Classic Celebrity Memoirs and Their Contemporary Counterparts


“Everybody needs his memories,” Saul Bellow once wrote. “They keep the wolf of insignificance from the door.” These days, the same can be true of fame. It’s no surprise then that celebrity memoirs and autobiographies continue to flood the market — much to our personal glee. As self-proclaimed aficionados, we’ve decided to help you navigate the waters; here are a few contemporary titles, paired with a soft focus homage to their vintage predecessors, never to be forgotten. If you’ve got a recommendation to add to our list, be sure to leave it in the comments.

Pressure to Perform

Lauren Bacall’s Lauren Bacall: By Myself & Patti Smith’s Just Kids

Prior to Patti Smith’s Just Kids, in 1980, Lauren Bacall’s autobiography Lauren Bacall: By Myself, also earned a National Book Award. Both publications articulately celebrate, not just the artistry that made these ladies famous, but also the intimate relationships surrounding their growth — for Smith it was with Mapplethorpe, for Bacall, Bogart. Following the acclaim, Smith is now hard at work on her next memoir. Hopefully, the title will be more creative than Bacall’s sequel: Lauren Bacall: By Myself and Then Some .

Close Encounters

Shirley Maclaine’s Out on a Limb & Sammy Hagar’s Red: My Uncensored Life in Rock

It seems surprising that a memoir with the word “uncensored” in the title would be so, well, censored. According to The Guardian, Hagar admittedly wanted to talk more about his alien encounters, but ghost writer, Joel Selvin, advised otherwise — “He’d be like, ‘Aw, people don’t want to hear that shit’.” Really? We don’t? A certain someone must have forgotten about Shirley Maclaine, who, in 1983 won her first Oscar and also garnered attention for a pretty little ditty called Out on a Limb, making not just UFOs, but reincarnation and trance-channelling, popular topics across Middle America.

Prematurely Popular

Drew Barrymore’s Little Girl Lost & Justin Bieber’s Justin Bieber: First Step 2 Forever

Before 16-year-old Justin Bieber could share his life struggles and torrid shortcomings: failing a driving test and the heavy rage of disappointment that followed, there was Little Girl Lost: 14-year-old Drew Barrymore’s tale of dusty cocaine nights and Studio 54 slumber parties. Penned with ghostwriter Todd Gold, Barrymore’s premature autobiography interestingly explores not just the actor’s addiction, but how this talented young lady truly came into her own– by divorcing herself from a toxic lifestyle, which included her parents, a legal move she discovered, ironically, on the set of Irreconcilable Differences.

Slapstick & Sucka-Punches

Moe Howard’s Moe Howard and The Three Stooges & Steve-O’s Professional Idiot

The Three Stooges’ antics, considered low-brow in the 1934, but warmly revered as classic gold in 2011, set a high standard for all future knuck-knucks. Moe Howard’s autobiography, published posthumously in 1977, is no different. This fan-favorite lovingly shares yesteryear memories — photos of vaudeville, on-set injuries, and the whole gang of comedic brothers– with a touch of triumphant honesty. Perhaps in 2050, the same nostalgia will be felt for the cast of Jackass and Steve-O’s recent memoir, Professional Idiot. Only time and cultural relevance will tell.

I’m So Not Finished

Sidney Poitier’s various titles & Keith Richards’ Life

Some celebrity memoirs are so generous in length they give the term “tell all” a new meaning. Sidney Poitier’s epic trilogy includes This Life (1980), The Measure of a Man: A Spiritual Autobiography (2000) and most recently, Life Beyond Measure: Letters to My Great-Granddaughter (2008) — a title that carries the familiar dignity of the previous ones, perhaps with a slightly ghostly, disembodied feel. The last two books, if read all at once, clock in at 576 pages — the exact same length as rock star/survivor Keith Richards’ recent tome, Life (2011). FYI Sid and Keith — the longest memoir ever recorded is the 2,359 page Grove Press Edition of My Secret Life penned by Anonymous.

Muscles & Musings

Mr. T: The Man with the Gold & Hulk Hogan’s My Life Outside the Ring

Mr. T and Hulk Hogan who tag teamed it up in WrestleMania I, have each entered the ring of beefcake prose. Hogan’s most recent post-divorce memoir, My Life Outside the Ring (2009) focuses briefly on his winning wrestling days, then — whoa — nosedives into TMI-mania with details of infidelity, alcoholism, and what reads as an awkward apology for his son’s car accident which left the passenger, his son’s friend, permanently handicapped. The jacket cover alone of Mr. T: The Man with the Gold is a sharp contrast. The vintage photograph captures Mr. T at the height of his popularity, wrapped in gold chains and sporting his iconic Mandinka mohawk, his right hand curled in a confident, “okay.” A look back at this well-reviewed gem where Mr. T gruffly preaches the importance of being in touch with your roots and your conscience, makes you pity the fool who waited too long to write his memoirs.

S/he’s My Creation

Kit Culkin’s I Don’t Think So: Confessions of the Stage Father From Hell and Kay McConaughey’s I Amaze Myself!

Nineties child star Macaulay Culkin’s notorious stage dad, Kit Culkin penned the tell-all, I Don’t Think So: Confessions of the Stage Father From Hell. Currently unavailable in print, we can only assume it’s just what the title suggests. Quite creepy and notable is Papa Culkin’s follow up, Lost Boy — personal impressions of Michael Jackson, formed during the pop star’s friendship with Macaulay. A sunnier title in the “S/he’s My Creation” subgenre includes, I Amaze Myself! (2008) written by Matthew McConaughey’s mother and retired kindergarten teacher, Kay McConaughey. Styled as a self-help book, chapters such as “I Get Happy Easy,” “Listen, Listen, Listen,” and “You Always Have a Choice” are full of peppy insights like this: “I make my own happiness. Example: Playing golf and not having a good score. When this happens, I give myself permission to tear up the scorecard. It’s a game, and I’m not going to let it beat me down.”

A Story of Love, Loss and a Third Thing

Susan Ryan Jordan’s The Immune Spirit: A Story of Love, Loss and Healing , Natalie Cole’s Love Brought Me Back: A Story of Loss and Gain , and Portia De Rossi’s Unbearable Lightness: A Story of Loss and Gain

One thing Hollywood loves better than a good story, is a good formula. Crack open The Immune Spirit: A Story of Love, Loss and Healing and meet Susan Ryan Jordan — a woman who claims to have expected her 1979 breast cancer diagnosis. This self-effacing memoir is also brushed with Jordan’s regret over the estrangement of her superstar daughter, Meg Ryan. Will they reconcile? Almost as a double bill, the 2010 holiday season produced two nearly identical celebrity memoir titles. Perfect as stocking stuffers, Natalie Cole’s Love Brought Me Back: a Story of Loss and Gain and Portia de Rossi’s Unbearable Lightness: A Story of Loss and Gain hit shelves within days of each other. What’s lost? What’s gained? Get the peanut brittle.