Saturday, June 21, 2014
Book Review: Being "Famous Enough" Isn't All It's Cracked Up to Be
But the newly released Famous Enough: A Hollywood Memoir, by McBain and Michael Gregg Michaud (BearManor Media, $29.95) paints a different picture of life as a starlet, with a starting pay of $250 a week. Off the set, she was involved with men who often treated her poorly, and was insecure about her talent and the progress of her career. Soon, her chance at top stardom having passed her by, she was reduced to roles in AIP drive-in quickies like The Mini-Skirt Mob. The years ahead would bring unemployment, a troubled marriage, and in the 1980s a vicious sexual assault that left her physically and mentally battered.
The raw material of McBain's life is dramatic, and she wisely enlisted Michaud, author of an excellent biography of Sal Mineo, to capture it in a readable, well-organized form. Though many of her stories are sad -- her fans may find it painful to read the remarkably candid account of her rape -- the book is also wise, and at times quite funny. Writing about Parrish, in which actress Claudette Colbert watched the inexperienced McBain fumble a complicated scene, she says, "Throughout this painful ordeal, Miss Colbert didn't say a word, but if looks could kill, I would have been buried in a tobacco field outside Hartford, Connecticut." Mincing no words, McBain bluntly describes one of her co-stars as "insufferable," and says of working with a mainly female cast (including Joan Crawford) in The Caretakers, "At times, the nonsense degenerated into ugly bitch fights. I half expected to find clumps of hair on the floor of the set." Also interesting are her accounts of entertaining troops in Vietnam, her work as an advocate for rape survivors, and a stint in the world of daytime TV.
As the above suggests, Diane McBain has one hell of a story to tell. With the help of co-author Michaud, she does it justice, in a book that merits a wide audience.