Thursday, March 29, 2018
MY WAY: AN AUTOBIOGRAPHY PAUL ANKA
Seeing Anka in some low-budget films early in his career, I remembered how my sister had been a big fan of his, and recalled some of his early hits which he both wrote and performed ("Diana;" "Put Your Head On My Shoulder;" "Puppy Love"). My curiosity sparked, I decided to give Anka's memoir a try. Although he's hardly the most riveting figure, there was enough interesting material about the music industry back in the day, and how it's changed, to keep me reading -- at least at first. Aggressive and talented, the 15-year-old Canadian Lebanese teen successfully promoted himself into a career in New York and elsewhere. Anka writes how the "British Invasion" of the Beatles and others wiped out most of the other teen idols of the period, and Anka had to reinvent himself as a Las Vegas club act and write songs for singers other than himself (Sinatra's "My Way" is the most famous, although Anka only contributed lyrics to a French melody). The early sections of the book, in which Anka tells of interacting with performers he spent a lot of time with while on the road in buses and hotels, are more interesting than the rehashed stuff of the later chapters, in which Anka tries to make himself a mini-member of the Rat Pack. Frankly, the stories about Sinatra and the gang and all the mobsters simply seem recycled from other books. If we're to believe Anka, every famous person he encountered became a close friend. The most jaw-dropping moment occurs when Anka writes of ending his 38-year marriage to his first wife because "getting divorced from Anne was just something I had to do for myself." Huh! Quite a few pages later Anka writes how in his sixties he got involved with a much younger personal trainer whom he married and who apparently took him to the cleaners. While I wouldn't exactly call the book a "tell-all," there is some material about Sammy Davis Jr..'s bisexuality (already mentioned in more than one previous book) and an anecdote about Angie Dickinson giving her husband Burt Bacharach a blow job while she was driving in their car, something Dickinson probably didn't need to see in print. Lest you think this makes My Way a fascinating read, be advised that for much of its length the book is just tedious name-dropping. The material is so badly organized, jumping around in time and back and forth from subject to subject (such as Sinatra), that it's as if the co-author just took Anka's stream of consciousness ramblings and absolutely made no attempt to make them coherent. Things are repeated -- and even contradicted -- throughout the book. Despite this, the book received some startlingly good reviews, such as an embarrassing one from the Huffington Post. Anka clearly did not know Donald Trump would become president, or he would have played him up even more in the book.
Verdict: Some people should not write their life stories. **.