After years of reading umpteen (probably 30+) celebrity bios and autobios, I’ve come to the conclusion that most are an easy way for an over-the-hill star to make a bit of dough and get back on the talk show circuit, which in turn most likely gets them some new work and a fresh fan base. Some try to do it at the pinnacle of their career–usually with a co- or ghost-writer–and the lack of time he/she put into it shows. (I read Diahann Carroll’s about a month ago, which she wrote while she was enjoying a career renaissance on Dynasty, and it seemed hurried and jumpy. She’s written an updated one which I need to make a point of reading.) Even Kathie Lee Gifford was saying the other day on her hour of Today that an interviewer recently started reading quotes back to her from one of her very first books from the early 90s, and she said she politely told the young man (her exact words) that she wasn’t that same person from 1992 here in 2012. It’s true…most all of us would be flabbergasted at some of our quotes from 20 years ago, especially the ones in writing! (As I type this, I realize that I can barely bring myself to read my older blog entries, especially the ones still on MySpace. But then I realize that no one’s left on MySpace to read those.)
All that being said, Diane Keaton’s memoir from last year is a breath of fresh air, but one that leaves the reader coughing and wheezing as you hike through it. I’d read some reviews on Amazon before I bought it, and so I knew it would be no Jane Fonda epic, sweeping memoir. And it’s not designed to be that; it’s hard to explain, but it’s a hybrid memoir of Diane and her late mother Dorothy, who kept copious journals which none of her children read until after she died of Alzheimer’s. Scattered throughout the book are collages that both mother and daughter created. These are also hard to explain, as no captions are given to explain who and/or what is in the photos the reader is looking at. Clearly this is intentional, and that’s Ms. Keaton’s choice to’ve taken the liberty of relegating that info to the very back of the book with no page numbers listed. I’d already read in the online reviews that those hoping for Hollywood gossip would be disappointed; Ms. Keaton’s main remarks about making The Godfather center on the 10-pound wig and heavy make-up she wore. Sure, she met her future lover Al Pacino on that set, but we don’t get to hear much about him until later in the book. (And even then the details are vague and obscure, like the fact that he preferred to eat alone while standing up, and that both he and Ms. Keaton have been going to psychiatrists and analysts for 40+ years.) Upon realizing she might not ever get married, Ms. Keaton adopted two babies–both of whom are pre-teens now–and claims that they really have been change-of-life babies for her. And the reader is genuinely happy for her at the end of the book…she admits to having made many career missteps after winning the Oscar for essentially playing herself in Annie Hall, but her children are her main priority these days. So good for her; she seems pretty well-adjusted and has a positive outlook on life, after years of being a self-professed neurotic, bulimic, and self-centered, anxiety-riddled person. (Note to self: There’s hope for me yet on the emotional front! Haha.)
As is my habit, here’s a few quotes from her. She really does have a way with words, and of phrasing things in such a way that her thoughts almost hit you over the head with how simple, yet profound, they are:
“Comparing two women with big dreams who shared many of the same conflicts and also happened to be mother and daughter is partially a story of what’s lost in success contrasted with what’s gained in accepting ordinary life.” (Speaking of how she’ll mesh her memoir with her mother’s, page xxiv)
“Every living person should be forced to write an autobiography. They should have to go back and unravel and disclose all the stuff that was packed into their lives. […] It might help me release the pressure I feel from stored up memories that are affecting me now. But I do something terribly wrong. I tell myself I’m too controlled by my past habits. […] If I could be totally honest, I think I could reach a point where I’d begin to see ME in a more understandable light. (Dorothy Hall–Diane’s mother–from one of her many journals, 1980, page xxv)
“Mother always said being the middle sister made me the most sensitive. I don’t know about that, but it made me sad we couldn’t share how special they were. I never told [my parents] about my dream of owning a big cat farm where I could save every orphan cat I ever saw, broken down or not.” (Dorothy Hall, lifelong lover of cats, page 12)
“When Gale finally came out, she wasn’t lively, and there were no antics. Later, [her son] told me she drank a lot. Gale Storm drank? That’s when it dawned on me: Everything wasn’t perfect for Gale Storm, even though it seemed her dreams had come true.” (Ms. Keaton on meeting her hero when she was 21, page 17)
“After ‘Play It Again, Sam’ closed, I couldn’t get a job. It seemed like every audition was lost to either Blythe Danner or Jill Clayburgh, who weren’t ‘too nutty.’ […] It wasn’t enough to be Woody [Allen]’s washed-out Ali MacGraw girlfriend. What was going to happen? Should I quit? Woody suggested I see an analyst named Felicia Lydia Landau.” (Ms. Keaton on starting therapy–Dr. Landau eventually also died of Alzheimer’s, page 90)
“In a culture where confession is a means to broader economic horizons, coming clean at such a late date is not only suspect but anticlimactic. […] Who cares 30 years after the fact? Nobody, really. […] Why bother? I guess partly because confession is at the very least an admission of guilt and partly because there’s a humbling aspect to recognizing footnote status. I know ‘coming clean’ is not going to deliver the flattering picture I prefer to roll out with great effort year after year. I don’t expect sympathy. I don’t expect commiseration. I don’t expect to be understood. What I expect is to be released from the burden of hiding.” (Ms. Keaton on admitting to years upon years of bulimia, page 92)
“But seriously, does one’s psychological profile play a part? And if it does, would this knowledge have changed things for Mom? […] Just as advanced language skills, education, and even genius didn’t stop Ralph Waldo Emerson, Iris Murdoch, E.B. White, or Somerset Maugham from the ‘insidious onset.’ Consider this: Speaking is present tense. Writing exists in thought. They wrote. Adding voice to ideas gives words vitality. Of course, speaking is not a cure for Alzheimer’s, but it is a vital component in the battle against depression and anxiety, both of which dogged Mother. In a way, I became famous for being an inarticulate woman. The disparity between Mom and me is that I got my feelings out.” (Ms. Keaton, page 235)
“Dad would have loved Google and Twitter and Facebook and the Blackberry. He would have been taken by the immediate everything, the instant history, the access to anywhere across all continents. Still, the dilemma is the same as it always was: What to do? How do we focus on some aspect of information that will help forge a path to an emotionally fulfilling life?” (Ms. Keaton, page 239)
“It all boils down to family. One day you end up having spent your life with a handful of people. […] The people who stayed. The people who became more than friends; the people who open the door when I knock. That’s what it all boils down to. The people who have to open the door, not because they always want to, but because they do.” (Ms. Keaton, page 239-40)
“I’ve been opening and closing doors all my life. But the door marked LETTING GO has remained shut.” (Ms. Keaton, page 252)
All of these quotes resonate with me, just as George Hamilton’s, Jane Fonda’s, & Hoda Kotb’s did. That’s why I quote them so liberally–why duplicate someone else’s thoughts on their human experience when their thoughts are so relevant and personal? And who cares that Diane Keaton isn’t Southern by any definition of the term…she’s from Southern Cali, but that’s about the extent of it. I almost didn’t profile her book because I’ve been trying so hard to live up to the name I created for this blog; I stress about minutiae like that instead of things in life that really matter, like mending relationships and doing pool therapy and exercises for my bum knee. Why?!? I won’t go off on a huge tangent, but I met with my pastor again a few days ago to take a so-called faith test. Long story and 2.5 hours very short, I could only get to Step 3 of the 8 required steps. Apparently I can forgive everyone except myself, which is key to completing the steps, or even just Step 3 of 8. This bothers me, and it bothers me that I’ve shanked responsibilities for my own welfare and well-being for so long that I feel like I have the emotional maturity of a 19 year-old. Sure, I’m hyper-self-aware, but I’m also hyper-self-critical. Something’s Gotta Give, to quote the name of Ms. Keaton’s last hit movie (for which she also received an Oscar nomination). And it will; it’s just going to take some time, plenty of therapy, support from friends and family, and zero alcohol. And God, of course…all God, actually.
I want to end with this…my pastor encouraged me to come up with my own mantra to repeat in front of a mirror. Immediately I thought of the SNL parody of the guy sitting in front of the mirror talking about loving himself, blah blah blah. Then I realized I don’t have to worry about that, as there’s so many things I don’t like about myself right about now that I won’t resemble that guy in any way. Jokingly–and I didn’t tell the pastor this one-I wanted my mantra to be, “I’m Brian Robert Tucker and I’m a national treasure!” How cool would that be?
No, it wouldn’t. The other one that comes to mind is, “I’m Brian Robert Tucker, and I may be too much to handle, but I’m too much to handle in a good way.” Someone told me this when they broke up with me; ironically, right before I began drinking 3.5 years ago. “You’re too much to handle, but in a good way.” Guess what? Not only is that my mantra, but I want that phrase on my headstone when I die. It actually sums me up to a T; a big, brash, too-much-to-handle Tucker T.
Wake me up when September ends,
(I’ll actually have another post very soon. Thanks to all my subscribers, especially those who’ve let me talk their ears off during the last 12 days. You guys and gals know who you are and how much you mean to me.)