Tag Archives: celebrity bios

Kiss Me Like a Stranger Book Review

He was the music maker…the dreamer of dreams.  He brought some of our favorite characters to life, including Dr. Frankenstein, Willy Wonka, Leo Bloom, Sigerson Holmes, and Skip Donahue.  From his humble beginnings as a Shakespearean actor to his amazing collection of movies he made with Mel Brooks and Richard Pryor, Gene Wilder challenged the comic genre.  He pushed himself, pushed his directors.  He poured himself into each project, owning and enveloping each of his characters with all the energy he could muster.  He may have been a simple Midwestern boy at heart, but Gene Wilder was nothing if not a believer in the extraordinary.

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In his very intimate and personal autobiography, Kiss Me Like a Stranger, Wilder opens up and exposes his deepest secrets, talking about how his sick mother influenced his career path and his very real and emotional experiences with psychoanalysis.  He opens about his love affairs and marriages, including his sometimes tumultuous relationship with fellow comedian, Gilda Radner, and his difficult relationship with his adopted daughter, Katie.

While he does talk briefly about his projects and films, Kiss Me Like a Stranger is not a tell-all about a chocolate factory or a secret laboratory.  At its core, this book is about an actor’s search for truth, love, and acceptance.  It’s about mistakes and choices.  With eloquence and grace, it turns this larger-than-life comedian into a real person, a humble person.  A man who falls in and out of love, who struggles with raising a daughter not his own, and who – just like the rest of us – is just looking for love and fulfillment both personally and professionally.

Written about 10 years before his death, Kiss Me Like a Stranger is a frank, yet charming memoir that shows Wilder for what he truly was…a shy, gentle man who loved to make people laugh.  He was a dear friend, a doting husband, and a beloved actor who, like so many of his profession, had a series of serendipitous moments that propelled him, maybe unwillingly, into stardom.

 

Looking for a new book to read? Check in every Friday for a “Bee Happy” post, where I share reviews of books I’ve read or other book-themed lists.

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25 of the Best Celeb-ographies I’ve Read So Far

For me, there’s no better beach read than a juicy celebrity biography…and lord knows I’ve read my fair share.  My brain seems to be packed with useless information about Russell Brand’s childhood, Carol Burnett’s seriously amazing friendship squad, and amazing life advice from Nick Offerman.  I don’t know what it is, but taking a look behind the curtain and seeing what these stars are like IRL just gives me a sense of comfort…especially since I will only read bios on the people I actually like!

Over the years I’ve read bios by and about everyone from Sammy Davis, Jr. to Bryan Cranston…and I’ve collected 25 of my favorites right here.  Need a new beach read this summer?  This is the perfect place to start!

25 of the Best Celeb-ographies I’ve Read So Far

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In Black and White: The Life of Sammy Davis, Jr.
Wil Haygood

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An intimate look at a man who defined entertainment, this biography is one of the first I remember reading and thoroughly enjoying.  Sammy Davis, Jr. was a man who lived and breathed music and dance, and In Black and White is an amazing testament to the legacy he’s left behind.

Schulz and Peanuts: A Biography
David Michaelis

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It should come as no surprise that Charles Schulz, the man behind Charlie Brown and friends, was a bit of a loner.  A raw and emotional story about the man who gave the world one of the best comic strips ever written, Schulz and Peanuts is also peppered with cartoons and illustrations to help his story come to life.

The Bedwetter: Stories of Courage, Redemption, and Pee
Sarah Silverman

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Any fan of Sarah Silverman will love this book.  Told in her voice with her raw sense of humor, The Bedwetter is an inspirational story about following your dreams, standing up for yourself, and conquering your fears.

Unbearable Lightness: A Story of Loss and Gain
Portia De Rossi

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In Unbearable Lightness, Portia De Rossi opens up about her struggles with anorexia and body image issues, as well as her journey to acceptance and love.  This one is emotional, guys…but very uplifting.

Good Stuff: A Reminiscence of My Father, Cary Grant
Jennifer Grant

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A short and sweet book packed with personal stories and family photos, Good Stuff gives readers a look at a man the world rarely got to see.  Though Cary Grant was one of the most famous actors of his generation, he was actually quite reserved…and this story of his life at home will have you loving him all the more.

My Booky Wook: A Memoir of Sex, Drugs, and Stand-Up
Russell Brand

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I gotta say, I loved this more than I thought I would.  Packed with hilarious stories of growing up in the U.K., My Booky Wook is everything you expect it to be and nothing more.  A quick read that’s perfect for summer, My Booky Wook might help explain, just a little, the insanity that is Russell Brand.

Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly
Anthony Bourdain

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A mesmerizing look into the world of the culinary arts, Kitchen Confidential will open your eyes to the seedy, dirty, and terrifying world of restaurant chefs.  Where they eat, how they eat, and what really happens when you send your food back…it’s all here in black and white…and will forever change the way you order food next time you dine out.

Seriously…I’m Kidding
Ellen DeGeneres

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Love, love, love this book.  Ellen is everything you want her to be and this book is like having her right there in your living room with you.  An inspirational story about a woman who helped fuel the LGBT movement, Seriously…I’m Kidding will have you laughing, crying, and dancing for joy.

Choose Your Own Autobiography
Neil Patrick Harris

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Written in a fun choose your own adventure format, NPH’s autobiography is a fun and comic take on NPH’s rise to fame.  Filled with hilarious stories, cute drawings, and plenty of twists and turns, Choose Your Own Autobiography is everything you want in a beach read.

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns)
Mindy Kaling

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I think Mindy and I are destined to be BFF’s.  A book for girls who love eating, laughing, drinking, and then eating again, reading Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? also requires a glass of wine, a platter of cheese fries, and a Netflix subscription…because you’re gonna want to start watching The Office all over again.

The Bassoon King: My Life in Art, Faith, and Idiocy
Rainn Wilson

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And if Mindy’s book doesn’t convince you to revisit Dunder Mifflin, The Bassoon King surely will.  With a forward by Dwight Schrute himself, The Bassoon King will make you fall in love with Rainn Wilson all the more.

As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride
Cary Elwes

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OK so this isn’t a BIOGRAPHY so to speak, but I couldn’t leave it off this list!  A MUST for anyone who loves the movie, As You Wish takes readers behind the scenes, giving them a glimpse into the making of the most romantic story of all time.  There are also personal stories from Fred Savage, Robin Wright, Billy Crystal and many more about filming, production, and casting.

It’s a Long Story: My Life
Willie Nelson

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I didn’t know much about Willie before reading this book, but I just found it so enjoyable and warm.  I actually listened to this book on tape, so there were moments when I heard Willie playing in the background, which I think made me like this book even more.  A very personal look into a life that was torn, rebuilt, and torn again, It’s a Long Story makes it easy to understand just how much Willie Nelson has influenced the music industry.

Is You Okay?
Glozell Green

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Glozell, a self-proclaimed internet-tainer, has taken YouTube by storm with her various “challenge” videos.  She rose to amazing success after posting her “Cinnamon Challenge” video and has created many more since then.  She comes across as a bit of a loon online, but in reality, she’s quite the go-getter…and this book was surprisingly inspirational and motivating, especially for young girls just starting on their career paths.

Full Service: My Adventures in Hollywood and the Secret Sex Lives of the Stars
Scotty Bowers

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Hahahahahaha, I can’t think of this book without laughing.  So insanely ridiculous in nature, Full Service is a story about the sex lives of the Hollywood stars we know and love.  While some of these stories seem absolutely insane, others could be quite plausible…and as Bowers says himself, there’s really no way to know, as most of the celebrities in this book are now dead.  Even if it’s all fake, Full Service certainly is the ultimate beach read and is attune to reading a long, juicy, trashy magazine.

A Little Bit Wicked: Life, Love, and Faith in Stages
Kristin Chenoweth

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You might know her from Wicked, Pushing Daisies, Glee, or just from her work on Broadway…but this little pint-sized star packs a serious punch…and the stories of her rise to fame are so inspiring that you may find yourself singing “Defying Gravity” as you read it.

Jimmy Stewart: A Biography
Marc Eliot

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The thing I love most about Jimmy Stewart is that he is everything you want him to be.  Kind, good-hearted, genuine, classy…he was all of those things and more.  A sweet book to give to dad or grandpa for Father’s Day, Stewart’s biography truly showcases a wonderful life.

Yes Please
Amy Poehler

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If you were to take The Magic Schoolbus into the mind of Amy Poehler, it would look like the pages of Yes Please.  A book you could easily read in a few hours, Yes Please is like a scrapbook of Poehler’s life, told with her wit and sarcasm, and the genuine care and attention to detail of her foil, Leslie Knope.

Paddle Your Own Canoe: One Man’s Fundamentals for Delicious Living
Nick Offerman

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If Nick Offerman had his choice, this book would probably be hand-written and bound with leather and glue.  A story about growing up in rural Illinois and making a future literally by hand, Paddle Your Own Canoe is a life-lesson in creativity, romance, and manliness.  It’s most likely Ron Swanson’s favorite book, TBH.

A Life in Parts
Bryan Cranston

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Any lover of Bryan Cranston’s work will enjoy this book.  Told in several small vignettes of characters Cranston has played in his lifetime (both personally and professionally), this book really is a life in parts.

How to Make Love Like a Porn Star
Jenna Jameson

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This was another book that was a total surprise.  Juicy gossip, sexy pictures, and lots (LOTS) of tips and tricks of the trade fill this beast of an autobiography.  Word to the wise…many libraries have stopped carrying this book for…reasons…so if you’re interested, invest in your own copy.

This Time Together: Laughter and Reflection
Carol Burnett

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If you loved her then, you’ll love her now.  A sweet celebration of love and friendship, This Time Together is humorous, genuine, and – like Carol – a true treat.

My Father’s Daughter: A Memoir
Tina Sinatra

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Almost everyone in the world knows who Frank Sinatra was…but not many knew him the way his kids knew him.  A very emotional, raw, and empowering book about a father and a daughter, My Father’s Daughter holds no bars…opening the door to her father’s friendships, love affairs, and struggles…all told from the perspective of one of the girls who truly loved him the most.

Bossypants
Tina Fey

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Let’s be honest, you’ve read this, right?  Everyone has to have read this by now…so there’s really no use explaining how amazing this is.

Home: A Memoir of My Early Years
Julie Andrews

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This woman is practically perfect in every way.  An amazing singer, actor, and writer, Home is a look into the very early years of Andrews’ career…starting from childhood and ending with her boarding the plane to star in this little Disney movie called Mary Poppins.

Looking for a new book to read? Check in every Friday for a “Bee Happy” post, where I share reviews of books I’ve read or other book-themed lists.

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My Story Book Review

At the tender age of 14, Elizabeth Smart was abducted at knife point from her family home in Salt Lake City, Utah.  For 9 months she remained missing, being raped, abused, and threatened daily by her captures, Brian David Mitchell and Wanda Barzee.  They hid in the western mountains, traveling through Utah, into California, and back to Utah again before Smart was eventually rescued by police in March 2003.

The story of her kidnapping and rescue efforts captured national attention.  Her face was on every news channel, in every newspaper, and you couldn’t eat or shop in public without hearing someone mention her name.

Nearly 10 years after her rescue, almost to the day, Smart released her memoir about her abduction and rescue.  Her book, titled My Story, chronicles the moments right before her abduction to the moments after the trial of her captures.  With great detail and amazing courage, Smart recounts the fear she felt upon seeing Mitchell in her room, the feeling of his knife at her back, and how scared she was during that long, dark walk up to Mitchell’s camp, where she would remain, just a mere 2 or so miles from her home,  for the majority of her capture.

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With heartbreaking tales of torture, abuse, greed, starvation, and sacrifice, Smart leads us on a journey back to her darkest days, doing her best to bring us into the moment, to feel the fear and pain she felt all those years ago.  In the 9 months she remained missing, Smart had no choice but to remain strong and fight, despite her situation, and her force, determination, and God-loving courage is so evident in this memoir that I had to keep reminding myself that this poor girl was only 14 when her life completely changed forever.

Unlike many child abduction stories, Smart’s story actually has a somewhat happy ending.  After her rescue, Smart became a strong activist and journalist, bringing the stories of other children into the public eye.  She founded the Elizabeth Smart Foundation, which aims to educate children about violent and sexual crimes and she currently works as a commentator for ABC News, mainly focusing on missing persons cases.  Now a happy wife and mother, Smart has made great and amazing strides to normalize her life after her abduction.

Told in her voice, in her way, (and read by her if you do the audiobook!), My Story is an empowering and emotional read that gives readers a glimpse into the personal life of one girl who was pushed unwillingly into the spotlight.

 

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This Time Together Book Review

Back when my whole family lived under one roof, I remember spending many a sleepless nights watching The Carol Burnett Show on On Demand.  Always entertaining and filled with an amazing cast of guest stars (including Jimmy Stewart, Lucille Ball, Cary Grant, and Julie Andrews, just to name a few!), The Carol Burnett Show was always a joy to watch.  I loved how much the cast loved each other…and how much they loved and respected Carol herself.  It was a beacon in the realm of TV comedy and won an impressive 25 Emmys during its long 11-year run.

One thing I really enjoyed about The Carol Burnett Show was Carol’s genuine love for what she did.  Just watch one show, one scene even, and it will be so clear to see that this woman lives to make people laugh.

Unlike several of her colleagues, Carol Burnett is one of the most authentic actresses on film and TV today…what you see is what you get.  That same funny, irreverent, and irresistible person you see on The Carol Burnett Show, Annie, Noises Off!, and Glee is the same funny lady off-screen, too…she’s just as sweet and warm as you’d imagine…and the proof lies in her most recent autobiography, This Time Together.

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A heartwarming memoir filled with hilarious and touching stories, This Time Together is a collection of Carol’s most cherished memories from her personal and professional life.  Filled with adorable photos of Carol and her posse, this book feels like sitting down with an old friend who has amazing stories and photos to share.

From her life-long friendships with some of the world’s most well-known entertainers to her heartbreaking story of losing her daughter to cancer, Carol’s poignant look back at her amazing legacy will leave you laughing and crying alongside her.  By the end of the book, she’ll feel like an old friend, a soul mate, a dear companion who, despite all odds, reminds us that laughter really is the best medicine of all.

 

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Is You Okay? Book Review

The first Glozell video I saw was “The Cinnamon Challenge”.  Here was some crazy loud woman with one heck of an amazing weave downing a LADLE full of cinnamon and somehow not dying…I felt bad laughing hysterically but I couldn’t help it!  I instantly fell in love with her and her vibrant personality.

I plowed through a few more of her challenge videos, including “The Wasabi Challenge” and “The Hot Pepper Challenge”, and –of course— “A Push Up Bra Will Help Me Get My Man”.  I couldn’t get enough.  She was just so lovable in her stupidity.

My sister and I share a mutual love of Glozell.  And when we found out she was writing a book, we made a mental note to attend her signing, no questions asked.  Well, I guess that note blew away in the wind…but when I opened my Christmas gifts from her and found Glozell’s book, Is You Okay?, smiling up at me between the ripped Christmas paper, I got instantly excited and jumped in that night.

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Filled with everything a “Glo-worm” or “Glo-bug” or Glozell fan could ever want, Is You Okay?, is a gem of a book, filled with surprising inspiration and motivation to follow your dreams.  Written as if Glozell was just chatting with you over lunch, Is You Okay? is an intimate look into Glozell’s personal life and how she got her start as an Internet-tainer.

A true and quite unusual success story, Glozell talks about her journey from filming “A Push Up Bra Will Help Me Get My Man” to her special episode where she got to sit down and interview President Barak Obama.  Hers is a story that is not far-fetched or out of reach for others who are just as dedicated and resilient as she is…and it’s that message that makes this book pretty inspiring.

Of course, every success story has bumpy roads.  “The Cinnamon Challenge”, for example, was a life-changing video that put Glozell on the map as one of YouTube’s most successful hosts…but it also nearly killed her…like, for realz.  Easily her most popular video with 50,714,327 views and counting, “The Cinnamon Challenge” basically turned her into an overnight sensation…and helped guide her voice and message for the rest of her insanely crazy videos.

Also peppered with personal stories about Glozell’s family, love life (celebrity drama included!), and even a few family photos, Is You Okay? will make you laugh out loud with stories that are embarrassing, ridiculous, and relatable.  She’s a shining, albeit strange, example of success and she continues to pump out videos and collaborations to this day.  With 4.5 million subscribers to her YouTube channel, GloZell Green, Glozell has proven herself to be a true entertainer in every sense of the word…making millions smile and laugh one video at a time.

Over and out.

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It’s a Long Story Book Review

In the summer of 2014, I had the pleasure of seeing Willie Nelson live at Ravinia in Chicago.  Together with Alison Kraus and the Union Station band, Willie filled the night with amazing music and helped open my eyes (and ears!) to the beauty of classic country tunes.

After seeing Willie live, I ran to the store and bought two or three of his albums, including his recent duets album titled “To All the Girls” – which is fantastic, by the way.  I quickly fell in love with Willie’s unique way of singing and the wonderful stories he tells through his music.

Not surprisingly, Willie is a master of songwriting.  After all, he has 80+ years of experience to pull from!  And in his autobiography, It’s a Long Story: My Life, Willie tells the story behind the stories, diving into his own life in a series of memories told “as clear as a Texas sky and in the same rhythm that I lived it.”

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Filled with stories about growing up in Abbott, Texas, of selling vacuum cleaners and encyclopedias, of writing song after song and trying, despite all odds, to strike big in the music business, It’s a Long Story is an intimate and candid look into the life of the man who influenced the art of songwriting.

One of the most surprising things I learned in reading It’s a Long Story was the massive influence Willie Nelson has had on the music industry…not just in his style of singing or his love of musical storytelling, but in the lyrics he’s written, both for himself and other artists.  Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues”, Patsy Cline’s “Crazy”, and Elvis’s “Heartbreak Hotel” are just SOME of the popular tunes that were actually written by Willie Nelson.

A funny and honest story about true love, wild adventures, friends and family, It’s a Long Story opens the door into the life of one man who entertained millions with his tales of adventures on the road, at home, and on the road again.

 

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A Life in Parts Book Review

Before Lyndon B. Johnson…before Dalton Trumbo…before Walter White, Heisenberg, Hal Wilkerson, and Tim Whatley…before the Tony and the Emmy Awards, before the guest star spots, the commercials, the plays, and the soap operas, Bryan Cranston was just your average kid.

Well, sort of.

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An actor by age 7, Bryan Cranston has held many roles in his lifetime, the least of which being on the stage and screen.  Before receiving international fame with his portrayal as Walter White in AMC’s Breaking Bad, Cranston played several odd parts that helped landed him in the spotlight.  These were not unusual roles, and actually are roles several of us play in our own lives:  paperboy, farmhand, lover, husband, and father being a few.

In his intimate, funny, and inspiring memoir, A Life in Parts, Cranston takes us through his repertoire of performances, starting with his role as a son and brother, and taking us through his larger parts as father, husband, and actor.  Broken down into small chapters, each section of the book discusses a different part of Cranston’s life.  Those who have followed Cranston from his days on Loving and Malcolm in the Middle are sure to enjoy his stories about life on and off the sets…and he also gives an inspiring account of how he mentally, physically, and emotionally prepared for the challenge of playing President Lyndon Johnson in All the Way, a role that won him a Tony Award.

However, nothing came close to what he had to endure to bring the character of Walter White to life.  Fans of Breaking Bad will enjoy what Cranston has to say about his beloved cast and crew…and you’re sure to gain a new perspective on the show (and his character) after learning about what Cranston had to do, had to search for, to mentally and emotionally prepare for the role that would launch him into stardom.

Besides being a dossier of Cranston’s personal and professional achievements, A Life in Parts is also a love letter of sorts to the craft of acting.  It’s a deep and personal look into the devotion it takes to bring a character to life…the courage it takes to stand up for yourself and what you believe in…and the amount of creativity needed to really dive into a character’s motives and values.

In the great play of life, we all play many parts.  We act in our own shows and in the shows of our loved ones.  We play the hero, the villain, the friend, the comic relief.  We don masks, we hide in the shadows, we bare it all and, hopefully, don’t live to regret it.  We, as they say, wear many hats, and while some are more important than others, it’s all the roles we play – all the hats we wear – that make up our great story.  In A Life in Parts, Cranston breaks apart his life into the core characters that have molded him into who he is…it’s an intimate and honest look at the roles that have shaped him both professionally and personally and it’s an honest and true dedication to the craft he loves so dearly.

Looking for a new book to read? Check in every Friday for a “Bee Happy” post, where I share reviews of books I’ve read or other book-themed lists.

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