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book report

Probing for Dirt in New Celeb Memoirs

Each month, scads of celebrity memoirs come out, and we hold out hopes for juicy tidbits about the loves and lives of the famous. Sometimes they deliver the dirty goods (Frank Langella’s recently released Dropped Names comes to mind, in which he dishes about his affair with Rita Hayworth and salivates over older ladies), but often they are overly circumspect and purged of dirt, with celebrities too reserved to reveal the nitty-gritty. But we continue to dive into these tomes as they are released, determined to see what kind of juicy nuggets we can pass on to you. Vulture went through three of this month’s celebrity memoirs — Sissy Spacek’s My Extraordinary Ordinary Life, Steve Guttenberg’s The Guttenberg Bible (of course), and Garry Marshall’s My Happy Days in Hollywood — to see if we could find any worthwhile morsels for you to chew on. 

Sissy Spacek
False Starts:
Before she became an actress, she tried to make her way in New York as a singer. In 1969, Spacek recorded a novelty song called “John, You’ve Gone Too Far This Time,” about the nude photo of John Lennon and Yoko Ono on the cover of Two Virgins, under the stage name “Rainbo.” That was luckily Rainbo’s one and only foray into the music business.
Revelations:
To prepare to play the title role in Carrie as a telekinetic outcast raised by a religious fanatic, Spacek cut herself off from the rest of the cast and decorated her dressing room with religious iconography. When she was trying to come up with a sense memory for the opening moments of Carrie, in which she gets her period in front of her gym class in the shower and is traumatized, she asked director Brian DePalma to describe the scene. “It’s like getting hit by a Mack Truck,” he said. Then her husband told her that once he was hit by a car — and she used his experience to inform her role. And that infamous pig-blood Carrie gets doused with at the prom? The blood in question was made from Karo syrup and red food dye.
Best Words of Celebrity Encouragement from Dolly Parton:
“Dear Sissy, I hope you make millions of dollars from Coal Miner’s Daughter so that you can get a boob job and do the Dolly Parton story.”
Sexual Revelations:
Nada. She met her first and only husband, production designer Jack Fisk, when she was just 23 on the rural Colorado set of Terrence Malick’s Badlands. She makes allusions to an unnamed boyfriend that she had before Fisk, who wasn’t very nice to her, but who didn’t have a nasty boyfriend in their early twenties? The descriptions of Spacek’s courtship with Fisk are very sweet: She tells the story of their first date, in which he attempted to take her on a boat ride. The boat promptly sank, and just as the pair made it to shore, a massive thunderstorm erupted.
Dirt Quotient:
Very low. Though wouldn’t reading titillating stories about Sissy Spacek feel wrong inside? Still, even without the dish, the book is a warm — if occasionally boring — read. Spacek has an earnest, earthy, and genuine voice, and if you’ve got a mom who loved Coal Miner’s Daughter, you should probably buy this for her. 

Steve Guttenberg
False Starts:
The Gute got a few roles in a KFC commercial and a movie about a psychotic young terrorists who threaten to bomb amusement parks called Rollercoaster, but decided to try to “start a normal life. Go to school. Get a job. Live like a civilian.” He went to college at SUNY Albany and attempted to be a normal in the late seventies.
One Evening of Debauchery: 
While filming Cocoon, he and Brian Dennehy went on a bender at a local Benningan's. Brian was wasted, and the valiant (though drunk) Gute tried to grab his keys. But he was no match for Dennehy, who said, “No, no f-ckin’ way.” (Charmingly, the Gute does not type full curse words in his memoirs.) The duo got pulled over by the police, and Brian spent the night in jail.
Sexual Revelations:
Does not get to “Guttenberg rule number one” until page 309. It is: NO dating your pal’s girl. He describes an ex-girlfriend of David Spade who comes onto him as a “persona non-toucha.”
Non-sexual Revelations:
That “ghost boy” who viewers can allegedly see behind some curtains at the apartment in Three Men and a Baby? False. The movie was shot at a sound stage. No undead children were present.
Dirt Quotient:
Moderate. Guttenberg alludes to “the sex and drugs and all that,” and partying with “the fellow from the Middle East who had hundreds of girls around.” He also devotes a paragraph to an affair he had with a married lady whose husband got off on watching his wife boink the dude from Police Academy. But besides those tales, he mostly avoids the finer points of his debauchery. He admits that doing Police Academy 4 smacked of “vulgarity,” and of “greed and the feeling of duping the audience.” But the bonus for the Gute on that set? He gave co-star Sharon Stone a ride home and she changed out of her wardrobe in the back of the car.

Garry Marshall
Axes Grinded:
Next to none. Just about everybody whom the perennially upbeat Marshall worked with in his earlier TV career and his later film work — from the Happy Days cast to Overboard's Goldie Hawn to The Princess Diaries' Anne Hathaway — was a delight! His biggest sign of discontent comes when talking about Laverne & Shirley, which starred his very cranky and insecure sister Penny along with Cindy Williams, who both made the writers' lives miserable. ("Happy Days is Daddy's happiest show, and Laverne & Shirley is Daddy's toughest show," he told his daughter when he declined her request to visit the set.) However, there are few rant-and-rave specifics, just regretful sighs. If you have an electron microscope you can suss out possible negative feelings about Exit to Eden's Dan Aykroyd ("Shooting on Lanai was a wonderful experience for all of us. Only Dan Aykroyd kept a little to himself"). And you'll think you've finally hit paydirt when he gets to his chapter on Lindsay Lohan's Georgia Rule, the movie where a producer's angry chastising of Lohan's lack of professionalism and chronic tardiness was leaked to the press. But while Marshall acknowledges her lateness (which she apologized for and got better at!), his kind paternal instincts kick in and he sadly remarks, "On-screen her acting was wonderful. Inside I worried she was falling apart." (Side note that will have to suffice as gossip: She was so self-conscious about her freckles that they used a tanning solution to cover them, and then had to write a line into the movie acknowledging that she was more tan than anyone else in town. When life gives you makeup, make makeupade!)
Sexual Revelations
: When preparing to make the ill-fated S&M comedy Exit to Eden, he held a dominatrix casting call and one auditioner confessed she knew his mother. Secret past? No, turns out the dominatrix's mother once took dance lessons from the Marshall matriarch. Otherwise, no sex … but Marshall is a hugger!
Disconnect
: Marshall repeatedly refers to Hector Elizondo, who has been in all of his movies, as his "lucky charm." And yet, in this chapter-by-chapter dissection of his filmography, he notes how many of these films underwhelmed at the box office (Dear God, The Other Sister, Raising Helen). Makes one wonder what would have happened to those movies if lucky charm Elizondo wasn't there: more earthquakes and backstage murders?
Dirt Quotient:
Barely existent. While all his niceness can get a bit repetitive (once you hit the chapter on 1996's Dear God, you start to think, I get it, everyone's wonderful, the cast is a big family), you walk away wishing that the caring, supportive Marshall were your father.