Thursday, July 14, 2011
GOING MY OWN WAY: GARY CROSBY AND ROSS FIRESTONE
If you ever wanted to learn what it's like growing up in the shadow of a famous father, Going My Own Way provides a very raw and sharply observed [if highly personal] answer. Gary Crosby [A Private's Affair], who had his own comparatively minor career in show biz that was curtailed and nearly derailed by alcoholism, was the first of four sons born to crooner and movie star Bing Crosby with his first wife, Dixie Lee. [Bing had other children with his second wife, Kathryn Grant.] In this absorbing book, which isn't just a "daddy dearest," Gary writes that the home life for him and his three younger brothers wasn't the idyllic picture that his father and alcoholic mother presented to the public. Today Bing might probably be considered a kind of child abuser, although corporal punishment was fairly standard for the day. Much of the book, however fascinating, must be taken with a grain of salt, as Gary -- with the help of Ross Firestone, an excellent writer -- of course tells a very subjective story, strictly his side of things, relating how he felt when he was a child and younger man. Was Bing simply a poor father who saved his good will and pleasant nature for his fans and co-workers, or was Gary an utterly impossible child who needed more discipline than most? You can decide for yourself. The late Gary Crosby [he died of cancer at 62] spares us nothing, from how he made out with an [unknown to him] drag queen whom he later beat up, and also beat his black girlfriend up while under the influence of alcohol. Whatever you think of the book, it isn't easy being the child of a celebrity, especially one who's so busy, so popular, and so distant. Two of Gary's younger brothers committed suicide. While Mommie Dearest was mostly made-up crap, Going My Own Way has the ring of truth, albeit it's understandably one-sided. One of the first tell-all Hollywood memoirs.
Verdict: Absorbing, very well-written, and in some ways horrifying. ***1/2.