s friends.  Bing Crosby ordered his son to lose weight and would force him to endure weigh ins.  If he didn’t lose weight, Gary would get a whipping.   Bing used a belt that had metal studs in it and would beat his boys until they bled.  At the first drop of blood, the beating would stop.  Gary writes that he used to hope he’d bleed early.  

Bing Crosby and Gary Crosby perform together…

When Gary became a teenager, he had a strict curfew and would often have to leave social events early in order to appease his father, who would not hesitate to use a belt and verbal abuse to get his point across.  It wasn’t until Gary was 18 years old and had finally had enough that the whippings stopped.  By that time, his father had traded the belt for a cane.  I must admit, reading that part of the book resonated with me.  I had a similar experience with my own father, who was also a proponent of physical punishment and last struck me when I was almost 21 years old.  My father was also one to use verbal abuse…  indeed, reading about some of Crosby’s experiences rang very true to me, since my dad did a lot of the same things to a milder extent.  Crosby also writes about his father’s penchant for womanizing and drinking, as well as holding gifts over his sons’ heads in order to control them.  Gary Crosby had his own issues with alcohol and drugs, which he writes about in the book.  He also was one to get in fist fights when the mood struck.

Crosby uses a lot of slang and filthy language in his memoir.  Personally, I wasn’t offended by it.  In fact, the slang sort of gave the book a 50s nuance, which makes sense, since Crosby was born in the 30s and would have been a young person in the 50s.  I liked that he included photos, which helped me put faces to his stories.  I also got the sense that despite the abuse, he did love his parents, especially his mother.  He even writes a message to his other siblings, products of Bing Crosby’s second marriage to Kathryn Crosby, that the father he knew was not the same man as the father who raised them.  And Crosby even admits that his father passed along musical talent to him and the ranch work gave him useful skills outside of show business.  As one who has a perverse interest in Pat Boone’s career, I liked that Gary Crosby also writes about what it was like to work with Boone.  Apparently, Crosby thought Boone was a nice guy and easy to work with, despite his love of “clean livin’.”  Pat Boone, as we all know, is also a big believer in spankings.

Gary and Bing sing with Frank Jr.

Gary Crosby’s mother died in 1952 of ovarian cancer.  At the time of Dixie Lee’s passing, Gary was studying at Stanford University, where he wasn’t a particularly good student.  I was moved by how he described his father’s pained reaction to his mother’s deteriorating condition.  Yes, he writes a lot about how “the old man” abused him and his brothers, but he also somehow manages to give his father a human face.  That’s why I say the memoir wasn’t that scathing.  Yes, it was probably shocking to those who grew up with Bing Crosby and loved his music, but as someone who also grew up with an alcoholic and occasionally abusive father, I thought Gary Crosby was just being honest.  I think back in the 80s, when this book was originally published, corporal punishment and verbal abuse were much more accepted as normal parenting than they are now.  While I think sometimes Americans are going a little too far in the other direction with how they are parenting their children, as someone who experienced growing up with an alcoholic, I feel like Gary Crosby was very truthful in his account.  He was not just a whiner.   

Gary Crosby died in 1995 of lung cancer. He was 62 at the time of his death and had married three times. You can read a chapter of Going My Own Way here. Here is an article from a 1983 issue of People magazine about Gary’s book.

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book reviews, celebrities

Reposted review of God, If You’re Not Up There, I’m F*cked: Tales of Stand-Up, Saturday Night Live, and Other Mind-Altering Mayhem, by Darrell Hammond

This review was originally written for Epinions.com on January 29, 2012 and appears here as/is. I was in the United States when I wrote this. Seems crazy now!

A few weeks ago, actor and comedian Darrell Hammond was on an episode of Dr. Phil,talking about his new book, God, If You’re Not Up There, I’m F*cked: Tales of Stand-Up, Saturday Night Live, and Other Mind-Altering Mayhem.  I usually scream at the TV when Dr. Phil is on, but I have to admit I enjoyed the episode starring Darrell Hammond, who is probably best known for being on Saturday Night Live for an amazing fourteen years, doing impressions of Bill Clinton and other political figures.  I quit watching SNL many years ago, so I didn’t actually recognize Hammond on Dr. Phil’s stage.  But when I saw him do a hilarious impression of Dr. Phil himself, I decided I wanted to buy his book.  Off I went to Amazon.com, where it was being offered in print and for the Kindle.

Who is Darrell Hammond?

Darrell Hammond is a comedian and actor.  He’s also an addict.  The reason he was on Dr. Phil was because he’s spent some time in rehab, recovering from his attempts to self-medicate the pain resulting from a very painful childhood.  Hammond reveals that his parents were very abusive.  Growing up in Melbourne, Florida, Darrell Hammond was the son of a World War II veteran suffering from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and an abusive mother who happened to be very good at mimickry.  Hammond reveals that he got his comedic gifts from his mother, the same woman who tortured him when he was coming of age.

Such an upbringing does not come without a price.  Though he is a very successful comedian, Darrell used to drink constantly and abused cocaine and crack.  He was also a “cutter”, slicing his skin to relieve his psychic pain.  In a laid back, personable writing style, Hammond reveals everything as if he’s sitting next to you in your living room.  He writes about the good– getting to work as a professional comedian with some of the biggest people in show business– and the bad– sinking to the depths of addiction and being arrested in the Bahamas.  Hammond also includes pictures and they show up very clearly on the Kindle. 

My thoughts
It took me awhile to get through Hammond’s book.  That’s not because it wasn’t a good read.  His story is a lot to digest.  Even though his parents were abusive people, I can tell he still loves them.  Toward the end of the book, he writes about visiting his dying father, who passed away in 2007 of cancer.  As his dad lie in bed, missing an ear that was removed in an attempt to stop the cancer, Hammond sat by his side, remembering the good times he had with him.  He has less to say about his mother, who died a couple of years ago.  And yet, even though she put him through hell, his tone is never bitter.  In fact, toward the end of the book, he offers some insight as to what people must do to get past anger.  And his solution has nothing to do with justice or payback and everything to do with letting go. 

I have noticed that a lot of really funny people usually have personal demons and trauma in their past.  Some of the most hilarious people suffer from depression or addictions or both.  Hammond is not bitter when he writes his story, because he’s expressed that bitterness in different ways… by abusing himself.  And now he’s written about those times in a very compelling memoir. 

If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to be on SNL, you might also want to read Hammond’s book.  He reveals a lot about what it was like to be discovered and how it was working with Tina Fey!

Overall

This is a good book for anyone struggling with addictions, either personally or through watching a loved one or a friend.  I give it five stars.

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musings

Facebook is a lonely place…

Ever since this social isolation stuff began, I’ve noticed people are hanging out even more on social media. I run a Facebook group for food and wine and we’ve had a surge of new members. Why? Because people are sitting at home, drinking a lot… cooking a lot… and probably gaining weight.

For the most part, it’s been alright to hang out on Facebook even more than usual. I have noticed, though, that some people may think of Facebook friends as appearing closer than they actually are. Sometimes social media turns into a substitute for actual friendships.

Don’t get me wrong. There are people I have “met” online that I consider real friends. Hell, I was friends with Bill for 18 months, having met him online. He truly was a friend to me during a time when I needed a friend… and he needed a friend. We chatted every day and got to be very close, even though we hadn’t met offline. I never thought I’d ever meet him, though, let alone marry him. And then there are people I have met offline and been friends with on Facebook who turn out to be people who fade away…

I did read a rather sad comment from someone this morning, though, which has inspired today’s post. This guy decided to go to the grocery store on his bike, and announced it on his Facebook page. He asked his friends for prayers. No one responded. He came back from the store and wrote:

Nobody responded to my bike post yesterday — and I literally almost died. Thank you so much for your concern…

I sense a bit of sadness and disgust in that post. I suspect this dude is kind of lonely. I have never met him before. He’s someone Bill knows from his adolescent days. In fact, this guy was someone who knew Bill when he got run over by his “friend’s” Subaru Brat. I’ve written this story before, but because I don’t have anything else to do and some readers might be curious, here’s what happened…

When Bill was sixteen years old, he was hanging out with some buddies. They were all drinking beer. One of his friends had a girlfriend who was doing that usual teen angst shit that teenaged girls are so good at. She stormed off, and her boyfriend, who owned a Subaru Brat (basically an ugly car with a bed like that of a pickup truck), got behind the wheel. Bill had gotten a ride with them, so he went to clamber into the back of the car. His friend didn’t see him, and started backing up as Bill was trying to mount. Bill lost his footing in the gravel and slipped under the car. His friend backed over him. The rear tire went right over Bill’s chest.

After a week in the hospital with a collapsed lung and extremely bloody eyes, Bill was released relatively unscathed. He does have a bit of arthritis in the area that was injured. A couple of his discs were crushed. He also says he had a near death experience. I believe him when he tells me that, because Bill is an unusually empathetic person. He’s very much in touch with God.

Oh nooooo!

Anyway… ever since then, people have called him Mr. Bill… including me. Even people who don’t know what happened to him try to be clever by sharing a picture of Mr. Bill on social media. This was a thing on Saturday Night Live. He kind of sounds like Towelie on South Park. It’s kind of funny to watch this. The world was a lot more dangerous back in the 70s and 80s. Interestingly enough, Mr. Bill was created by a guy who responded for a request from Saturday Night Live to send in home movies.

Walter Williams got a job writing for SNL after this.

So anyway… where was I. I got sidetracked by Mr. Bill…

Facebook offers a facade of closeness that doesn’t actually exist. Because so many people use it, you may find yourself connecting with people you’d never meet… or ever even want to meet. And people think they know you, but they don’t. So sometimes, you might feel slighted when you reach out on social media, hoping for prayers or whatever, and no one responds. The fact is, without social media, you might not have a connection anyway. I doubt I’d know Bill’s former classmate if he hadn’t decided to friend me on Facebook.

And while I don’t wish Bill’s friend ill, I don’t actually know him well enough to care about whether or not he goes to the store. I don’t think I ever even saw his post, but if I had, I probably wouldn’t have prayed for him. I don’t pray for most people. It’s not something I do. I completely missed that he posted this, though…

Good morning all!
Later on this morning I am going to get on my 18 speed mountain bike (which I haven’t done for about 10 years) and ride over to the grocery with back-pack and mental list! I have been told I should wear a mask — thing is I look odd as it is! Will you guys lift up a prayer for my safety, please? Thanks & God bless.

I can tell he was disappointed that no one responded. Sometimes, I’ve been disappointed in responses from other people, too. I try to remind myself that most of them are strangers. It hurts more when people I actually know or am related to ignore me. Then I realize that they have lives, just like I do. Most of my stuff just isn’t as interesting to other people as it is to me. And social media is, by and large, a facade. The real stuff happens offline. But then… maybe for some people, being online is less painful than dealing with reality offline.

On the other hand, I’ve been watching Desperate Housewives again. It’s a very entertaining show. I’m still on season one. Felicity Huffman’s character, Lynette Scavo, wants to get her kids into a private school and she mentions paying $15,000 as a “donation” to up her chances. That episode was from 2004 or 2005… interesting how art imitates real life sometimes. Years later, Huffman “donated” $15,000 to improve her daughter’s SAT scores. She ended up doing time in a federal prison.

Maybe this social isolation is getting to me. Hopefully, it won’t last too much longer, although my next door neighbor seems to be ignoring it. She’s had people over for the past three nights.

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