By the end of the 1980s I, like many of you, just couldn’t get enough of trashy books. Novels like HOLLYWOOD WIVES, THE LONELY LADY, SINS, SCRUPLES, RAGE OF ANGELS ruled my days. The glitterier they were the happier I was with them. Yes, I was that addicted. Of course I was in the minority in my group of well-read friends but I didn’t care. No, that’s not true. I did care but, try as I might, I just couldn’t control my trashy urges. I wanted to love literary greats but I just couldn’t do it. Like my own sexuality I rather enjoyed marching to the beat of my own drum. So color me happily surprised when all of a sudden LOVELY ME: THE LIFE OF JACQUELINE SUSANN (1987, Morrow) by one Barbara Seaman came my way. Not only was I ecstatic about it but I truly believed that the gods of paperback sleaze had literally confirmed my decision to always stay unique.
LOVELY ME: THE LIFE OF JACQUELINE SUSANN is as dishy as anything Susann had ever written: jealousy, revenge, obsession, incurable diseases… Seaman goes through with a fine-tooth comb the tumultuous life of this controversial author who, despite no love from the critics, still ended up breaking sales records three times in a row. From her humble beginnings as an inspiring actress to her successful years after the release of VALLEY OF THE DOLLS, Susann’s marginal frame of mind plus the heavy publicity junket for DOLLS and her subsequent work—all generated by her then-hubby manager publicist Irving Mansfield—made her a household name. Of course, her rise to fame came with many blows, one of which most definitely fatal as she ended up losing her battle with cancer in 1974. But leaving her marks she did, becoming the biggest best-selling author of her generation.
Like her classic novel, I own two copies of LOVELY ME: THE LIFE OF JACQUELINE SUSANN, one to get busy with; the other in mint condition on my busy bookshelf. I can tell you that I re-read it every few years, if not in its entirety then at least for the juiciest parts. My favorite one of course is her rise to fame. In between her locking horns with publishers, movie directors, the press, and other celebrities (like Truman Capote who infamously called her a ‘truck driver in drag’ on TV) she manages to be quite endearing toward her sometimes rocky relationships with her husband and her institutionalized autistic child (her biggest heartbreak). A lot of readers have noticed the use of too many gay slurs in her novels and I tend to agree, but I always felt that it was mostly used for shock values more than anything else. Besides, Susann has been known to take a dip in the lady pond herself. According to the bio, that is.
If you’re into trashy greats and have read or are planning to read all of Susann’s work then you must pick up LOVELY ME: THE LIFE OF JACQUELINE SUSANN. You’ll be in nostalgic bliss just following the rise and fall of a go-getter who not only enthralled readers with her juicy tales of the elite but who also managed to finally and rightfully become what she always wanted to be: a star. Barbara Seaman sure loves her subject and we couldn’t thank her enough for that.
Until next post—Martin