Thoughts I Have Had While Reading Gail Simmons’ Memoir

So it’s memoir month around my house, apparently. This is what happens when you are cheap and mostly check out books from the library. All of my Library Holds showed up at once, they were all memoirs and it doesn’t really matter if  I am in the mood to read them or not. For the record: I’m not really at this moment, but I am making due. My life of first world problems is so difficult, let us all have a moment of silence.

Currently, I’m reading Talking With My Mouth Full by Gail Simmons, who is not only a Top Chef judge, but a Food & Wine Magazine aficianado and clearly Padma Lakshmi’s Terrible Outfit enabler. A complex woman, obviously. I’m also reading the Jaycee Dugard memoir A Stolen Life, but you don’t really want to know about the thoughts I’m having while reading that book, so let’s just get back to Gail.

I was actually very excited to get my filthy mitts on this book because I have super pink puffy heart LOVE for Top Chef. (Really anything on Bravo, but I think we already discussed that.) Anyway, I was curious about Gail and her career trajectory and how she ended up with this offbeat career, and so I was excited to see how it all played out. And then I opened the book and all my thoughts started flooding.

Thought # 1: Wait — wasn’t Gail Simmons a Food Writer at one point?

While I won’t say this is the worst book I’ve ever read (it’s totally not!) the beginning was just…not very compelling. Especially when she talked about food. There was one passage where she wrote about her time working in Daniel Boulud’s kitchen (Daniel Boulud! The cuisine he cooks probably deserves many adjectives!) and it read something something like “The blackberry cobbler was purple. Also tart. The seeds got in my teeth.” Short choppy sentences, lots of telling, not showing. Very little description. Stark contrast to other food memoirs that I’ve read. I mean, I’ve read Ruth Reichl passages that made me need someone to bring my inner-hedonist a towel to mop up my drool, you know?

Thought # 2: Jeffrey Steingarten is a total weirdo. And yet I would TOTALLY work for him if I ever had the opportunity!

I mean you guys, when Gail worked for him all she did was shop, cook and eat. This is my ideal job description.

UNIVERSE HEAR MY CRY!

Sure it sounds like she was doing that amazing job in a dark apartment that smelled like goose-fat with a condescending, chocoholic ogre who has a very refined palate but a very UN-refined set of social skills, but still: How do I get a job where this is all I do. I could get used to smelling like goose fat. I think.

Thought # 3: Aspen Food & Wine Classic is going on The Life Bucket List

I mean, how can it not? Check out how fun it looks! Here is the thing, I love my Paleo eating, but I would happily slurp a plate of spaghetti with Mario Batali. I mean COME ON! The book finally gets good when she starts talking about it, and her description of it made me want to go IMMEDIATELY. That was my sly way of saying the writing has improved slightly. Did you get that? Ok good.

It’s an entire weekend full of eating and drinking in excess! Watching cooking demonstrations and taking classes about grape varietals! Schmoozing with famous chefs! Once in a lifetime experiences! Fabulous people and fabulous weather! Oh and did I mention eating and drinking in excess? And all for the bargain price of $1125. Per Person. HAHAHAHAHAHAHA…sob!

I’ve started reading the blog just to torture myself.

*****

Anyway, I’m almost done with it and it’s not the best memoir I’ve ever read, but it moves fairly fast and she’s starting to dish on the Top Chef contestants/meals so you know I’ve gotta get in on that action!

Have you read it? Would you read it?

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Stories I Only Tell My Friends by Rob Lowe (Part Two)


(Here’s Part One)

So where did we leave off? Ah yes — filming for The Hotel New Hampshire was over and it was back to real life. I believe Rob uses the phrase “emotionally hungover” and I loved that. Imagine the best job you have ever had — the relationships you built, the fun you had — and then imagine it all ending. Twice every year. That sounds emotionally exhausting, but that is the pace he keeps over the next decade. Two movies per year, some better than others. Brief, heated relationships and then always back to his Malibu home base.

The 80s

In the summer of 1983 he heads off to New York and spends some time hanging with Andy Warhol and socialite Cornelia Guest. He tells a story of how one evening they head to Central Park to see Diana Ross. Of course it was a career defining moment for Diana Ross, and Rob Lowe was front and center. He seems to have a knack for being in the right place at the right time to witness interesting moments in pop culture history. I guess that’s why he gets to write a book, eh?

So it’s raining, Andy and Cornelia want to get out of the ugly weather so they end up at a bar that has created this shot called the Kamikaze. Their bartender, while a talented mixologist, ends up following his passion and pursuing an acting career. Their bartender is Bruce Willis. All of these stories end up showing up in The Andy Warhol Diaries, which makes Rob understandably feel awesome.

Hell, I feel awesome when someone links to my blog. I don’t know how I would feel if some 20th century art genius thought hanging out with me was worthy of documenting. So there’s that.

After New York he is off to London to shoot a movie called Oxford Blues. It’s about a young American who spots a foxy British woman that interests him while in Vegas.  She ends up being royalty, so he heads to college in Oxford and joins the rowing team to get her attention. Yeah, I don’t know either, and the reviews make it sound terrible. But he tries to get Princess Stephanie cast in the movie because he has the hots for her, and she doesn’t respond. Life doesn’t imitate bad art, apparently. While in Europe he meets Roman Polanski in Paris about a role, and Polanski sounds as sleazy as you think he is. He also ends up hanging out with Bill Murray in a foreign hotel room sort of randomly and it all sounds a little bit Lost in Translation if you ask me, but I guess they hit it off and are professional supporters of each other to this day.

After his European jaunt he goes back the states. He tries out for Footloose despite not being able to dance and tears his meniscus during the auditions. Nice break for Kevin Bacon, I suppose. By the way, to this day Footloose is the only show I’ve ever seen on Broadway. I need to remedy this on a bucket list somewhere, STAT.  Instead of doing Footloose he takes on a role in Youngblood which reunites him with Patrick Swayze. Of course Patrick Swayze shows up and kicks ass LIKE A BOSS. I’m dying to read Patrick Swayze’s memoir (of course he wrote it with his wife!) but I checked it out on audiobook at the library a couple of months back and you guys, HE NARRATES IT. Too soon, yo. Too soon. RIP.

Swayze writes a song that he suggests they put on the Youngblood Soundtrack but gets shot down. Good thing the producers of Dirty Dancing are smarter and capitalize on She’s Like the Wind. (OMG, did you know there is some awful Justin Timberlake and Britney Spears duet REMIX of this song. WHOA! How have I never heard that before? You’re welcome.)

While making Youngblood he auditions for a role in St. Elmo’s Fire. During his audition he meets Demi Moore, and well, obvs he has the hots for her. This is kind of a trend. I have a feeling Rob Lowe thinks with his head a lot, if you know what I’m saying, AND I THINK YOU DO. So he gets the role, obviously, and heads to DC where he has a great time embracing his party boy character. I mean, where he very seriously practices method acting. Yeah that’s it. When he returns to LA after filming wraps a spur of the moment dinner party is called with all of the cast mates at the Hard Rock Cafe. Oh, so 80s. My 13th birthday party was at the Hard Rock Cafe in San Francisco and it was BADASS. So were my bangs that year, I promise.

Anyway, a reporter has been following Emilio Estevez around doing a profile for New York Magazine and so they all get together to take the guy out and show him a good time. Of course, when that “profile” of Emilio comes out, it actually ends up being an expose of young Hollywood wealth and excess and Rob and all of his friends are (not so lovingly) coined The Brat Pack.

The Boring Part

My notes from the next part of the book go like this:

  • He does some plays
  • He gets involved in politics
  • He has a pivotal role in Prop 65

You can see where those things rank on my detail-o-meter.  BRING ON THE TRASHY CELEB TALES, ROB!

Royal Romance

But then he goes back to Europe.  He is there to promote a movie called About Last Night and mentions that it was a movie by Edward Zwick and goes on and on about his credentials. All I could think of was — didn’t he produce My So-Called Life? So what you are telling me is that he knew Jordan Catalano. Got it. Why didn’t you say so sooner?

So since Rob is fancy pants and famous, he is assigned a security detail by the name of Glenn Southam. Glenn Southam also does security for Princess Stephanie and her family and asks Rob if he would like an introduction. Rob’s giant impending boner says yes. And what do you know, he and Princess Stephanie start a relationship that is full of glamour and intrigue! When it comes time for Rob to leave Europe, after weeks of living in a Princess Stephanie bubble, Glenn takes him to the airport. On the way home Glenn Southam is shot several times by masked gunmen. Apparently Glenn knew more people than just the royal family. EEP! To this day the murder remains unsolved. Obviously it shook up Rob, and it was foreshadowing of the demise of his relationship with Princess Stephanie.

Steph (yeah, she and I are tight now) comes to visit months later for an event they both are co-hosting for the Princess Grace Foundation but they end up breaking up. He launches right into doing the movie Masquerade which bombs. The writer on that movie gets sort of fed up and decides he just wants to write for TV. Screw all the movies! Good move, Dick Wolf. My addiction to Law & Order thanks you.

Just to clarify, throughout all of this, Rob is still wrestling with some inner demons and drinking heavily.

Ok, carry on.

Happily Ever After?

Rob gets offered a movie called Bad Influence. James Spader is in this movie who I think is totally hot in a creepy way. That has nothing to do with the book. Anyway, he meets his future wife on this movie as she does his makeup. Now that is a good story about how you met your wife: “She was my makeup artist.” Hmmmm. Anyway. They meet, they are friendly. He sort of implies they become friends with benefits, but in a way that doesn’t make it sound like he is saying his wife was kind of a ho, you know?

The press tour for Bad Influence is in Australia and because it will be long, the producers spring for a trip to Fiji for Rob and one guest afterwards. Why can’t my company think like that? Anyway, he brings his future wifey, Sheryl. They have a lovely time and Rob is totally sure it is forever. Until, of course, the night he gets back to LA he gets wasted and invites some booty call over to his house. Obviously, Sheryl dumps him. This may sound sad, but actually it was kind of a turning point.

Rob realizes he needs to go into rehab.

The 90s

What I do find endearing about Rob Lowe is that throughout this whole book, his voice is very self-deprecating and honest. I found it sort of shocking that he said he loved rehab. Therapy gave him the tools to deal with his crazy life, and he was happy — as a grown man — to finally have someone sit down and teach him, instead of just drinking to numb the pain/stress/mixed-emotions. That makes sense to me. And it also makes sense to me that he is still sober, which is pretty cool.

Sheryl comes to visit in rehab and of course they work it out. In June of 1991 he asks her to marry him, in July 1991 they are married. 20 years, eh? Not bad. On his wedding day Lorne Michaels of SNL Fame calls him to talk about doing Wayne’s World. The 90s are a new chapter for Rob personally and professional. He moves to Santa Barbara and has a family and becomes more of a comedic actor doing movies like Wayne’s World, Tommy Boy (the cow tipping scene was Rob’s idea) and Austin Powers (a role he was offered based on a fierce Robert Wagner impression he did for Mike Myers on the golf course. So LA.)

He ends the book talking about his time doing The West Wing, which is a role he ended up fighting for, doing for a large pay cut, and commuting daily to from Santa Barbara. On the upside, it was a role he felt was written for him and it reunited him with Martin Sheen. It turns out though, that there was a lot of drama on that show with the producers and Rob and these things ultimately ended with him leaving the show. One of these incidents was the producers anger over the fact that Rob agreed to do a photo shoot by himself for the cover of JFK Jr’s magazine George when the show was an ensemble cast. Rob ended up doing the shoot, although sadly the shoot took place the week after JFK Jr’s tragic plane crash.

The book ends on a happy note though. Rob elegantly summarizes that he spent the 80s working on his career and the 90s working on his family — the project he is most proud of. After reading this I honestly felt like he was a far deeper and more introspective person than I ever gave him credit for. Sure the book was a bit of a vanity project — aren’t all celeb memoirs, HELLO! But this one was entertaining, full of great stories, and enlightening in really surprising ways. Plus, the glossy photos in the middle of the book?

HOT.

I mean, what’s not to love?

Stories I Only Tell My Friends by Rob Lowe (Part One)


Oh you guys, this was a doozie. And by this, I mean Rob Lowe’s Stories I Only Tell My Friends: An Autobiography. Maybe you love Rob Lowe from the 80s or maybe you were a little too young to lust after various members of The Brat Pack (I was just a smidge too young, though I was obsessed with ALL the movies in my teens.) Regardless, the book was a totally soapy, interesting and actually well written book. I kind of love Rob Lowe more after reading it, even though I realize editorially, all of these stories are completely one-sided. Anyway, if you don’t want to run out and buy it, let me tell about the good parts. Settle in, this is a long one, which is why I’m breaking it up into parts.

He tells a story at the beginning of the book about JFK Jr (speaking of swoon!) which I actually thought was kind of brilliant, since he ends the book by going back to it. It sort of parallels some things about Rob’s life (yes, I’m totally going to call him Rob, since I am totally his BFF now that I’ve read the book.) While being this “hunky celeb” he is also very politically minded, and at the end of the book when he talks about his most recent TV role (The West Wing), the whole thing sort of comes full circle. It’s not as douchey as I’m making it sound, promise.

So he describes how they meet in his younger years, then see each other socially again and again and finally one night they have a chat in a Park City, Utah bar during Sundance about they key to happiness in life. Rob says, now that he is sober, that his wife is the key to his happiness, and supposedly it is weeks later he proposes to Carolyn Bessette. Whether this is true or not, or just Rob Lowe puffing his feathers and giving himself credit, who knows. But it sets up the book for lots of discussion about public perception, politics, love and marriage, and happiness.

Early Life

He starts chronologically with his life growing up. Raised early on in Ohio, his parents divorce and his mom moves the family out to Malibu, CA. He befriends some folks in town which include brothers Charlie Sheen + Emilio Estevez and Chris + Sean Penn. Nice random friends to meet when you move into a new neighborhood, right? Obviously they all have an interest in film and they fool around making silly small movies.

Because he is interested in movies and has already shown a passion for acting (he was involved in lots of theater in Ohio and continues to look for an outlet in Malibu) his new step father takes him to a movie set where his brother and sister in law are doing special effects. He is pretty impressed with the AMAZING special effects work that is going on, and it just so happens to be for this little movie called Star Wars.

He of course has to throw in the story of how he lost his virginity to his brother’s 16 year old babysitter. All that really made me thing was: Oh yeah, Chad Lowe is Rob Lowe’s brother. And then I thought about Life Goes On and wondered whatever happened to most of the cast. It was a long rabbit hole of google for me. After boning the babysitter he also starts drinking a lot with his buddies, and does a bunch of commercials that sort of satisfy the acting bug. He begins to get more serious though, landing a local agent and one night they go to dinner with another actress trying to make it in showiz who is beautiful and passionate and wide eyed. Rob could care less though, because he brought his girlfriend to dinner (to his agent’s dismay) so it appears he missed out on a nice blind (chaperoned) date with Sarah Jessica Parker. They keep in touch though, over the years.

He finally gets a TV Series and it completely changes his life. Well, in the way that it completely changes your life when you start getting fan letters from men in prison. Also, he’s making some money. But that little voice inside keeps telling him that if all these girls screaming for him at local appearances really knew him, they wouldn’t like him. Booze helps. He ends up working with a number of other actors who get fed up with acting and move on to other pursuits. One of which was Janet Jackson. I guess she ended up lucking out, eh…especially since the show was eventually canceled.

Luckily he gets some roles in After School Specials. God, what happened to those because they were THE BOMB. This one is called “School Boy Father,” ahem, and he goes to his girlfriend Jennifer Grant’s house to watch it (Remember her from 90210?). They sit on her dad’s bed to watch it (awkward?) and daddy-o joins them halfway through to check it out. Daddy-o tells Rob he’s a good actor, which seeing as her dad was Cary Grant, Rob is excited. Apparently Cary Grant gives him some Faberge eggs and Brut Soap on a Rope. I feel like this is some kind of nod to the fact that Cary Grant was gay, but I’m not really connecting the dots. Help me out.

After Jennifer Grant, he then begins dating Melissa Gilbert (who I just read today is getting divorced…sad face) and this, to me, is where it gets interesting. I heard that she devotes a LARGE part of her memoir to their relationship because it was so dysfunctional in her life, but you’d never get that from how Rob talks about it. Basically he dated her when he was filming The Outsiders, which was a big time of change in his life. Concurrently, his friend Sean Penn is working on a little movie called Fast Times at Ridgemont High. Things are beginning to change for everyone.

The Outsiders Era

It’s around Christmas of 1982 — I was begging for Cabbage Patch kid from Santa but Rob was heading up to Zoetrope Studios to audition for Francis Ford Copolla’s adaptation of S.E. Hinton’s book The Outsiders. The ensemble cast that would ultimately include tons of brand new up and coming actors.

So Rob is scared of the audition process because he has heard that when his friends’ dad Martin Sheen made Apocolypse Now with Coppola, the intensity on the set almost killed him. But he ends up nailing the audition and reports to the set in Tulsa, Oklahoma to make this movie with all of his soon to be friends and costars. The cast rundown shakes out as follows:
Matt Dillon is lady killer (Rob is inspired)
Patrick Swayze is a master of everything he touches, and a bit older and more mature (and married)
Tom Cruise is one of his BFFs (and VERY intense)
C. Thomas Howell (what ever happened to that guy?) is total professional
Emilio Estevez is a comfort to have around because they are friends from home
Diane Lane is a babe (and probably dating Matt Dillon)
He makes very little mention of Ralph Macchio — no love for The Karate Kid? What???

As you can imagine, the set is full of shenanigans, but he learns a lot as an actor. He also learns how to drink heavily and still show up for work.
***Foreshadowing***
He leaves the set and feels really proud of his work, but when it finally shows up in the theater, his part is dramatically reduced and it’s his first professional sucker punch. His friend Tom Cruise is taking a chance on a little film called Risky Business, Matt and Diane get cast in Coppola’s next film Rumble Fish and Rob gets the opportunity to audition for Dino DeLaurentiis who is about to start production on Dune. Ultimately he turns down Dune (it is supposed to be a trilogy, he would ended up turning into a sandworm in the last movie, and would have no script approval) and it is a bullet dodged, as they do not go on to making the other movies.

The Making of a Movie Star

He chooses to work next on a movie called Class, which no one really sees, but ends up getting to work with a talented “up and comer” named John Cusack, and it’s his first movie with Andrew McCarthy. Hmm…I smell the 80s! While making the movie, it is the first time he is away from his family on Thanksgiving. He has dinner with the director and some friends of the director’s family who host a lovely evening where Rob chats up their daughter. The daughter is little out there, they stay up all night talking, and she gleefully announces that she is a virgin and saving herself for Jackson Browne. The daughter also, apparently, is Daryl Hannah. I wonder how she feels about that little story? Don’t worry though, Rob gets his just desserts when his next movie bombs at the box office, beaten out by a little movie called Splash.

That next movie he does is called The Hotel New Hampshire, and it is the first role that he is just offered: no audition necessary. He jumps at the opportunity and co-stars with Jodie Foster (who he has great respect for) and Nastassja Kinski (who he thinks is hot.) As you can imagine, he ends up boning Nastassja Kinski, but it is Jodie Foster, years later, who will be his only friend who reaches out to him during his Sex-Tape Scandal. I totally put this movie in my netflix queue after reading this book. I don’t know why, it just sounds a little twisted and weird.

*****

Things are just starting to heat up, but I promise, it gets better. Back soon for the second installment!

Book Review: The Bucolic Plague by Josh Kilmer-Purcell

So before we talk Celeb Memoirs, we need to talk context.  Are you guys watching The Fabulous Beekman Boys on Planet Green?  I will pretend that I have slyly crafted this post about a Planet Green show to coincide with Earth Day, even though you can probably see through that bologna from a mile away.  Anyway — it is hilarious!  And if you’ve never heard of it, here’s a little introduction so you can get the feel: 

I’m shamelessly addicted to this show because I have this secret fantasy that someday we will move out to Garrett’s parents’ property (where they already have adorable goats!) and turn it into an awesome family business! Our happily homeschooled children will run around naked in teh fields and we will make our own artisinal cheese!  But then Garrett reminds me that we aren’t giant hippies and we don’t know anything about farming (YET).  But you know, a girl can dream, right?  Plus, goats are so much more loveable than you would think.  

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Needless to say, every week when we tune into this show about 2 city boys who move out to the country to make it as Farmers and build a brand, it tickles the part of my brain that stores that fantasy.  When I heard that Josh Kilmer-Purcell (1/2 of the Beekman Boys’ fabulousness) wrote a memoir about how their farm fantasy/reality show came to be, called The Bucolic Plague:  How Two Manhattanites Became Gentleman Farmers,  you know I was on that like flies on…well, you know what flies like.

Anyway, I know I promised that “I Read Celebrity Memoirs So You Don’t Have To” but it’s such a hilarious story that for the record, you should definitely read it.  I don’t imagine I will say that about all the celeb memoirs that I read, so you can certainly count on a few more details in the future, but on this one I don’t want to give it all away.  But I’ll at least tell you the gist of the book:

Josh (a writer/ex drag queen/ad-exec from Manhattan) and Brent (an MBA/Doctor/Overacheiver formerly in the employ of the Martha Stewart Empire) fall in love with a 200+ year old mansion during an autumnal apple picking jaunt out to upstate New York.  The book chronicles the tale of that purchase as well as their foray into entrepreneurship with their company Beekman 1802, which sells goat milk products as well as foodstuffs created on their farm.  Doesn’t this fantasy sound familiar?  I thought so.  Now you know why I love this book (and the show!)

It is one part love story, one part business development case study, and one part modern day Beverly Hillbillies Fable in reverse that is overflowing with gardening stories, wry humor about all things farm life, and of course some well placed behind the scenes stories and jabs at the expense of Martha Stewart — and really?  That’s a pretty winning combo in my book.

Their path is not an easy one, and although they do find themselves in the fortunate position of being able to buy a second home and live out this fantasy, it is not without cost.  Things become more complicated when the economy takes a nosedive and their relationship starts cracking under the stress of entrepreneurship.  They creep right up to the edge of Losing It All.  There are a lot of hysterical antecdotes, colorful characters, and creative inspiration, and I was truly sad to see the book come to an end — which is such a great indicator that you’re reading a good one.  Luckily I still get to tune in weekly to their adventures, and if you haven’t checked out the show yet — DVR it and tell me what you think.  

There’s a little something in it for everyone, just like in the memoir.  

_______________ 

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