“Shatner Rules” by William Shatner with Chris Regan – Review

By: Angie Haddock


This collection of rules, illustrated with stories from Bill’s illustrious life and career, will show you how Bill became WILLIAM SHATNER, larger than life and bigger than any role he ever played. “Shatner Rules” is your guide to becoming William Shatner. Or more accurately, beautifully Shatneresque.

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William Shatner has written several books – in both the memoir and fictional/sci-fi genres. I had found this one at a used bookstore years ago. It was written in honor of his turning 80 in 2011, and I thought the occasion of his turning 90 would be the perfect time to read it!

This one is not laid out chronologically, per se, but has some fun anecdotes. A lot of the fun comes from him name-dropping other celebrities he’s worked with on all his various projects. The overarching theme, if there is one, is that the guy – at 80, and probably to some extent now – keeps himself busy! There are few opportunities he says no to. (That is even one of the “rules!”)

As a Star Trek fan, there was one part that irked me a little. He gets into his beefs with George Takei and some of the other cast members from the Original Series, and none of that is new news at this point. He basically says that Takei – as well as Nichelle Nichols, James Doohan, and Walter Koenig – were glorified extras. I think history and legions of fans might say they were a little more than that. I think it will surprise no one that Shatner has a huge ego, and holds onto his “top-billed” status even now.

On the flip side, one of his criticisms of Takei was kind of fair. He mentions that Koenig was the best man at Takei’s wedding, even though they aren’t really close, and that Takei milks his ties to the Trek world for his own publicity.

Shatner has nothing but good things to say about Sir Patrick Stewart, though, so there’s that.

Other anecdotes see him traveling, interviewing notorious criminals and celebrities alike, and recording albums with the likes of Ben Folds and Henry Rollins. He also talks a lot about his family, his horses, and his pride in being Canadian.

Overall, this book was an easy and fun read, very gossipy, and sometimes silly.


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“A Little Bit Wicked” by Kristin Chenoweth with Joni Rodgers – Review

BY: Angie Haddock


In this lively, laugh-out-loud book, Kristin shares her journey from Oklahoma beauty queen to Broadway leading lady, reflecting on how faith and family have kept her grounded in the dysfunctional rodeo of show biz.

Goodreads


I am admittedly one of those people who’s seen Wicked on tour… oh, 3 or 4 times? That’s not too bad, right?

Kristin Chenoweth writes a pretty straight-forward memoir here, which talks about her childhood, theatre and TV experiences, love life, etc. It’s roughly in chronological order, with sidesteps here and there.

I thought the story of her adoption – and a possible sighting of her birth mother later on – were riveting. She grew up in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma with one older brother and tons of first cousins. Like many girls, she started dance lessons from a young age. She later started singing, often in church.

Chenoweth briefly competed in some local pageants as a way to win money for college. She was often one of the shortest competitors, but she knew her talent – singing – was stronger than some of her competitors’ talents. She never took first place, but earned some money to help her out in her school days.

One story I found funny was about her needing a tonsillectomy in college. She was training under a demanding vocal coach, and was worried that her soprano voice might change. In the end, it did – it got higher.

After her undergrad years in Oklahoma, Chenoweth moved north to study opera in Philadelphia. But she had other friends moving to New York, and it was so close… that she often found herself tagging along on musical theatre auditions in the big city. And, she was cast almost immediately!

(She did eventually finish her Master’s degree, to please her dad.)

Getting cast in a show is only one step, though, and the rest of Chenoweth’s story will remind readers what the “struggling actor” life is all about: crappy apartments, long hours, physical accidents and injuries, etc.

Obviously, she gets gigs that are better and better. She starts getting work on the West Coast, as well – first on TV, then in a few movies. She does a lot of charity concerts, performs on the Oscars, and dishes on her boyfriends (most notably, Aaron Sorkin). She also has a dog named after Madeline Kahn.

This memoir will mostly appeal to people who already find Chenoweth charming, or people who love hearing the backstage gossip on their favorite Broadway shows.


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“On Time – A Princely Life In Funk” by Morris Day with David Ritz – Review

BY: ANGIE HADDOCK


“Brilliant composer, smooth soul singer, killer drummer, and charismatic band leader, Morris Day, has been a force in American music for the past four decades. In On Time, the renowned funkster looks back on a life of turbulence and triumph.”

Goodreads


A few weeks ago, I tackled Prince’s “The Beautiful Ones.” So it seemed only logical to follow that with Morris Day’s memoir, which was published the same month (October 2019). If you don’t know Morris, please take a break and go watch Purple Rain. (Or even Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, for that matter!)

This is another memoir that is written in a unique style. In this one, the story is (thankfully) told in chronological order. There are three “voices” in the book, though – Morris, Prince, and MD (who is Morris’ onstage persona). Obviously, they were all written by Morris, but he uses these voices to kind of argue with himself on certain points where there are conflicts or confusion.

Morris was born in Springfield, Illinois, but moved to Minneapolis when he was still young. His parents were divorced, and he had several step-dads and half-siblings. His older sister was the rock to him, and continued to help him out of trouble well into their adulthoods.

Morris started out as a drummer. He met Prince in high school, and became the drummer for the Purple One’s band. There were several other funk outfits going at the time, and he admired certain players and singers in some of them. He was constantly in search of a good groove.

When Prince created his first signed band, The Revolution, he did not invite Morris to be the drummer. But, he did offer Morris a completely different gig, if Morris wanted to go on tour with them – videographer. Of course, Morris said yes, despite not having any experience. In the early eighties, this meant lugging around a heavy camera. He stuck with this gig for three years, just to be close to Prince’s creative genius.

Eventually his loyalty paid off, and Prince wanted to make a Morris album. Morris had never been a lead singer, but Prince convinced him he could do it. They produced the whole album themselves, and then Prince revealed that he envisioned Morris with a band, not as a solo artist. So Morris dipped into his Minneapolis funk favorites to come up with band members for The Time (even though none of them actually played on that first album).

This story sets an important precedent for many of the stories that follow, and I’ll quote Morris directly:

“Naturally, that made me crazy, but being driven crazy is the price you paid for being around Prince.”

Most people know Morris Day from his performance in the movie Purple Rain. His character has the same name, Morris Day, but was a little more bombastic than the real Morris at that time. This came out of figuring out how to make Morris the foil for Prince in the movie, and the idea that – since Prince would obviously be the sexy one – Morris could be the funny one.

This is where we see the birth of MD, the more exaggerated version of Morris. The character from the movie became his onstage persona, and often blended into his real life. Over decades, Morris fought with drugs, alcohol, and women. He did get married, and had a family. He did have some successful albums, both with the band and as a solo artist. He feels he had an ongoing struggle between MD, who wanted all the fabulousness of being a celebrity, and Morris, who wanted a family and to just play good music.

But his other lifelong struggle was with Prince. He wanted to get out of Prince’s shadow at some points, but also knew that Prince was a genius. Prince would invite him to play at some shows, then change his mind at the last minute (when the band had already traveled to the city of the show). A later incarnation of The Time actually had to record under a different name, because Prince claimed he owned the name – even though they were still touring as The Time at the time.

Morris eventually gets clean. He also gets divorced, and remarried. He sees Prince one last time – for the first time in a decade – a few months before his death. He still considers him a brother, albeit a hard one to deal with sometimes.

This is a fun and easy read, especially if you like music. The hardcover edition comes in at just over 200 pages, and the conversational tone is easy to digest.


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“The Beautiful Ones” by Prince with Dan Piepenbring – Review

BY: Angie Haddock


From Prince himself comes the brilliant coming-of-age-and-into-superstardom story of one of the greatest artists of all time—featuring never-before-seen photos, original scrapbooks and lyric sheets, and the exquisite memoir he began writing before his tragic death.

Goodreads


To say that this book was a multi-sensory experience may seem odd, or even cheesy – but I knew I was in for a new experience just from picking it up. The pages are ultra-thick, the page numbers aren’t in the usual place, the typeset was large and unique. From the moment you feel this book, you know you’re in for an adventure.

This one is not a straight-forward memoir. The beginning is the 50-page odyssey of the book’s invention, explaining that Prince had the idea to write a memoir (or several), but died before it came to fruition. He had already picked a co-author (Dan), and signed the book deal. So, upon his death, the people involved in the deal were among those allowed to look through his extensive trove of notes and pictures and other momentos left behind at Paisley Park.

They decided to use some of the stuff they found that interested them in the following way: After the intro, there is what Prince had written so far of his proposed memoir. This is mostly about his parents, growing up in Minneapolis, and other things about his early years. They include scans of the actual, handwritten pages – but fear not, it’s typed out afterward, for easier reading. But, they did type it as close as they could to the way Prince wrote, including using an emoji (for lack of a better description) of an eye for the word “I.”

After that is a photo album, with annotations, from his earliest years getting a recording contract. He and some bandmates went out to California to record, and he took pictures of random things like their hotel room. It’s cute to think of this huge personality as having once been a young kid viewing a new place for the first time, in awe of its different terrain and style.

There are mountains of other pictures and notes, often paired with quotes from interviews, that show the artist coming into his own and doing things his way. Then we have another handwritten tome, a synopsis of what he first envisioned the movie Purple Rain to be about. Following that are a few more pictures, notes, and fun finds.

I want to leave you with some fun/funky quotes from the mind of Prince himself:

“…the bass & drums on this record would make Stephen Hawking dance. No disrespect – it’s just that funky.”

“Try to create. I want to tell people to create. Just start by creating your day. Then create your life.”

“If there’s something out there that U want – Go 4 it! Nothing comes to sleepers but dreams.”

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