Monday, October 26, 2015

I’ll Never Write My Memoirs by Grace Jones and Can I Go Now? by Brain Kellow

I’ll Never Write My Memoirs by Grace Jones and Can I Go Now? by Brain Kellow
Reviewed by Laura the Librarian

Grace Jones and Sue Mengers both gained notoriety in the 1970s and 80s, and two new biographies spotlight these very powerful women and their legacies.

I'll Never Write My Memoirs by Grace Jones recounts the singer, model and actress' struggles from childhood to adulthood. She delves deep into the expectations placed on her as a child growing up in a strict religious environment in Jamaica to the discrimination she faced breaking into the entertainment world. Jones, of course, defied expectations and became an international star. She was a fixture at Studio 54, and Andy Warhol, Jerry Hall, Keith Haring, Dolph Lundgren and Chris Blackwell, founder of Island Records, all play a pivotal role in her story. 

Her diva behavior is legendary, and she never apologizes for it. She sheds light on her demands and how she influenced many others like Madonna, Lady Gaga and Rihanna. She comes across as thoughtful and honest about missteps she has taken along the way (turning down Blade Runner?!). Jones has certainly had a colorful life, which makes for an entertaining read.

Can I Go Now?: the Life of Sue Mengers, Hollywood's First Superagent by Brian Kellow examines the brash woman who became as famous and powerful in Hollywood as her many of her clients.

Mengers rose to prominence in the 1970s with a roster of clients such as Barbra Streisand, Ryan O'Neal, Gene Hackman, Michael Caine, Faye Dunaway, Candice Bergen and Peter Bogdanovich. Her no-holds-barred style won her a lot of loyalty from clients as well as scorn from many in the industry. Mengers was a formidable agent and hostess (her dinner parties were considered legendary for their guest list alone). Her eventual decline began when she lost Streisand as a client and failed to cultivate other rising talent. 

Kellow captures the transformation of a movie-driven Hollywood in the 1970s to a more commercial-driven Hollywood in the 1980s. He includes many first-hand accounts about Mengers from friends and foes and looks at her complicated relationships with her mother, husband, friends like Gore Vidal and David Geffen and clients like Streisand. The biography is candid and catty, much like its subject.