Saturday, June 21, 2014

Book Review: Being "Famous Enough" Isn't All It's Cracked Up to Be

Call it a cautionary tale. You might think that being Diane McBain in 1960s Hollywood would be great fun. The beautiful blonde leading lady of TV's Surfside Six, where she kept company with three handsome co-stars, McBain also won roles in high-profile movies like Ice Palace and Parrish, and to many observers seemed well on her way to major stardom.

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.


  1. I was not aware of this actress, however this review ha,s made me want to check out this book .

  2. Thanks for your comment...I enjoyed the book and think you will, too.

  3. Nicely put, David! Often, the "lesser known" actors have the more interesting and honest stories for us. I am looking forward to the read.