If your summer reading or listening includes Ron Chernow's MASSIVE George Washington: A Life, you're going to need some relief, aren't you? With almost 42 hours on audio and a gi-gazmic 904 pages, it's really more a course than a breezy read or listen. So, if breezy works for you, here are a few additional biographies that are also sometimes edifying and a bit more, uhhh, recreational:
Bossy Pants by Tina Fey
Hachette Audio, Unabridged - 5 1/2 hrs.
Reagan Arthur Books, 288 pages.
When you next do the "who's the best Saturday Night cast" over the years, is there any doubt the shows with Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Maya Rudolph, Rachel Dratch and Kristen Wiig are in the same pantheon of funny that produced the memorable male casts of Belushi, Murphy, Carvey, Hartman and Hammond? Which brings us specifically to Tina Fey.
If you take on any biography this summer, it should be Fey's super delightful Bossy Pants. There's simply nothing out there that will generate more giggles and outright laughs than Fey's trip from Chicago's Second City to the sound stages of NBC. If you have a choice, hearing is better than reading this bio. The lady knows how to deliver the lady's material. (Although, pssst, there are a few times the audiobook listener loses some of her swallowed, throw-away words at the ends of sentences.)
One of Fey's endearing qualities is relentless self-deprecation. She describes her "...straight Greek eyebrows that start at my temple and, if left unchecked, they will grow straight across my face onto yours." Or her insistence that she can convey sweaty palms over the telephone. And she admits that "Good news gives me angina." Well, if neurosis works for Tina Fey, it certainly works for us. Oh, and she does a spot-on imitation of TV's Paul Lynde. Nice.
Dick Van Dyke, My Life In and Out of Show Business
Random House Audio, Unabridged - 7 hrs, 46 min.
Crown Archtype, 304 pages
With Dick Van Dyke, what you see is what you get -- mostly -- a down-to-earth guy from Danville, IL, who loves to perform and is unashamed about it.
As a boy, he was drawn to the light of his socially gregarious mother who becomes the foundation of his accessable, outgoing mannner. From his early beginnings as a double act on the club circuit, you see an energetic, determined guy who makes the most of whatever or whoever comes his way. And that happened to be legendary TV producer Sheldon Leonard and writer Carl Reiner. They saw the joy Van Dyke brought to his work and audience and gave him some extraordinary TV platforms for success.
Don't look for any dirt or revelations here. Van Dyke works clean. He does spend considerable time talking about his well-known alcoholism.
Like so many first-rate actors, Van Dyke is basically a very shy guy who comes alive when he's performing. He's also a reactor, a very flexible and appealing reactor. While all swirls around him, we're drawn in by his expressive face and oh-so elastic body.
One cautionary note: as a result of this book, you may find yourself humming catchy The Dick Van Dyke Show music theme. You will need a crowbar to get it out of your head.
Stories I Only Tell My Friends by Rob Lowe
Macmillan Audio, Unabridged - 9 hrs.
Henry Holt, 320 pages
Here's another appealing guy from the Midwest -- Dayton, Ohio. Like so many of his generation, divorce is the inciting incident propelling Lowe's story forward. Single dad moves to Malibu, Calif. where he chums up with hard-partying neighbor Charlie Sheen and becomes what Lowe calls one of the "lost boys" of Malibu. "Underneath the glorious, exuberance and the counter-culture ethos," he writes, "the fantastical weather and dream-like beauty, Malibu's malignant undercurrents were a hidden danger." Is this a foreshadow of his later sex tape scandal ? Not really. He kind of smooths over that embarrassment explaining, "It was the 1980s," and he was part of the celebrity-hyped Brat Pack.
Lowe's a skilled writer. He often uses a tease-and-reveal technique, meaning he withholds the full name of a celebrity 'till the end of each story he tells.
He also has some fundamental ingredients for success in any arena: talent, energy, tenacity and a highly developed competitive drive. Doesn't hurt to look like him either. Although, he acknowledges his "pretty-boy" good looks worked both as a plus and minus.
If you, or anyone you know, is an aspiring actor, Lowe's take on the whole process makes the book essential research.
After listening to Lowe's stories, you may want to look again at The Outsiders, Francis Ford Coppola's seminal young-hunk movie that introduced Lowe along with Matt Dillon, Patrick Swayze, Tom Cruise, Leif Garrett, C. Thomas Howell, Ralph Macchio and Emilio Estevez.
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