Books + Comics

Literally the Best Thing Ever: Movie-Star Memoirs

Stars: they’re mostly nothing like us!

One afternoon, when I was doing research for my recent novel, about a Hollywood starlet, I read Hedy Lamarr’s memoir, Ecstasy and Me: My Life As a Woman, in a single sitting. I don’t think I even took a break to pee. The scene I remember most vividly was about Lamarr getting some glamorous studio portraits taken, and she seduces another young actress on the set. Sexy! Lamarr later claimed the action in the book was made up by a ghost writer (she has rampant sex with both men and women, and is generally a badass), but I choose to ignore that. Either way, Lamarr’s book got me all hot and bothered about movie star memoirs, which are, yes, Literally the Best Thing Ever.

These books fall into lots of categories—salacious, phony, ghostwritten, hilarious, terrible. Here are a few standouts to get you started.

Smart Women Who Actually Wrote the Books Themselves Category:
Tie: Lauren Bacall’s National Book Award–winning By Myself, Katharine Hepburn’s Me: Stories of My Life. These are good for Old Hollywood details, but tend to stay away from the truly dark stuff. Imagine hearing stories told by the most glamorous, cool grandmothers in the world. Bacall’s first paragraph recounts her 15-year-old self smoking a whole pack of cigarettes in the balcony of a movie theater.

Tiny Rebel Zone:
Drew Barrymore’s Little Girl Lost. Here are some excerpts from this book’s Amazon reviews: “Fasanating. I read this book 5 times in High School.” “Drew Barrymore is to be congratulated. Her honesty is painfully refreshing and hasn’t been seen lately since the new Star Jones book…” What more do you need to know? Is it great literature? No. Will you flip through and love every minute of it? Yes. Bonus points: the cover features a photo of Poison Ivy-era Drew, a personal favorite of mine.

Cute Boy Division:
Rob Lowe, Stories I Only Tell My Friends. Here is Lowe on JFK Jr., whom he greatly admired, from the first chapter of this book: “Sometimes he and I would both appear on those shameful lists of ‘Hunks.’ (Could there be a more degrading or, frankly, gross word than ‘hunk’? Hunk of what? Hunk of wood? Hunk of cheese? Yikes!” Nice humblebrag.

Memoirs by Actual Writers Who Happen to Also Be Celebrities:
Tina Fey’s Bossypants, Steve Martin’s Born Standing Up, Patti Smith’s Just Kids, just to name a few. These people are famous for being writers, so their books don’t really count as movie-star memoirs. Their books are great, but they’re supposed to be, so no big whoop. (Read them anyway, though; they’re so worth it.)

A Couple to Avoid:
I tried to like sTORI Telling by Tori Spelling and Kardashion Konfidential by everyone favorite’s reality TV sisters. I could not do it. These kinds of books would drive me crazy before I sold my novel. A publisher bought this drivel, I would think, and no one’s bought my book? Is there no justice in the world? However, there is some feather-light pleasure to be had in leafing through the Kardashian book, which includes previously unseen photos from Kim’s 72-day marriage to Kris Humphries and a guide to the sisters’ “private language.”

If you make it through all of these and are still hungry for (slightly more objective) more, it’s time to hit the biographies (which are written by other people, not the stars themselves). These are less goofy, but the truly well-written and -researched ones are made of pure gold. A few of the greats are Sam Irvin’s Kay Thompson: From Funny Face to Eloise, about the Hollywood actress who also created my favorite children’s book character; Furious Love by Sam Kashner, which is about the love affair between Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton; and Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend by Susan Orlean, which is about, yes, the famous acting dog! ♦

32 Comments

  • aliastro September 21st, 2012 3:24 PM

    Little Girl Lost is the best! I also read River Phoenix: A Short Life in high school. Fascinating and creepy, he grew up in a cult.

  • Via September 21st, 2012 3:29 PM

    I LOVE memoirs!!! My favs are “High on Arrival” by Mackenzie Phillips, “Neon Angel” by Cherie Currie, “Papa John” by John Phillips, and “The Bedwetter” by Sarah Silverman!!! Get “the bedwetter” on audio book though because it is Sarah Silverman telling her story and it is hilarious!!!

    • Runaway September 21st, 2012 6:06 PM

      Neon Angel is great…But f-ing scary, too! If it’s one of your favourites, you know what I’m talking about…

  • neelybat September 21st, 2012 3:39 PM

    what about Will There Really Be A Morning? by frances farmer? it’s so so good!

    • Ladymia69 December 5th, 2012 7:33 PM

      That biography was sadly proven to be fabricated and written by her friend who sensationalized things to sell copies… for a truer account of her life, read Frances Farmer:The Life and Ties of a Troubled Star” by Peter Shelley.

  • thebrownette September 21st, 2012 4:00 PM

    BOSSYPANTS AUDIOBOOK

  • HopesYou September 21st, 2012 4:03 PM

    Then Again by Diane Keaton is super good. She is super frank about her insecurities issues with food and relationships. And also… hello. She’s still a total BABE (all capitals of course) even at 66.

    HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

  • SiLK September 21st, 2012 4:11 PM

    I always had something against memoirs, no idea what or why. This has me thinking, time for a change? I think so! :)

    http://masksmagpies.blogspot.co.uk/

  • Lucy September 21st, 2012 4:18 PM

    LAUREN BACALL ME IDOL OMGGGGGGGGGGGGGG!!!! PLEASE DO A STYLE THING ON HER AND KATHERINE HEPBURN OR EVEN A WHOLE ARTICLE PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE OR MAYBE EVEN INTERVIEW BETTY (LAUREN) SHE STILL LIVES IN NEW YORK OMG MY IDOLS PLEASE BRING THEM TO ROOKIE PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE!!!!!

  • LuxOrBust September 21st, 2012 4:34 PM

    Scar Tissue by Anthony Kiedis is great. His life is so much more than just the red hot chili peppers. so many good times and sad moments. read it guys, it kicks ass

  • EmilyBurke September 21st, 2012 5:05 PM

    I have read so many auto biographies about gabrielle chanel and alexander mqueen its basically an obsession.
    dottedblazer.blogspot.com

    • Sophii September 24th, 2012 12:49 PM

      I love the Chanel biography by Justine Picardie, The Legend and the Life. Gabrielle Chanel is just so inspirational. I also love the film Coco Before Chanel. I would like to read some more memoirs in the future x

      http://thechicmuse000.blogspot.co.uk

  • girlswithsecrets September 21st, 2012 5:20 PM

    What about Paul Feig’s “Kick Me”? It’s hilarious, adorable, and incredibly honest, sharing embarrassing stories about being a kid that basically anyone in the world can relate to!

  • Fortune_Goddess September 21st, 2012 5:24 PM

    Never underestimate the power of Bristol Palin’s autobiography. Terrible, but AMAZING. I was forced to read it 7 times by my own brain.

    • actressgirl September 22nd, 2012 3:59 PM

      I’m curious, what’s the appeal of the book?

  • ladyjenna September 21st, 2012 5:51 PM

    One large word, semi-related to this: omgroblowewestwingandforthatmatterwestwingeverthangforeverzzz.

    WEST WING is the greatest tv series ever. okay done.

  • saramarit September 21st, 2012 6:26 PM

    I just ordered Little Girl Lost this week after seeing photos of Drew Barrymore’s teenage bedroom reminded me of it.

    I read that Anjelica Huston is writing her memoir and I’m already excited to read it.

  • janefeebles September 21st, 2012 6:42 PM

    Boy George’s autobiography “Take it like a Man” is fabulous! I read it when I was 17 and it rocked my world. He was one of the first punks and his stories of the Sex Shop, The Blitz, David Bowie and development of the New Romantics made me unbelievably sad and betrayed by Time itself that I was too young to have grown up in that scene.

  • Wren September 21st, 2012 7:30 PM

    I just bought Carrie Fisher’s autobiography! My favorite bit is where she talks about her role as Princess Leia and she says: “I want it reported that I drowned in moonlight, strangled by my own bra!”
    (Because, don’t you know, when you go into space you become weightless, then your body expands but your bra doesn’t, so you get strangled by your own underwear – according to George Lucas) ♥

  • ballerinableu September 21st, 2012 8:55 PM

    Julie Andrew’s Home is really good. She talks about Rex Harrison, confusing twat with twit and a bunch of other terrific stuff.

  • NotReallyChristian September 22nd, 2012 8:51 AM

    Has Rookie written anything about the Mitford Sisters? Ok none of them were actually movie stars, but there was a novelist, two fascists, a communist and a Duchess (and, er, a dog-breeder. But John Betjeman was in love with her so she still rocks). Basically they are the whole 20th Century brought together in one crazy beautiful family of rebel sisters! There are some amazing books written by and about them, and I’ve always been completely fascinated by them.

  • Taffy September 22nd, 2012 10:15 AM

    I highly recommend Making Tracks: the Rise of Blondie even if you aren’t into Blondie. It is a fabulous and sometimes hilarious first hand account of everything that went down on the new wave/punk scene in NY back in the day. There are also a TON of AMAZING photographs.

  • kaylafay September 22nd, 2012 1:21 PM

    Just Kids is one of the best books i have ever read. It made me want to drop out of high school and run away to New York to live as a struggling artist. It’s one of those books where you feel all the emotions that the main character is feeling and it had me crying at the end.

  • Bazazz September 22nd, 2012 3:14 PM

    Hey! Thanks for your very kind words about my book KAY THOMPSON: FROM FUNNY FACE TO ELOISE. For more information about it, you and your readers will get a kick out of visiting http://www.KayThompsonWebsite.com

    Thanks again!

    May the BAZAZZ be with you!

    Sam Irvin
    Author of KAY THOMPSON: FROM FUNNY FACE TO ELOISE (Simon & Schuster)

  • midori September 23rd, 2012 1:19 PM

    Great article! For a really interesting life read Lord Byron’s biography! I will definitely read Drew’s book, sounds very cool…

  • Sterling87 September 23rd, 2012 4:54 PM

    I loove this! I’ve been meaning to read Just Kids for awhile. Hey guys, email me if you’d be interested in writing something for a zine I make. This is for anyone, we are pretty open to whatever you might want to write! Sterlingale87@gmail.com

  • Loops September 26th, 2012 9:35 AM

    I’m not really into movie stars, but I’ve read a few musicians’ biographies and John Lennon’s ones are great! If anyone knows of an Elliott Smith biography I will be your best friend for ever and ever. <3

  • Aveclaire September 26th, 2012 10:45 AM

    GUYS GUYS
    Read The Runaways, Cherie Currie’s biography, Neon Angels
    Better than the movie.
    Who doesnt love the ch-ch-ch-cherry bomb!?

  • amelia September 28th, 2012 1:51 AM

    being shamelessly 80s- obsessed, i picked up Rob Lowe’s memoir as soon as it came out and basically squealed reading the whole thing- the parts where he talks about his time on set of movies like St. Elmo’s Fire, and his relationships with various costars- is so great to read. anyone who ever had a brat pack obsession has to read it!

  • Bookbek September 29th, 2012 6:44 AM

    Another great memoir that made me laugh out loud at times, is Cybill Disobedience by Cybill Shepherd. I downloaded it for my Kindle, but you can get it for free from her website here: http://www.cybill.com/biography/

    She had some interesting stories to tell.

  • Ladymia69 December 5th, 2012 7:38 PM

    I highly recommend “Clara Bow: Runnin’ Wild” by David Stenn, as well as “Louise Brooks: A Biography” by Barry Paris. These are two silent film stars from the 1920s who were actual flapper girls, and boy oh boy, did they know how to live!