Thursday, March 11, 2010

Prairie Tales by Melissa Gilbert- Book Review

I looked at some of the readers reviews of Prairie Tales on Amazon and it seems like people's issue with this book is how it shatters the image they had of their childhood's hero(es). They didn't want to know all the details about Half Pint's sex life, infidelities and the days of booze and coke during the 80s (and later). I don't know where these people have been all these years, but apparently not reading the tabloids or even People magazine. After all, Melissa Gilbert was engaged and had a very long relationship with Rob Lowe. It should have pointed them in a certain direction.

I'm a sucker for Hollywood memoirs. Not necessarily of the uber-juicy kind, actually, just plain good stories of the olden days when stars were stars and Lindsay Lohan was nothing but a spark in Dina's eye. Melissa Gilbert comes from a heavily connected show biz family. Everyone and their agents knew her father and her grandfather was an A-list comedy writer who has worked with everyone from Frank Sinatra to Groucho Marx, and he took Melissa to meet them all. Her own four decade career in show biz adds another dimension and layer of Hollywood encounters. If you grew up in the 70s and 80s you probably want to hear the stories from behind the scenes of the Little House as much as all the dirt about the Brat Pack, and the book delivers both. Sort of.

It's the Brat Pack part that is somewhat lacking. Don't get me wrong- there are some great stories from those days, and the best scene Ms. Gilbert describes takes place at a club with an assorted group of celebs around the table and ends with this line by Michael Jackson:
"You all can come to my house. I have a llama".
But at times it seems like while the book was edited by a lawyer (and not by a much-needed grammar oriented person) who made sure Gilbert wouldn't get in trouble with people like Tom Cruise, who makes a few appearances in the story but you never learn a single thing about him. Demi Moore is also there, but her character is as hollow as they come and you will not read even a single line about what Melissa thinks of her. But there's no such reserve when it comes to Shannen Doherty. It's a good story, too, although not very surprising.

The one place Gilbert comes across as harsh is when the story reaches her gig as president of the SAG. Politics of any kind give me a headache, and discussing the question of Valerie Harper's role and level of independence in that institution was not the most interesting thing ever. I do understand its importance, though, and there's a cute story about the night she got to hang out with Bill Clinton.

Melissa Gilbert talk (mostly) openly about her family, loves, addictions and plastic surgery. She comes across as very human, flawed and self-aware.It's an interesting journey and a good read for anyone who's "known" her for all these years.

Prairie Tales by Melissa Gilbert ($17.16 on Amazon) is available from most booksellers. I bought it at my local B&N store.

1 comment:

  1. If you like "just plain good stories of the olden days when stars were stars" then do whatever it takes to get your hands on a copy of "Slim, Memories of a Rich and Imperfect Life." It's by Slim Keith, wife of director Howard Hawks (Bringing up Baby, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, a bunch of the Bogart/Bacall movies), Broadway impresario Leland Hayward, and a titled British banker. But it's not about the men; it's about a woman of supreme confidence and lot of style.


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