book reviews

Repost: The Half a Million Pound Girl… should have spent the money on psychotherapy

I am reposting another book review. This one was originally written for Epinions.com on August 21, 2012. I reposted it on the old blog on May 4, 2014, and am posting it as/is again today, because Sarah Burge’s infamous and embarrassing turn on Anderson Cooper came up this morning over breakfast.

Today’s review is dedicated to Epinions’ own vicfar, an Italian American who thinks America is full of “weird-o-rama” people. (I remember Vic got terribly offended when I referred to him as “Italian American”, even though he is both Italian and an American citizen. He doesn’t like being compared to the so-called “guido” stereotypes, I guess.)

A few weeks ago, I happened to catch an episode of Dr. Phil, a pop psychologist whose television show is kind of like a trainwreck.  When I watch Phil McGraw, I often end up yelling at the TV.  However, sometimes watching Dr. Phil is good for book recommendations, especially since I really enjoy reading about people who have “issues”.  And Sarah Burge, who along with Derek Clements authored the book, The Half a Million Pound Girl (2011), certainly qualifies as a person with “issues”.  I have Dr. Phil to thank for introducing me to Burge’s story, which sort of defines the term “charlie foxtrot”.  If you have any ties to the military, I probably don’t have to define what “charlie foxtrot” means.  Since it’s a somewhat profane euphemism, I’ll leave it up to your imagination if you don’t know.

Who is Sarah Burge?

Sarah Burge is a British woman has had lots of cosmetic surgery done.  She is also the sister of the late actor, Trevor Goddard, who had a role on the hit television show, JAG.  Burge was born with ears that stuck out, a defect she had always been ashamed of.  So, since her childhood, she had always wanted plastic surgery.

Burge is also a victim of domestic violence, which was perpetrated at the hands of a man who beat and raped her.  The man beat her so badly that she needed plastic surgery to repair all the damage he did to her face.   Oddly enough, Burge later married this man and bore his daughter, her second child of three by three different men.  She claims she hated him, yet she still married him.  And now their daughter, Hannah, also apparently hates him.

Burge claims that the surgery done after the attack, courtesy of Britain’s National Health Service, wasn’t to her standards; so she visited one of London’s best private plastic surgeons.  Since then, Sarah Burge has made a career out of being “a human Barbie”.  Over the past 20 years, she has had over 100 cosmetic procedures done, many of which were free of charge, as she has served as free advertising for certain British plastic surgeons.  Burge claims that the work she has had done is worth about a half a million British pounds, hence the title of her book.  Burge also serves as a consultant to people who want to have surgery done.  She claims that she is able to point them toward the best person to do the job, as it were, for the money they are able to spend.  Her services are free to those looking for surgery; if they actually follow through and get procedures done, the surgeons supposedly give Burge kickbacks.

Besides showing up on Dr. Phil, Burge has also been on Anderson Cooper.  On a show that aired May 22, 2012, Cooper allegedly told Burge “I try to be really polite to all my guests. I think you’re dreadful and I honestly don’t want to talk to you anymore.”  Burge responded by leaving the set.  Burge also made headlines in 2010 because she taught her then six year old daughter, Poppy, how to pole dance.  This year, Burge made headlines for offering the same daughter, now eight, $11,000 worth of plastic surgery for her birthday.

My thoughts

If you’re looking for a “weird-o-rama” story, I think you’d be hard pressed to find a weirder subject to read about than Sarah Burge.  I found her story, which is written in a conversational first person voice, to be alternately shocking and sickening.  She comes across as “barking mad”, as well as more than a bit narcissistic… one of those people who is superficially pleasant and charming, but underneath is entirely fake.

I get the sense that Sarah Burge must have suffered some very severe traumas that have forced her to try to become someone else.  While I could probably muster some pity for her if she weren’t a mother of three, I have to admit that I’m somewhat horrifed for her daughters.  Really, I try to keep an open mind when it comes to people raising their children, but because I am the second wife of someone who was previously married to a nutcase, I have to admit to being biased when I see parents who treat their children like moldable extensions of themselves.

I was truly disgusted to read about how Sarah Burge was raped and beaten to a pulp by her second husband and then chose to marry the man and have his baby.  She later proudly proclaims that her daughter, Hannah, has disowned her father.  While Hannah’s decision is certainly understandable, I can’t wrap my head around why Sarah Burge chose to make a man she claims is a brutal monster the biological father of the child she claims to love.  Seems to me that if you really love your children, you make a concerted effort to find both the best partner for yourself and the best co-parent for them, and then allow that person to be involved in the child’s life.  But anyway, Sarah Burge apparently isn’t concerned about the quality of at least one of her children’s fathers.  Sadly, her daughter has had to pay for it.  Burge has said that most men are not able to keep up with her, but I guess being a rapist and a brute is still, in some way, a turn on for her.

Aside from my shock and dismay over Sarah Burge’s life story, I will admit that The Half a Million Pound Girl is quite readable and, in some ways, even kind of fascinating in a grotesque way.  I think Derek Clements did a good job ghost writing this book.  And, to vicfar, I’d also like to point out that Sarah Burge is a Briton, not an American.

Overall 

I’m not sure if I would like Sarah Burge as a person, but I will admit her story is interesting in a trainwreck/tabloid sort of way.  If you like weird-o-rama stories as much as I do, you might enjoy The Half a Million Pound Girl, though I really think all the time and money Sarah Burge has spent on plastic surgery probably would have been more wisely spent on psychotherapy.  As one commenter wrote on an article about Burge, she is quite “whore-ifying”…

And here’s her clip on Anderson Cooper. Anderson always strikes me as pleasant, fair, and polite, but he’d had enough of Sarah Burge and kicked her off his show!

Yeah… weird-o-rama… and I can see why Anderson Cooper got irritated with her.

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book reviews

Gretchen Bonaduce describes her crappy marriage to Danny…

I am a little young for The Partridge Family. I have seen episodes of it, but I was much more of a Brady Bunch fan, even though I think The Partridge Family was funnier and had more talented actors on it. Red headed Danny Bonaduce got his big break as the bass playing, wisecracking kid, Danny Partridge, on that show. Although he was a kid at the time, he was introduced to sex and drugs at a very young age. He grew up addicted to sex, with lesser addictions to drugs and alcohol.

Hmm… is he really singing this?

Gretchen Hillmer Bonaduce was born in 1965, making her six years younger than her ex-husband. She probably didn’t watch the show that made him famous, either. She and Danny met on November 4, 1990. They got married the same day, and proceeded to stay married until November 5, 2008. Although they had 18 years and two children together, the marriage was rocky and full of craziness. Gretchen Bonaduce shares her experiences in her book, Surviving Agent Orange: And Other Things I Learned From Being Thrown Under the Partridge Family Bus. Published on August 14, 2018, this book is all about Gretchen’s marriage to Danny, as well as other assorted stuff. But it’s just 187 pages, which means the stuff isn’t all that detailed. It also includes an introduction by none other than Adrianne Curry, the very first winner of America’s Next Top Model, who also has a marriage to, and divorce from, an abusive former child star in common with Bonaduce. That alone should give anyone pause.

I decided to read Surviving Agent Orange after I happened to see the E! True Hollywood Story of The Partridge Family on YouTube a few weeks ago. Bill was away on business and I was filling my time watching documentaries and shit. I got on a roll watching E!’s classic series about stars. I never happened to see the show Breaking Bonaduce, which was all about Danny’s and Gretchen’s highly dysfunctional marriage. It aired in the mid 00s. I remember hearing about it when it was on TV, but I didn’t actually watch it. I guess I wasn’t surprised when I heard that the Bonaduces divorced, although Danny has since remarried to Amy Railsback, who is 23 years younger than he is.

According to Gretchen Bonaduce, Danny is not an easy man to love. Her book describes him as a bit of a maniac. He’s supposedly very jealous, given to rages, and addicted to substances. Still, Gretchen writes that despite everything, she’d still marry him and go through the whole thing again. My guess is that, besides her marriage to Danny giving her two children, it’s because it also allowed her an inroad into the entertainment industry.

If I had to use a word to describe this book, I’d use the word “vapid”. It’s really not long on depth or intellect and it needs editing. Bonaduce misspells names, gets some things factually incorrect (like referring to the skin disease “impetigo” as “infantigo”), mixes up the names of actors and/or 80s era television shows (for instance, confusing Growing Pains for Family Ties), and seems to blame her problems and marriage failure entirely on Danny. I will admit, he probably was responsible for a lot of their problems, but she also made some pretty serious errors herself.

For instance, toward the end of the book, she writes of how she and Danny went to Amsterdam, courtesy of Danny’s radio show. They were going to see The Rolling Stones. While they were there, Danny “forced” Gretchen to go to a sex show. Then they went to a coffee house (she calls it a “drug cafe”). She proceeds to talk to a drug dealer and gets his number. Later, at a party, she ends up drinking something Danny spiked with Ecstasy, vomits all over an elevator, and tries to leave the country without her husband, who manages to catch her before she goes alone. Once they’ve returned to the States, she and her gay friend book first class tickets back to Amsterdam. Mid flight, she calls up the drug dealer friend, tells him she’s crazy, and meets him at a cafe, where she makes a complete ass of herself. I’m writing this because she actually admits to it in the book.

Some people might like Surviving Agent Orange because Bonaduce has a rather conversational style that may come off as warm and friendly. To me, it just seemed embarrassing. Besides, she gave her children– a girl and a boy– the legal names of Countess and Count. While it may have been her right to do that, it’s still kind of ridiculous, in my view.

I certainly have read worse books than Surviving Agent Orange. Parts of the book are legitimately funny and/or interesting. Some parts are bizarre, like her story about trying to stop Danny from eating a pie by peeing on it. Other parts are just kind of silly and, again, vapid. She doesn’t actually reveal that much, other than a few ridiculous stories about incredibly bad and irresponsible behavior, on her part and Danny’s. I’m all for oversharing about bad behavior, but if you’re going to do that, make it well worth reading.

I think if I were going to rate this on a scale of one to five, I’d give it a three. It’s not horrible. I have definitely read worse. But it really could have been a lot better than it is. I was glad to finish it and, fortunately, finishing it was somewhat easy given its relatively short length. I would recommend it only to those who really want to read all there is about either Gretchen or Danny Bonaduce. The good news is, Danny Bonaduce has supposedly quit drinking. He credits his third wife, Amy Railsback, for that.

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