The world is a book, and those who don’t travel only read one page. – SA

Before my trip, I loaded up on 6 audio books (also this one). Between hours of music and CB radio chatter, I took a few breaks and listened to 4 of them. I lost Billy Crystal’s book under the passenger seat and forgot it was there until I unpacked. As for “Heaven is For Real,” I really tried to get into but it wouldn’t take. All the books I packed are considered non-fiction, and “Heaven…” is about a boy who comes back from a surgery having seen Heaven. The book starts off with an interview of the dad and he just couldn’t sell me. Anyway here are brief reviews of the books I did listen to!

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Fey’s show 30 Rock won me over and I’ve been a fan of the lovable geeky writer since episode one. The book feels like a large portion could have been written by Liz Lemon, and I liked those sections of the book. Other portions felt like they were written by a self-important, Hollywood star who thinks celebrity status equates to higher intelligence and a better understanding about life. The book was very uneven for me but I enjoyed most of it.

Hearing anecdotes about her time on SNL and 30 Rock were great. She talked about specific writers and her favorite scenes and episodes created by them. There was talk about the difficulties getting and keeping Alec Baldwin on the show, but how 30 Rock wouldn’t have worked without him (I agree). There was also a confusing story about staff members peeing in cups in their office and then leaving the cups around. These chapters were exactly what I wanted.

The self-help and advice sections came off preachy. I don’t have kids, I don’t want kids, and most times I don’t like kids. I won’t pretend to know what’s good for them or how best to raise them. Fey however, seems comfortable offering advice, that at times, is out of touch with average American reality. In one breath she makes a joke about how crazy it is to rely on a nanny but in the next she talks about it as if it’s completely normal for everyone. Maybe I’m projecting, but when someone who is super rich starts giving me life advice, it always seems a bit condescending. “If you really want to get in good shape, you need a personal trainer, a chef, and to take a year off between acting projects to focus on yourself.” I’ll talk to my boss about that one.

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Of these first two books, I liked Rob Lowe’s better. It’s weird that a book about a recovering alcoholic who, quite possibly, had the first leaked sex tape would come out very vanilla. Instead of dwelling on the dark parts of his life, the majority of the book covers Lowe’s extensive career with particular attention given to The Outsiders and The West Wing. His upbeat and positive attitude make it hard to even imagine this man having a dark side to his life. In fact there is only one section at the end where he claims he hits rock bottom and turns his life around. He talks about it so lightly and sparingly that his rock bottom sounds like a bad Thursday for me…

Lowe is also amazing at impersonations. When he would tell stories about his interactions with other stars, he would hit their speech patterns perfectly. He needs to showcase this talent. Lowe talks about everyone in the nicest and most genuine way without any sort of gossip. I doubt this man hates a single person. The closest he gets to being mean is talking about how crazy dedicated and focused Tom Cruise is. I got the vibe Lowe thinks Cruise has a screw or two loose (don’t we all?).

The best part of the entire book is a tale about getting drunk with his “frienemy” Michael J. Fox. They tease each other and get drunk the night before they go on a campaign bus tour. The next day, still drunk, the two get the bus pulled over because they keep sticking their heads out of the bus’ emergency hatch. I would love to get drunk with both of them but I’m guessing neither would be down for a drink.

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Sh*t My Dad Says was the best book for this road trip. It was light, funny, and sentimental without being too sappy. The author originally kept a twitter feed of the “cranky old man” things his dad would say. Eventually the quotes were fleshed out in this book to paint a clearer picture of who his dad was. Curmudgeon? Yes. Good father? Also yes. Whether it’s our father, uncle, grandfather, or crazy mentor, we all know a cranky old man who’s really a warm heart in disguise. If you don’t, find one and get to know him. You won’t be disappointed. This book is a solid choice when looking for a quick and humorous diversion.

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My relationship with Full Service is complicated. The first reason being that the CD player in my car hated it. I had no problem with any of the other books or any of my mixed CD’s I burned at home. For this book I would have to blow on the CD and in the CD player several times over the course of hours to get the book to play.  Once they started there was no skipping or pauses, but going from disc to disc could take up to a day of fighting with the radio. It was terrible and I was close to giving up on it several times.

The book is by and about Scotty Bowers, a well known character in the Hollywood scene from the 40s – 60s. He was acquainted with the biggest stars, musicians, and even royalty. From all accounts (I’ve done a little research after my trip), Scotty appears to be a hell of a nice guy. He comes off super sweet in the book and it seems obvious that everyone likes him (one actor willed 3 houses to Bower). He was a combat veteran in WWII, a gas station clerk, and eventually a private-party bartender. So how did this guy hang out with Clark Gable, Vincent Price, and the Duke of Windsor? It’s complicated. Everything is so damn complicated.

Scotty was sex positive. He believed whatever two consenting people did to enjoy themselves was fine. Although he reiterates many, many times that he’s straight, through his life he has slept with men and/or women almost everyday of his life. While he has gotten paid for it occasionally, he doesn’t see himself as a prostitute.

Scotty would also fix up stars with whatever they wanted. A famous musician is in town and wants a skinny, red headed man with freckles? Call Scotty, I’m sure he knows an old soldier buddy that would fit the request. An actress wants a young, blonde girl without alerting the press? Scotty is your man, he’ll sneak one over. That being said, it’s difficult to say Bowers was a pimp. He knew people who had money and cravings and others who needed money and liked having a fun time. He hooked the two people up without taking any money himself. Can you be a pimp if you don’t take a cut? As long as no one was hurt and everyone left the transaction happy, he was content. It made him happy to know he brought joy to other people. A lot of people would see him as contributing to moral decay, but the guy just legit wanted others to enjoy passion in their lives.

As I said above, I have complicated feelings about the book. Bowers seems like an ace of a guy, no problems there. But I question the span of customers he had and their kinks. I’m sure 1940’s Hollywood was full of closeted gay men and women. That orientation would kill careers and get you arrested. He makes it sound like all big stars were gay and using prostitutes habitually at large parties though. And while all of this is going on, he and his crew were still able to skirt the morality police (a real thing) foiling them at every turn. With most of these people dead, it’s hard to know if he exaggerated the truth or even lied about their sexuality and proclivities. Did the creator of Hot Wheels and Barbie really enjoy scaring women by jumping out of a coffin while pleasuring himself? I hope I never know.

The last thing about this book I found weird was the narrator. He sounded like Casey Kasem. Kasem’s voice was perfect for Shaggy and American Top 40! Kasem’s voice explaining in both formal and informal ways what different sex acts are is weird. It’s just weird. But it was so over the top weird and bizarre that I had to keep listening.

My relationship with Scotty Bowers is complicated.

 

 

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