“Author! Author!” Writers in Their Own Words

I’ve been very fortunate to read and review some wonderful books. But I’ve never had the chance to interview any authors…until now. Thanks to the lovely Elizabeth Jahns from Beacon Publishing Group, I was able to interview the iconic comedian Kip Addotta about his memoir “Confessions of a Comedian.”

According to his website‘s bio, Mr. Addotta has appeared on such classic programs like “The Tonight Show” and the syndicated show “Make Me Laugh.”  He was also featured on “The Larry Sanders Show.” Not only a stand up comedian, Mr. Addotta is also a talented songwriter who wrote songs such as “Wet Dream,” “Big Cock Roach,” “Life in the Slaw Lane,” and “I Saw Daddy Kissing Santa Claus.” Some of these songs were featured on the the Dr. Demento radio program. In 1995, Addotta released the DVD “Live From Maximum Security!”

What inspired you to write a book?

I thought it was time to write the story of my life and help other comedians become better at the art of stand-up comedy.

Who inspired you to write your “Confessions of a Comedian”?

Steve Martin’s book, “Born Standing Up.”

How did you prepare to write this book?

I simply began putting down my memories:

“From the first interactions with “The Mob” in his early childhood, his nightmarish life with his father until he was on his own at 15 years of age, through his marriages, and how he became one of the best and most famous stand-up comedians of his time, Kip Addotta tells all. He names names and details the how-to and fine-tuning of comedy.”

Is your memoir arranged in a time?  If not, how and why?

It starts from when I was eighteen months old and ends at the present time!

What are the similarities and differences between writing a book and stand-up comedy?

They are two totally different things and it was difficult to write both!

What challenges/difficulties did you face when writing your book?

Remembering the order in which things happened and making my point without being ponderous!

What experiences do you feel were significant for you? (personally or career wise)

Meeting Jack Benny and trying to find my mother!

What difficulties did you overcome writing this memoir?

It gave me the opportunity to explain my behavior to my family and friends.

Did you include photographs? Do any of them hold any significance to you?

Yes I did and the ones of my grandmother, who raised me and my uncle Victor who were both Made members of Bonanno crime family!

What else should people know about “Confessions of a Comedian”?

That it is a true story!

What are your future plans? Will you continue to write?

I have another book in mind, but can’t divulge any information now so as not to impair the sales of my current book “Confessions of a Comedian.”

Anything else you’d like to add?

I am amazed at the response to my current book and the fact that people are finding it so entertaining!

For more information on Kip Addotta, his comedic work and his memoir “Confessions of a Comedian visit the following links:

Kip Addotta’s Website

Amazon

Good Reads

Book Review: Up All Night-From Hollywood Bombshell to Lingerie Mogul, Life Lessons from an Accidental Feminist by Rhonda Shear

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I’ve often used the phrase “if so and so didn’t exist we’d probably have to invent them.” I’ve used them so often that it’s become a tired cliché. Note to self: Make one of your New Year’s resolutions to come up with a new phrase.

But I don’t have to apply this to Rhonda Shear. Shear is all about invention and re-invention. In fact, Shear is a potpourri of re-invention, a sex kitten who has lived nine lives, and will probably live nine more. And she dishes the dirt and tells her tale in her biography, Up All Night-From Hollywood Bombshell to Lingerie Mogul, Life Lessons from an Accidental Feminist.

During her life, Shear has been a New Orleans beauty queen and a struggling and striving actress who got to kiss Fonzie from the TV classic Happy Days.  Shear later became a stand-up comic and host of the popular USA network program Up All Night, fueling the fantasies of horny teenage boys, grown men and probably a few lesbians. Shear is also a hopeful romantic who found her way back to her teenage love, now husband, Van Hagen. And last but now least, Shear is now a successful “bimboproneur,” inventor of the Ahh Bra and other underthings, which she sells on HSN.

Life began very modestly for Rhonda Honey Shear born and raised in New Orleans. Named after movie star Rhonda Fleming, Shear’s parents, Jennie and Wilbur Shear, doted on little Rhonda and got her involved in dance lessons at a very young age. It was then and there Shear knew she was destined to stardom. She began to compete (and win) local beauty pageants. She also found the love of her life, Van Hagen and together they had a sweet but somewhat volatile teen-age courtship. After high school, Shear got a BA in communications from Loyola University.

After she received her degree, Shear moved to Los Angeles, where she tried to make it as an actress. She got parts in D-list fair but also got a role in Mel Brooks’ Spaceballs. She guest starred on quite a few TV shows like the aforementioned Happy Days, and shows like Cheers and Dukes of Hazzard. Shear. (But she also had to deal with a lot of #metoo issues from some unsavory types in the age before the “Days of Weinstein and Roses.”)

It was through these appearances Shear was able to hone her comedy skills, which inspired her to do her own comedy act. She spent plenty of time working at some questionable clubs but also did her act at iconic comedy showcases like the Comedy Store. She worked a lot with other comics like Gilbert Gottfried, but also developed a comedy act with other funny ladies.

But her teenage swain, Van Hagen, was still on her mind. Through the power of social media, she found her high school honey and once again they connected in a way not often seen other than in Hollywood romantic movies.

But Shear also had dreams of owning her own business and along with her new hubby, created a successful lingerie and lounge wear company, which after a few struggles is doing very well and is sold both via HSN and her website Rhondashear.com. One notable item from her line is the Ahh Bra, an actual comfortable bra!

Up All Night is composed of three parts, part one is about Shear growing up in the Big Easy, part two is about her life in Hollywood and part three is about her life in Florida with hubby Van Hagen and her life as a successful business women. These three parts are composed of chapters Shear calls lessons, lessons which include: Beauty Matters, Don’t Wait for Opportunities, Create Them and Love Has No Expiration Date.

Is this book perfect? Of course not. At times I found it a bit rushed and not fully developed. I wish Shear would have gone deeper into various phases of her life. At times, Up All Night just skimmed the surface. I wanted more cake, less frosting. Perhaps, Shear’s life would be better served through several volumes of her life story. But it’s very likely her publisher wanted to pack it all into one book.

Some of the advice Shear offers verges on Hallmark card clichés or something you might find on a bumper sticker or a fortune cookie (but then again, the advice is pretty good and I think Shear’s heart is in the right place-she really wants to be there for the reader).

Oddly enough, I found myself quite interested in her life as a beauty queen. This could be because I’m from the land of the Green Bay Packers, Wisconsin, where women where cheeseheads, not tiaras.

And as a fledgling jewelry designer with a mad love for Martha Stewart and lesser known ladies of business, I gobbled up her tale about developing her business, coming up with the Ahh Bra, and other sexy and also comfy lingerie and lounge wear designs. And I appreciate how Shear shared the good, the bad and the ugly of running one’s business, how she made her mark on HSN and life as a lady mogul. When it comes to our breasts, ladies, I don’t care if you are an A Student, packing a couple of killer Bs, a tempest in a C cup or a cornucopia of riches, a comfortable bra is every women’s birthright!

Ultimately, I grew to like Shear and her brand of feminism. Feminism is often open to interpretation (not too mention misunderstanding). You can be a feminist in so many ways, and Shear more than proves it.

Book Reviews: Ladies in Shiny Pants by Jill Soloway

41dcpgjyexl-_sx324_bo1204203200_Upon her Sunday night triumph, I just had to dust off this review of Jill Solaway’s book Ladies in Shiny Pants from one of my now-defunct blogs. Enjoy!

Jill Soloway is a talented screenwriter, director, and TV show creator who has written for television shows like Six Feet Under, Grey’s Anatomy, The United States of Tara and most recently, the critically acclaimed Transparent. And this past Sunday, Soloway won a much-deserved Emmy for best director for directing an episode of Transparent.

Along with her sister, Faith, Jill has written the live shows The Real Live Brady Bunch and The Vagina Pageant. She’s a professional colleague and friends with Diablo Cody and has written for several anthologies. And in 2005, Jill’s collection of essays Tiny Ladies in Shiny Pants: Based on a True Story was published.

In Tiny Ladies in Shiny Pants, Jill tells us about her younger years growing up in the Chicago in the only white and Jewish family in the neighborhood, and the years that followed. At only 13, Jill and her friends would don their tightest, shiniest clothes and go to concerts hoping to meet their rock and roll heroes. Jill figured if she met her favorite musician, he would see past her young age, and fall madly in love with her. Of course, her rock and roll dreams never came true, and thusly, led her on a path of romantic confusion

A few years later, Jill loses her virginity to an older man. This doesn’t destroy her, yet she readily admits that her vulnerability and feeling less-than her prettier friends made it easy for this man to get her into bed before she was truly ready for such intimacy. However, Jill does show a sense of humor about the entire situation, later calling this guy “Lotion Bag” because he was always asking about a bag he carried around that carried his lotion.

As she gets older, Jill faces the world of being a grown up, and what it is like to be a young woman trying to navigate a post-feminist world, where getting breast implants is supposed to be empowering, yet she can’t help but watch the Miss America pageant year after year. Jill admits she feels some connection to Monica Lewinsky and the murdered intern Chandra Levy. She’s honest about her attraction to both cop bars and guys she calls “toolbelts”-hot construction workers.

Post-college Jill ends up in Los Angeles and finds success as a screenwriter, producer and comedian. But despite her success, she can’t help but snark on the absurdity that is Hollywood and her life.

Jill is funny, honest and very self-deprecating. She doesn’t shy from calling herself a feminist and she’s proud of her Jewish heritage. The over-use of exclamation points can get out of hand at times, but I see this book as a conversation with your excitable friend who uses her hands in conversation a lot. Tiny Ladies in Shiny Pants reminds me a bit of People are Unappealing by Sara Barron, which I reviewed quite a while ago. Tiny Ladies in Shiny Pants is a fun summer read that will make you cringe, make you say, “Right on!” and totally entertain you.

Book Review: A Night in With Audrey Hepburn by Lucy Holliday

A Night in With Audrey HepburnWhat girl, raised on fairy tales and classic movies, hasn’t dreamed of having her own fairy godmother? Jeepers, I’m a grown woman and I could use a fairy godmother. And I can’t think of a better fairy godmother than Audrey Hepburn. She would advise me on fashion, love, work and making our world a better place. And now that I think of it, Miss Hepburn did guide me on those things. I just wish I could have met her.

Fortunately, Libby Lomax is going to do just that—meet Audrey Hepburn. And not does she meet Audrey Hepburn; Libby meets her as one of the most iconic film roles ever—Holly Golightly, in the novel A Night in With Audrey Hepburn by British author Lucy Holliday.

To say struggling actress Libby Lomax is having a bad day is an understatement. After years being an extra on TV shows and movies, Libby finally gets her big break saying a smattering of lines in a science fiction TV series. While wearing her TV character’s alien costume, Libby accidentally lights herself on fire, singeing off some of her hair. And if this workplace faux pas isn’t humiliating enough, she lights her hair on fire in front of the shows bad boy star, Dillon O’Hara.

The powers that be sack Libby at once, and she goes home to her tiny apartment to shed a few tears and lick her wounds. While contemplating her sad state of affairs while sitting on an ugly couch given to her by her best bud Olly (more on him later) Libby pops in the classic movie Breakfast Tiffany featuring the wonderful Audrey Hepburn as Holly Golightly.

Well, guess how pops up next to Libby outfitted in her best Holly Golightly chic? Yes, Audrey Hepburn!

Is Libby going mad? Is she hallucinating?

Well, does it matter? The wonderful Audrey Hepburn is sitting right next our flummoxed heroine. So shouldn’t Libby converse with her and get some finely-honed insight on men, mothers and making a career?

Did I mention mother? Oh, yes, Libby’s mother, a stage mother to end all stage mothers and one who puts the P in pushy. Libby’s very own Mama Rose has been pushing both her daughters, Libby and Cass, to become huge stars. Whereas, Libby has her struggles and can barely get past the extra stage, high maintenance Cass is getting more parts and more success. This doesn’t do much for Libby’s self-esteem.

As for Libby’s father, the sperm donor? Well, he ran out ages ago, fancies himself as a notable writer, and ignores his daddy duties to Libby and Cass. Sadly, enough, Audrey’s own father ran out on her when she was very young.

To keep herself busy, Libby is making a necklace for her friend’s upcoming wedding. This particular necklace has been inspired by a beautiful necklace Audrey wears in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Audrey finds this necklace and is positively enchanted with Libby’s talent. Audrey also discovers Libby’s iPad, which she charmingly calls a “lovely padlet” (note to self, adopt the phrase “lovely padlet”). Audrey also discovers the Internet, most notably Twitter.

Before you can sing a bar from “Moon River” Audrey starts a Twitter account for Libby to showcase her jewelry making skills (unbeknownst to Libby). It isn’t long before Libby’s Twitter is gaining many followers. And many followers want to buy this talented lady’s work.

At first Libby is confused. Audrey let’s the honey-colored Cat out of the bag, and tells Libby she has set up the Twitter account and encourages her to embrace her skills and talents and start a career as a jewelry designer. Battered and bruised from her non-existent acting career, Libby is initially hesitant. But thanks to Audrey’s loving guidance, encouragement and savvy, Libby begins to believe in herself and treasure her talents.

She also learns to stand up for herself when it comes to her mother, sister, father and other jerk who might come in her path.

But wait? Am I missing something? A certain Dillon O’Hara, the A-list hottie Libby tried to flirt with to fire-fried results? Seems Dillon is actually quite smitten with Libby, which is quite a shock considering the gossip pages show mostly himsquiring models with pneumatic breasts. Will Libby and Dillon hook up? Well, that is a secret that I have up my Givenchy (okay, H & M) sleeve.

Libby goes from strength to strength, but also faces some hurdles (including a truly mortifying moment at a high-end spa), which shows up on YouTube. Is this humiliation one she can survive and ultimately thrive?

Initially, A Night in With Audrey Hepburn started a bit slow, but soon it gained steam. Lucy Holliday writes with a down-to-earth, appealing, and warm voice. And you can tell she’s a big fan of Audrey Hepburn fan, which as a huge Audrey fan myself, I greatly appreciated.

What I also liked was a hint of mystery at the end. Though Libby is over the moon when it comes to Dillon, I detected a bit of a spark between her and Olly even though they are in the friendzone. Perhaps we’ll find out in the sequel to A Night in With Marilyn Monroe what happens with both of these fellows and how they relate to Libby. Yes. Lucy Holliday has a whole series of Libby Lomax bonding with the best of Hollywood’s Golden Age, and I hope they are just as fun to read as A Night in With Audrey Hepburn.

In Audrey Hepburn’s other classic film Sabrina, she states, “Paris is always a good idea.” I’d like to say “Audrey Hepburn is always a good idea.”

 

Reading to Reels: Desk Set (Special Libraries Week Post)

Librarians of all kinds aren’t just found in public libraries; they are also found in schools, universities, corporations and other organizations. This post is in honor of reference librarians-the human versions of Google. Enjoy!

Human beings being replaced by high tech is something many American workers worry about, and it’s not a recent phenomenon as Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn show us in the 1957 comedy Desk Set.

Desk Set takes place at the Federal Broadcasting Company, a fictional television network. Katharine Hepburn plays Bunny Watson, the head of FBC’s huge reference library. Bunny can recite facts faster than you can say, “Google it!” She and her brainy staff, played by Joan Blondell, Dina Merrill and Sue Randall, are kept quite busy with staffers calling up looking for the 411 on a multitude of topics, both the mundane and the serious.

However, there seems to be trouble on the horizon. The network is in talks to merge with another company, but at the moment it seems to be on the down low. FBC brings in an efficiency expert named Richard Sumner played by Spencer Tracy. Richard has also invented a computer system called EMERAC, an “electronic brain” that is supposed to help the workers with the merger. However, many of the workers think these computers will replace them, and they wonder when they’ll get fired.

Richard and Bunny soon meet when he comes into her department taking measurements for the computers. Richard begins to question Bunny, wondering if she can answer as quickly as a computer. One smart cookie, Bunny has no problem answering the questions and proves to quite the foil to Richard’s efficiency expertise.

Instead of being turned off by Bunny’s brains, Richard is actually quite charmed. And despite her hesitation, Bunny can’t help but be drawn towards Richard. She’s been with her boyfriend, Mike (Gig Young), for seven years with no promise of marriage in sight. Hey, Bunny isn’t getting any younger. Bunny and Richard spar and flirt the way only Hepburn and Tracy can.

Towards the end of the film, a giant computer is placed in Bunny’s department to help everyone field questions more efficiently. However, despite the “advanced” technology, the computer is no match for Bunny and her fearless staff. The computer has a near “meltdown” but Bunny and her crew proves to be up to the task. And another computer messes up and mistakenly fires everyone via pink slips placed in their paychecks.

Desk Set is the eighth film Hepburn and Tracy did together (their final film was Who’s Coming to Dinner?), and it’s effortlessly charming. Based on William Marchant’s play with a script by Phoebe and Harry Ephron (yep, the late Nora’s parents), Desk Set is directed with a light touch by Walter Lang. Sure, there are parts that look dated. I had to laugh when I saw the huge computer that took up half of Bunny’s department, and how the answers were spit out on old-school perforated paper.

But despite being made in 1957, Desk Set’s premise looks quite modern.These days, everyone seems to be addicted their tablets, smart phones Googling, Tweeting and updating their Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram pages. But there is truly no replacing our human brains and our need to connect with one another without the use of technology. Desk Set shows this in a fun and entertaining way.

Book Review: Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari

modern romanceI’ve always had a soft spot for comedian and actor, Aziz Ansari. A fan of the TV show “Parks and Recreation,” I could have easily found Ansari’s character, Tom Haverford, an annoying hipster blockhead. But Ansari’s natural humor and charm, made young Mr. Haverford a bit palatable. Plus, Tom, along with Donna Meagle (played by the incomparable Retta) gave us “Treat Yo Self,” which is wise advice indeed.

Now with “Parks and Recreation” being a fond televised memory and “Treat Yo Self” being a notable Internet meme, Mr. Ansari has published his first book, Modern Romance.

When I first found out about Modern Romance, I rolled my eyes and thought to myself, “Oh, no. Not another comedian writing about romance, love, sex and the like.” I wondered if Modern Romance would be a memoir of sorts featuring muses on Ansari’s romantic history. Or would it be a tired trope of endless jokes like, “What’s up with women and shoes?” Yes, the tired women and shoes joke, the airplane food joke of relationships.

Or goodness, even worse—a millennial’s version of Steve Harvey’s Think Like a Man, Act Like a Lady.

Fortunately, Modern Romance is none of those things. And it is a delightful and eye-opening read on the current state of dating, sex, relationships in the 21st century, giving us the good, the bad and the ugly.

Now, Ansari does not do this alone. He joins forces with notable sociologist Eric Klineberg in dissecting our dating culture in an age of on-line dating, texting and sexting, speed dating, hooking up and other assorted romantic encounters and  unknown to our parents and grandparents when they were young.

Speaking of our parents and grandparents, in Modern Romance, Ansari begins by asking older folks how they met their spouses. Most of them met their spouses simply due to their proximity—in other words—location, location, location. These people lived in the same neighborhood, on the same block or sometime even in the same building. Many of the couples met at their houses of worship or while in high school or college. My mom met my dad through her older brother. And Ansari’s mother and father met through a marriage arranged by their families.

For the most part, the older interviewees met their spouses this way because they didn’t have the options we have today. Many of the couple got married very young, especially the women. Those whose marriages survived described their marriages as happy and strong. Maybe they didn’t initially feel the bolt of instant attraction, but they grew fond of each other as time went on.

However, many of the women interviewed were a bit wistful, wishing they could have spent their younger years getting an education, traveling, working, dating and just working on themselves before they got settled into their lives as wives and mothers. And they were thrilled their daughters and granddaughters got to experience these very things they wished they could have had when they were in their twenties.

Today we meet our potential betrothed old school, but we also meet them in ways our elders couldn’t even imagine—online dating sites, speed dating, dating apps, swiping left and right on Tinder and various hook-ups. But are these almost infinite options of finding l’amour allowing us to look over our shoulders (literally and figuratively) for someone “better?”

Also leading to romantic confusion in this modern age is our various ways of communicating, especially when it comes to those gosh darn smart phones. Sure we talk to each other face to face and have actual conversations on the phone. We text and we Skype. We send selfies and sexts. As for me, well, I have a confession to make. I have never taken a selfie. As for sending sexts of my yoni? Out of the question.

As for sending texts? Well, I don’t have a problem with sending texts regarding minor things. But I miss the actual art of conversation, especially when it comes to the opposite sex. Not to brag…okay, I’m going to brag. But men have told me I’m a delightful conversationalist and I’ve been told I have a beautiful speaking voice, no vocal fry here, my friends. So you can imagine my frustration when guys only want to converse in texts, and not have actual conversations.

But enough about me…back to the book.

Ansari also leaves the confines of the USA and travels to Japan, where everyone seems to have their genitals on ice, to Argentina, where icing up the genitals a wee bit might be a good idea. In Japan, people don’t have sex, but they sure like to cuddle up. And in Argentina, the sexual energy vibrates from every corner. Ansari also travels to France where people just expect their spouses to cheat and for the most part are “c’est la vie” about the whole thing.

Throughout the dating detective work Ansari puts into Modern Romance (with a lot of analysis and data most likely due to Klineberg’s help and expertise), provides us a glimpse into his own issue with dating and relationships, and admits at times, he truly screwed up. But being a self-aware kind of gent has learned from his mistakes and is now in a lovely relationship that is going quite well.

Now I’m sure some people reading Modern Romance will have justifiable complaints. Ansari and Klineberg mostly focus on heterosexual, college-educated, middle class professional-types, which leaves out quite a few demographics, those in the LGBT community, non-college educated, working class, etc. Perhaps someone out there can write a book on romance for certain varying demographics.
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In the end, I found Modern Romance to be at turns funny, wise and filled with empathy and charm, and one quite comforting in a time when our Facebook relationship status is might be, “It’s complicated.”

Book Review: People are Unappealing (Even Me) by Sara Barron

people are unappealing
New York writer and comedian, Sara Barron, grew with a hypochondriac mother and gay acting straight dad (he sings Broadway showtunes). So it’s only fitting Barron would grow up to write the very funny People are Unappealing-Even Me: True Stories of Our Collective Capacity to Irritate and Annoy.

People are Unappealing covers the first thirty years of young Barron’s life in self-deprecating, mortifying, embarrassing and somewhat crude essays. Barron talks about her youth in suburban Chicago where she first made her way into acting, pursuing her bachelor’s degree at NYU to her post-college struggles as a mostly out of work actress toiling at bad service jobs.

Barron is not shy about revealing some of the not-so-cool aspects of her young life. During a school break, Barron comes across a spiral notebook filled with porn-inspired stories she titled simply “The Porn.” “The Porn” may not be most sexy erotica ever written, but it is certainly the most hilarious. A pubescent Barron mistakenly thought having an erection meant a guy couldn’t have sex, and she spelled penis as “pienus.” Her attempts at writing porn also gives whole new meaning to the phrase, “Virginia is for Lovers.”

Barron also tells us about her brother discovering their grandmother’s vibrator and about the shame she feels about her FUPA. What’s a FUPA you ask? Well, you have to read the book to find out. And Barron doesn’t feel any shame about sharing with her readers about an injury she incurred from too much masturbation.

Don’t worry. People are Unappealing isn’t totally sex-drenched. Barron parlays her fine arts degree not to fame and fortune on the Broadway stage or on a Hollywood set, but to folding sweaters at Banana Republic and serving bread sticks at Olive Garden. She suffers a mercifully short stint at the Coyote Ugly bar (yep, the one from the movie). She also encounters one of her favorite rock stars at a high-class eatery. Sadly, he proves to be a total jerk, and Barron bestows a less-than-flattering nickname on him. She never names him, but rumor has it the rock star in question is Michael Stipe.

Barron’s personal life is also a continual embarrassment. Dealing with the opposite sex often doesn’t seem worth it, but Barron gives it her best, even trying Internet dating. On one blind date, she leaves her date in a lurch. Why? Well, probably because he’s a little person. One of her ex-boyfriends ends up as a clown. Yes, he’s actually working as a clown. When it comes to hanging out the girls, Barron starts to kiss up to a thinly-veiled Paris Hilton after a brief meeting when Paris actually acknowledges her presence. Yes, some of us are desperate for the glitter dust of fame to rub off on us even if it comes from a total slag.

People are Unappealing is sharply-written and rife with hilarity. If you read this book in public don’t be surprised if you startle on-lookers from your stifled laughter. Unfortunately, the book ends much to soon, leaving you wanting more. Sara Barron is definitely a writer to keep one’s eye on. I hope she keeps meeting unappealing people.