Thursday, June 28, 2012

Little Me

1961, possibly first edition, from Fawcett Crest
Patrick Dennis
Photographs by Cris Alexander
Little Me
Original price 75 cents, purchase price $1.50
Very worn paperback

The very fake autobiography of a very fake star, this is much less funny than Auntie Mame, with a far less sympathetic "heroine," but some of the racy and very fake photos are priceless.  Alexander shot buxom Jeri Archer as Belle Poitrine (the last name meaning "breast" in French), and as her mother, daughter, and granddaughter.  Various friends and family of Alexander and Dennis, including "Roz" Russell, appear, and Dennis himself plays Belle's second of five husbands, a wimpy British earl.  Belle's fourth husband, Letch Feeley is pure beefcake, and the book had/has quite the gay following.  Even more than in Mame, there is a queer sensibility, with several of the supporting characters being bluntly gay or lesbian, and Belle's own over-the-top sexuality turning from enthusiastically hetero- to homo- when convenient.

The book is also about the ups and downs of Belle's acting career.  She's clearly untalented, but she is certainly persistent.  One down is her alcoholism, which I suspect parodies I'll Cry Tomorrow, although Belle "recovers" more easily.  Belle is completely unscrupulous, even murdering two men she's been involved with, but of course nothing in the book can be taken seriously.

I wrote a paper in high school on Neil Simon (yes, I've always been drawn to what my dad called middlebrow writing), and so I read the script of the musical version of Little Me years before I read this book.  From what I recall, it wasn't particularly faithful.  I don't remember how it dealt with one of the most striking aspects of the book:  Belle is born in 1900 (or a few years before), but soon starts shaving years off her age, so that in 1960 she's "Frankly Forty."  I used to think that was pretty out there, until I read Teri Garr's autobiography (which I don't own), and I noticed that she was at least a decade younger by the end of it than she should've been.

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