THE EARS HAVE IT: 10 Show Biz Bios To Enjoy As You Shelter In Place
Beat boredom while stuck inside: Enjoy audio books by these talented, smart, star authors for great story-telling, entertainment value, honesty, authenticity and some surprising insights.
It turns out for those who luckily are not afflicted, one of the side effects of the Coronavirus pandemic is boredom. People used to being out and about are forced to stay home and it doesn’t take long for that to get old. If you are one of those watching the clock tick, here is a better alternative – listen to a good book, read to you by the superstar author who actually lived the life being narrated.
Unlike a physical book you don’t have to hold it or turn pages, it doesn’t strain your eyes or tie you to a nearby light source. You can listen in light or dark, at home or on your morning walk, in the car or in the kitchen over lunch. You never need to be bored again.
So, after years of loving audio books, I have culled through for some of the most compelling, interesting and most importantly honest biographies by well-known Hollywood stars, to share with you, as an antidote to your ennui.
What makes audio book better for me than reading a text is not just the convenience but also the opportunity to hear the actual star telling their story. That doesn’t happen in every case, but In most of the audio books I am recommending, it is part of the fabric, and it adds greatly to the experience.
So here is a list of ten of my favorites of recent years. This is your chance to beat the boredom and catch up.
Nevertheless: A Memoir Alec Baldwin (author, narrator), release: April 4, 2017, runs 8 ours and 25 minutes, Harper Audio (publisher)
One of Hollywood’s most gifted, versatile and controversial stars gets surprisingly personal in telling his story with honesty, humor and a lot of emotion. He chronicles both the highs and lows of his career, and his life, going well beyond the usual public perception of who he is and what he has done.
Over three decades, the oldest member of the Baldwin clan, has emerged as the most important star in the family, and one of the best-known performers of the era. His fame, even notoriety, is not just due to his pleasing work in movies like Beetlejuice, Working Girl, Glengarry Glen Ross, and The Departed, or his comic turn on the TV sitcom 30 Rock - which brought him two Emmys, Golden Globes and SAG Awards - but also his very public political positions; his portray of President Trump on Saturday Night Live, which have made him loved by some and hated by others.
Love him or hate him, Baldwin has things to say in this audio book that will surprise. That includes insights into the many top actors he has worked with, and even his misadventures in matrimony, especially his marriage to Kim Basinger, and how it affected his relationship with his daughter.
Baldwin for all of his on-screen bravado comes off as self-depreciating, charming, funny, smart and very authentic in this well-written, engrossing story.
From the New York Times review: “A thorough and sophisticated effort to answer an interesting question: How did an indifferently raised, self-flagellating kid from a just-making-ends-meet, desultorily functioning Long Island family, in Massapequa, turn into Alec Baldwin, gifted actor, familiar public figure, impressively thoughtful person, notorious pugilist? . . . Beautifully written and unexpectedly moving . . . . Baldwin writes with great knowledge about old films, the art of acting, what he has learned from other actors, and about the differences among television, film and theater. . . . He’s a highly literate and fluent writer.”
A Life in Parts Bryan Cranston (author, narrator), release: Oct. 11, 2016, runs 8 hours and 53 minutes, Audible Audiobook, Simon & Schuster Audio (publisher)
If all you know about this gifted, creative, funny and earthy actor is what you saw in his breakout role as Walter White on the AMC series Breaking Bad (2008-2013), or as the dad on Fox’s Malcolm in the Middle (2000-2006), then you are about to receive a real gift. This is one of the finest, best written, most thoughtful, funny, clear and surprising of all of the biographies showcased here.
His dream from age seven on was to be an actor but that was set aside after his father disappeared and he settled into an early career in law enforcement. It was on a motorcycle trip in the Blue Ridge Mountains that he read Hedda Gabler and rediscovered his burning desire to act, setting him on a path that would become his life.
His road was not easy. He played many roles, and even starred on a soap opera, long before he started playing with Walter White’s chemistry set. He explains how he not only learned his craft but also learned the byzantine politics of show business, and went to great lengths to prove he was up to any challenge.
Since he found fame, he has graced the stage and TV as well, with some memorable portraits such as Dalton Trumbo and President Lyndon Johnson, a role that would win him a Tony to go along with his four Emmys.
What is most fascinating is that Cranston does not shy away from telling tales on himself, from his failures to his discovery of how hard work could change everything for him. This is an audio book very much worth a listen.
Me: Elton John Official Biography. Elton John (Author, Narrator), Taron Egerton (Narrator) release Oct. 15, 2019, runs 11 hours and 47 minutes, Macmillan Audio (Publisher), Audible Audiobook
One of the preeminent and lasting musical personalities of the rock era, Elton John comes off as a bigger than life character when he performs, and in his lavish lifestyle, but what this honest audio book reveals is that there is a passionate artist and humble human being under all those big clothes, fabulous sets and those exaggerated eyeglasses, as well as a gifted musical talent.
He is open and candid in revealing his own difficulties growing up, his early failures in music and life, and his long, painful battle with drug addiction.
This is his first and only authorized biography, and he takes the listener on the full ride as his life, career, finances and health rise and fall. Some of that was in the very well-received movie Rocketman, but his book really brings the legend to life.
FROM AMAZON: “His life has been full of drama, from the early rejection of his work with song-writing partner Bernie Taupin to spinning out of control as a chart-topping superstar; from half-heartedly trying to drown himself in his LA swimming pool to disco-dancing with Princess Diana and Queen Elizabeth; from friendships with John Lennon, Freddie Mercury, and George Michael to setting up his AIDS Foundation to conquering Broadway with Aida, The Lion King, and Billy Elliot the Musical. All the while Elton was hiding a drug addiction that would grip him for over a decade.”
In Pieces Sally Field (Author, Narrator) release: Sept. 18, 2018, runs 10 hours and 41 minutes, Hachette Audio (publisher), Audible Audiobook
Audiences have been treated to many sides of Sally Field since she burst on the scene at age 17 as the nice girl next door in the TV series Gidget, to her stunning study of a woman with multiple personalities in Cybil, to her Academy Award winning role in Norma Rae, to her tour deforce as Mary Lincoln in Steven Spielberg’s powerful big screen drama, Lincoln. However, what comes through in her well written, honest, thoughtful, incisive autobiography is that there is much more to her, not just as a daughter and mother, but also as a woman with all the insecurities of any one of us. She does not shy away from discussing her lonely childhood and her love life, including a complex relationship with Burt Reynolds.
From The New York Times Review: "Clarity and Grace Shine Through the Darkness in Sally Field's Memoir... If you come to "In Pieces," expecting to meet a plucky Sally Field desperate to be liked, you will not find her. Written by the actor over seven years, without the aid of a ghostwriter, this somber, intimate and at times wrenching self-portrait feels like an act of personal investigation - the private act of a woman, now 71, seeking to understand how she became herself, and striving to cement together the shards of her psyche that have been chipped and shattered over the course of her life..."In Pieces" serves as a kind of tribute to women - her mother in particular - and others who would guide and protect Field throughout her turbulent childhood and an adulthood fraught by personal and professional upheaval."
Born to Run Bruce Springsteen (Author, Narrator), release: Dec. 2016, runs 18 hours and 12 minutes, Audible Audiobook, Simon & Schuster Audio (publisher)
In his five decades in music, Springsteen has earned the nickname “The Boss,” for his success, powerful rock music, high energy stage performances and lyrics that are at times poetic and at other times brazenly political. He put it all on show in 2018 when he took to the stage for Springsteen On Broadway, during which he performed songs that reflect the American working man’s experience, shared his life and read excerpts from this autobiography. He was a hit, and the show’s run was extended several times. He even won a special Tony Award.
The kid who rose from the tough streets of southern New Jersey had climbed to the heights of show business, winning numerous awards and honors along the way.
He was only seven when he first decided on a career in music, after he saw Elvis Presley on The Ed Sullivan Show, and heard the music of fellow Jersey native Frank Sinatra on the radio. His mother, who acted as head of the household for much of his early years, borrowed money to get him his first guitar, and after years of struggle, he rose to become a huge star, most notably with the album that gives this audio book its title, Born To Run
But Springsteen had many struggles even with success. He never lost his Catholic guilt even after he stopped actively practicing the religion. His romantic life was a rocky as the life of some of the working-class heroes in his songs. And for years he struggled with a deep depression that took the flavor of success out of him. He also took his politics seriously, becoming an early and faithful supporter of President Obama, to go along with his many other charitable and political contributions.
His book like his music is lyrical, insightful, honest and very authentic to who he was, who he is, and who he has become. This is not just for those who love his music. It is also for those looking for a powerful story, well told, full of emotion, challenges and life lessons.
AMAZON: Born to Run will be revelatory for anyone who has ever enjoyed Bruce Springsteen, but this book is much more than a legendary rock star's memoir. This is a book for workers and dreamers, parents and children, lovers and loners, artists, freaks, or anyone who has ever wanted to be baptized in the holy river of rock and roll. Rarely has a performer told his own story with such force and sweep. Like many of his songs ("Thunder Road", "Badlands", "Darkness on the Edge of Town", "The River", "Born in the U.S.A.", "The Rising", and "The Ghost of Tom Joad", to name just a few), Bruce Springsteen's autobiography is written with the lyricism of a singular songwriter and the wisdom of a man who has thought deeply about his experiences.
Inside Out: A Memoir, Demi Moore (author, narrator), runs 6 hours and 31 minutes, release: September 2019. Audible Audiobook Harper Audio (publisher)
When Demi Moore’s explosive memoir came out, her first famous ex-husband Bruce Willis surprised many people when he called her brave, and said he was ‘proud” of her, in an emotional phone call just as she was about to go live on Jimmy Fallon’s Tonight Show.
Her second ex-husband Ashton Kutcher, now happily remarried to Mila Kunis (with two kids) was not as pleased. Kutcher ominously tweeted, “I was about to push the button on a really snarky tweet. Then I saw my son, daughter, and wife and I deleted it.”
We’re with Willis, her husband of 13 years, on this one. Moore’s book is a tell all about herself and people who populated what was a very difficult life growing up. She went from being a pin up girl to starring on a soap opera to becoming a major movie star. As one wag put it, in this book, the star of Striptease “bares it all.”
She told People her purpose in writing the book: “I centered (it) on a fundamental question, which is, ‘How did I get here?'” she said. “Coming from where I’ve come from, how did I get here?”
From the start it is a surprising, often wrenching look at a star who really rose from a dismal beginning to become not only successful in her career, but also a good mother and a recovered addict, at least as of this writing.
This book has been called “explosive” and “raw.” It is a tough look at addictions, drugs and sex. It is all of that and a powerful message that should resonate with young women with stars in their eyes, but no money in their pocket.
If you haven’t listened to this, you don’t really know Demi.
From the AMAZON BIO: Even as Demi was becoming the highest paid actress in Hollywood; however, she was always outrunning her past, just one step ahead of the doubts and insecurities that defined her childhood. Throughout her rise to fame and during some of the most pivotal moments of her life, Demi battled addiction, body image issues, and childhood trauma that would follow her for years - all while juggling a skyrocketing career and at times negative public perception. As her success grew, Demi found herself questioning if she belonged in Hollywood, if she was a good mother, a good actress - and, always, if she was simply good enough.
As much as her story is about adversity, it is also about tremendous resilience. In this deeply candid and reflective memoir, Demi pulls back the curtain and opens up about her career and personal life - laying bare her tumultuous relationship with her mother, her marriages, her struggles balancing stardom with raising a family, and her journey toward open-heartedness. Inside Out is a story of survival, success, and surrender - a wrenchingly honest portrayal of one woman's at once ordinary and iconic life.
SPOILER: It is an urban legend that Demi Moore took Two And A Half Men star John Cryer’s virginity when he was a teen, and much younger than her. He said after the book came out that she did not, although she was among his first passions. The affair was said to have taken place on the set of No Small Affair in 1984
To find out what really happened to Jon Cryer, and hear Demi’s surprising, sometimes disturbing, always entertaining story, listen to this emotional, candid, honest and authentic autobiography.
Face the Music: A Life Exposed Paul Stanley (Author, Narrator), Runs 12 hours and 16 minutes, Release: April 2014, Harper Audio (Publisher)
I have never been a fan of the band KISS but I am a huge fan of this candid, smart, funny, insightful and authentic autobiography by the bands frontman. This story about how he made it in music, and how the strange band found fame, crashed and rose again is fascinating.
FROM AMAZON: In Face the Music, Paul Stanley—the co-founder and famous “Starchild” frontman of KISS—reveals for the first time the incredible highs and equally incredible lows in his life both inside and outside the band. Face the Music is the shocking, funny, smart, inspirational story of one of rock’s most enduring icons and the group he helped create, define, and immortalize.
Stanley mixes compelling personal revelations and gripping, gritty war stories that will surprise even the most steadfast member of the KISS Army. He takes us back to his childhood in the 1950s and ’60s, a traumatic time made more painful thanks to a physical deformity.
Born with a condition called microtia, he grew up partially deaf, with only one ear. But this instilled in him an inner drive to succeed in the most unlikely of pursuits: music.
With never-before-seen photos and images throughout, Stanley’s memoir is a fully realized and unflinching portrait of a rock star, a chronicle of the stories behind the famous anthems, the many brawls and betrayals, and all the drama and pyrotechnics on and off the stage. Raw and confessional, Stanley offers candid insights into his personal relationships, and the turbulent dynamics with his bandmates over the past four decades. And no one comes out unscathed—including Stanley himself.
“People say I was brave to write such a revealing book, but I wrote it because I needed to personally reflect on my own life. I know everyone will see themselves somewhere in this book, and where my story might take them is why I’m sharing it.”
But Enough About Me: A Memoir, Burt Reynolds (Author, Narrator)
Burt Reynolds (Author, Narrator),Jon Winokur (Author), runs 11 hours and 27 minutes, Release: November 2015, Penguin Audio (Publisher), Audible Audio Boo,
He wasn’t the greatest actor but Burt Reynolds was one of the most memorable personalities on the screen and in life, and this book manages to capture it all, without really revealing every personal detail about the star himself, including his love affairs with Dinah Shore, Sally Field and his ill -fated marriage to Lonnie Anderson.
Reynolds who died in 2018 leaves behind a cinematic legacy and a reputation as a good old boy, a jokester, and a sex symbol whose own love affairs and marriages were among his biggest regrets. He pays homage to the superstars he knew and worked with, and gently excuses himself for being a huge jerk at times, and it is all fun to listen to.
The Palm Beach Post got it right when in their review they summed up the Florida native’s book this way: “The literary equivalent of finding oneself at a cocktail party with the guy who tells the best stories....It’s juicy, but not salacious, gracious without being cloying and ultimately impresses....such a joy to read.
FROM AMAZON: Beginning with Reynolds’s adolescence as a notable football player in South Florida and the devastating car accident that ended his sports career and helped steer him toward acting, But Enough About Me then chronicles Reynolds’s meteoric rise to fame. From Oscar nominations, to the spread in Cosmopolitan magazine, to the financial decisions that took him from rich to poor and back again, Reynolds shares the wisdom that came from his many highs and lows. He also opens up about his romances and breakups with some of Hollywood’s leading women, including the “two loves of his life,” Dinah Shore and Sally Field, and his turbulent relationship with Loni Anderson, to whom he was forced to pay record-setting amounts of alimony and child support after the couple divorced. Through it all, Reynolds reflects on his personal pitfalls and recoveries and focuses on his legacy as a father and acting teacher.
Bossypants Tina Fey (Author, Narrator), Runs 5 hours and 32 minutes. Release: April 2011. Hachette Audio (Publisher). Audible Audiobook.
Published in 2011, when 30 Rock was a hit on TV, after her time at Saturday Night Live, Fey does not present a typical autobiography, but rather captures the flavor of her life in ways that are often hilarious.
In a profession where men dominate, Fey stands out for comedy stylings that have put her in the ranks of America’s finest modern humorists. You can listen to this book for her self-depreciating bio, for insight into her work on TV (including playing Sarah Palin on SNL) or just because it is laugh out loud funny over and over again. That was enough for me to put it on this list.
AMAZON: “At last, Tina Fey's story can be told. From her youthful days as a vicious nerd to her tour of duty on Saturday Night Live; from her passionately halfhearted pursuit of physical beauty to her life as a mother eating things off the floor; from her one-sided college romance to her nearly fatal honeymoon -- from the beginning of this paragraph to this final sentence. Tina Fey reveals all, and proves what we've always suspected: you're no one until someone calls you bossy.”
From the NEW YORK TIMES REVIEW: “Bossypants” isn’t a memoir. It’s a spiky blend of humor, introspection, critical thinking and Nora Ephron-isms for a new generation. But it chronologically follows Ms. Fey through an awkward girlhood spent in Upper Darby, Pa., teenage years with a coterie of gay friends and a fish-out-of-water stint at the University of Virginia…. For all Ms. Fey’s efforts to depict herself as “a little tiny person with nothing to worry about running in circles, worried out of her mind,” she comes off as a strongly opinionated dynamo with a comedic voice that is totally her own.”
MAGIC TIME: My Life In Hollywood, Hawk Koch (author with Molly Jordon, narrator), released Nov. 2019, 7 hours and 28 minutes, Blackstone Publishing.
This is the only audio book on this list that isn’t about a star who is seen on screen; but Hawk Koch’s book and life are so full of stars and Hollywood moments, I want to recommend it as a fun listen, especially with him doing his own narration.
Koch's honest, sometimes raw, often funny, ultimately fascinating life provides a glimpse inside pre-digital Hollywood and an answer to the age-old question, what the hell does a movie producer actually do?
Born Howard Koch Jr., he was "burdened" with being the son of one of the greatest movie producer/exec's for decades, but he was still drawn to do what his dad did, and become a producer. However, at age 50, he also renewed his Jewishness, had a bar mitzvah and changed his name to Hawk. It is worth a listen just to hear how he chose his new name.
As this book reveals, he paid his dues to climb the industry ladder, working his way up from star-struck kid an AD to producing some really great movies. His insights into Chinatown and (recently deceased) Bob Evans, are insightful and fascinating, offering a very different view of the colorful, controversial one-time Paramount chief, and all of the Hollywood greats he met and worked with.
If you are in show biz or wish you were, this is well worth a listen.
FROM DEADLINE HOLLYWOOD INTERVIEW WITH KOCH: As the producer or executive producer of numerous films including The Idolmaker, Primal Fear, Gorky Park, Wayne’s World, The Pope of Greenwich Village, The Long Walk Home, Keeping The Faith and many more, Koch has had a long, successful career. That career includes stints as president of Rastar Productions; president of the Producers Guild, where he considers the creation (with fellow president Mark Gordon) of the p.g.a. mark a career highpoint; and president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in a year that also included significant change for the organization.
Mark Gordon, Producer of Saving Private Ryan, Grey’s Anatomy, and Criminal Minds:
“This book is more than just a great Hollywood memoir. Hawk Koch shares his story with us in a funny, touching, and vulnerable way in contrast to the glitz and glamor of the show business life he leads. If you want to hear a story about what Hollywood is really like read this book. It’s a winner.”
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