June 15, 2001
A NEW TREND in show biz biographies is something I call a "corrective." You, famous and beloved celebrity that you are,
pen your autobiography. Then, a few years later — probably after you're dead — someone else writes the book that unearths your
skeletons and says, in effect, "He made half that stuff up. Here's what really happened." For example, Joseph McBride's Frank
Capra: The Catastrophe of Success was a corrective to Capra's own The Name Above The Title.
One of my favorite Broadway memoirs, Moss Hart's Act One, now has a corrective in Dazzler: The Life and Times of Moss
Hart, a new book by Steven Bach. Hart's widow, Kitty Carlisle-Hart, declined to cooperate, possibly because Bach was interested in things
like Moss's sexuality, which he suggests (on pretty vague evidence, it would appear) was diverse. Bach is also at times overly-critical of
Hart's lesser works and seems to dwell overlong on the negatives of many projects. Still, he has unearthed an amazing array of facts about the
man, many of them contrary to what Hart himself wrote in Act One. For instance, most of that autobiography is about how he got his first
play — Once In A Lifetime, co-written with George S. Kaufman — to Broadway, and how everything was riding on its success.
Bach reveals that Hart had already had one (unsuccessful) play on Broadway and also that, when Once In A Lifetime went up, he already had a
contract for further work.
Dazzler is full of things like that...facts we needed to know, even though they undermine some of the drama and fun of Hart's
version. More interesting to me are the corrections made to previously-published works about the making of My Fair Lady, which Hart
directed. These chapters act as a corrective to another of my favorite autobiographies, Alan Jay Lerner's The Street Where I Live.
I suppose my main complaint about Dazzler is that much of it is dry and that it keeps its subject at arm's length. Hart
wrote or co-wrote brilliant comedies and was constantly around brilliant, witty people, but this book is curiously unfunny and remote. This
surprised me because I really enjoyed Bach's previous book, Final Cut: Dreams and Disaster in the Making of Heaven's Gate. Bach was the
studio exec who shepherded Michael Cimino's famously over-budget flop and his recollections were fascinating and involving, perhaps because he was
involved. But his new book isn't, and it also sets me to wondering about the accuracy of all first-hand accounts, including his own.
Perhaps, even now, someone is working on a "corrective" to Final Cut.
IT'S NOT SOMETHING that will ever make my résumé but last year, I worked for two months at Stan Lee Media, the
Internet company founded to promote the new creations of the exiled guru of the Marvel Universe. My personal affection 'n' respect for Stan
sucked me into an enterprise that everyone seemed to know was doomed, at least under its then-current configuration. I am pleased to report
that the affection and respect remain undiminished even though I got the hell outta there in July, six months before the operation crashed and
burned. Since then, four individuals — none of them, of course, Stan — have been indicted for some version of stock fraud and/or
manipulation. I understand very little of how it allegedly worked but this article and this article may explain it for you.
A RECOMMENDATION: I have most of my video and audio equipment in Rackit™ units I purchased from Per Madsen Design in San
Francisco. They sell these wonderful, modular wooden units that are relatively easy to assemble (especially if you have a power drill, though
I've done them without) and very sturdy. You select a base, with or without wheels, and a tabletop...then, in-between them, you can stack a VCR
rack, drawers for CDs, shelves for tapes, etc. In other words, you design your own cabinet with shelves or drawers wherever you want
them. Browse their catalog or order at www.rackittm.com.
LASTLY: If I owe you an e-mail, please be patient. I'm having tech problems sending them out, and even greater problems
reaching anyone at my Internet Service Provider with an I.Q. over double digits. It should all be cleared up in a day or three. I
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