Bookmarks: Stars looking for the sleazy way out
A bi-weekly column on books
Some dark, tell-all celebrity memoirs coming your way soon: My Thoughts Exactly by Lily Allen (Blink), In Pieces by Sally Field (Simon & Schuster), and Full Disclosure by Stormy Daniels (St Martin’s Press).
The tabloids have already had a field day with Allen’s book, particularly her admission that she had hired female escorts for sex while on tour. But the most alarming aspect of her candid account of her meteoric rise to pop stardom is not the amount of sex with other celebrities and the gargantuan drugs she has managed to stuff in her relatively short career, but how terribly sad it all is.
It’s her folks’ fault, apparently. Her father was the comedian Keith Allen, a philandering, drug-taking narcissist; her mother, the film producer Alison Owen, another substance abuser, all but ignored her daughter when she was growing up. Allen reveals she was sexually assaulted by a record company executive, she once woke to find a stalker in her bedroom, and she suffered a horrifying miscarriage at 28 weeks pregnant. All of which she endured with little in the way of family support.
More trauma with the Hollywood actress Sally Field, and the piece of work that was her mother, Margaret Morlan, who took up with a stuntman named Jocko when Sally’s father divorced her mother in 1952. Jocko would like the eight-year-old Sally to walk on his back. Margaret would go downstairs to the kitchen to make breakfast and tell her daughter that Jocko needed her in the bedroom. He would be naked, face down, in bed, and she would walk up and down on his back. Then he would roll over …
These sessions continued until she was about 14, and she rebelled. Although he didn’t actually rape her, Sally was accustomed to Jocko waving his erect penis about. She never told her mother about all this, but she appeared to be complicit. Years later, when she was dying of cancer, her mother casually revealed she’d known about Jocko “interfering” with her, but presumed it only happened once. Sally told her: “It was not one moment of drunken indiscretion, Mother. It was my childhood. My whole childhood.”
Critics have praised Field’s book, which is based entirely on her relationship with her mother, for the lyricism of its writing. It also deals with the actress’s relationships with her first husband, Steve Craig, her subsequent affair with the late Burt Reynolds, and second husband, film producer Alan Greisman.
Daniels, of course, is also an actress – of sorts. According to news reports, her book, Full Disclosure, has very little that we haven’t heard before, but it is likely to further annoy the Donald Trump presidency all the same.
Daniels gives a “vivid, detailed account”, according to the New York Times, of her 2006 liaison with Trump. The book hits the streets next week and, with the November midterm elections around the corner, it will ensure the whole shabby business hits the headlines once more as American political parties battle for control of Congress.
The Guardian managed to obtain an advance copy, and revealed that Daniels’s encounter began when Trump’s bodyguard invited her to dinner – in his penthouse. She went on to describe Trump’s penis as “smaller than average” but “not freakishly small”.
“He knows he has an unusual penis,” she writes. “It has a huge mushroom head. Like a toadstool … I lay there, annoyed that I was getting fucked by a guy with Yeti pubes and a dick like the mushroom character in Mario Kart … It may have been the least impressive sex I’d ever had, but clearly, he didn’t share that opinion.”
Trump’s presidency has proved to be a boon for publishers, who have unleashed upon the US public a number of juicy insider accounts. Full Disclosure comes after Omarosa Manigault Newman’s Unhinged: An Insider’s Account of the Trump White House (Simon & Schuster) and Bob Woodward’s Fear: Trump in the White House (Simon & Schuster).
Above all, the first instalment of Indian scholar Ramachandra Guha’s magisterial two-volume work on Mohandas K Gandhi, 2013’s Gandhi Before India (Penguin), portrayed the man not just as a hero, but a human being with failings.
While Guha methodically unpacked Gandhi’s early South African experiences, and how his fight for the rights of Indian traders and indentured labourers shaped the campaigner who would lead India to independence, there was much in the book that would trouble those who worshipped the man; he was initially indifferent to the plight of black South Africans and slow to recognise their struggle against white domination. More prosaically, Gandhi was often cruel and neglectful towards his own sons, and as a husband would abstain from sex; he was also a quack doctor, a self-proclaimed expert on constipation and other ailments.
Such idiosyncrasies continue in Guha’s mammoth second volume, Gandhi: The Years that Changed the World 1914-1948 (Allen Lane). Critics have praised the author’s extensive research; Guha drew on 60 archival collections around the world as well as hoards of documents that have only recently been released into the public domain to produce possibly the most exhaustive account yet of Gandhi’s struggles for Indian independence, social change and religious pluralism.
The extent of Gandhi’s ascetic oddness and his role as the nation’s “agony aunt” is further explored; he received thousands of letters from Indians seeking advice on diverse moral and health issues, and he would reply to most at length. He told one man, for example, to take a cold bath and don’t brood over his semen discharges.
But while he was compassionate to strangers, Gandhi’s harsh treatment of his sons continued. Having sworn an oath of celibacy when he was 38, he would chastise his eldest son for having conjugal relations. His attitude towards birth control was extremely conservative. Women should resist their husband’s advances and not have sex, he insisted. “If contraceptives are resorted to … men and women will be living for sex alone.”
Guha reveals that, one morning in 1938, Gandhi awoke with the first erection he’d had in years. A “masturbatory experience” followed, which plunged him into despair. Such obsessive behaviour would culminate in 1946 with his decision to sleep next to his grandniece in order to test “his conquest of sexual desire”. Strange, flawed behaviour, to say the least.