I had the pleasure of working with Bea at Fairchild Publications in the 1990s and was lucky to have her astute eyes read over my feverishly written and rushed-to-the-copydesk-at-the-very-last-moment articles. I’d always known that Bea had led a fascinating life, so I was so happy to hear she had finally written her memoir.
Name of book: Misadventures of a Would-Be Muse
Book genre: (mirthful) memoir – selected escapades, vignettes, with an overarching theme of going from being “the droop of the third grade” to self acceptance
Date published: The official launch date was Nov. 8, 2011, but Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble and certain book shops in Britain had it several weeks earlier.
Publisher: Xlibris. However, publication came about thanks to a legacy from my longtime theater agent, Don Taft, with whom I never lost touch even after he relocated to Florida. Unbeknownst to me (I thought he was living just above the poverty line) he’d become a multi-millionaire philanthropist. He’d been my weekly dinner guest for years. I went through the “Around the World” cookbook with Don there for the tour. Fittingly, he’d made his fortune in food. (The first part of this, Don as dinner guest, is in the book. Fortunately the lawyer for his estate and the head of his foundation were pleased with my treatment of Don in the book and so publication came to pass.)
What is your day job? I review theater offerings, opera, books and do any freelance editing or writing work that comes my way.
What is your book about? My peripatetic and picaresque path to self acceptance. My “misadventures.” The famous and infamous people whose paths I crossed. There are 41 pages of photographs including production shots (Compulsion; Goat Song with Martin Landau; Show Boat; Pajama Game; What Makes Sammy Run? with John Forsythe, Larry Blyden, Dina Merrill and Barbara Rush; Dillinger with Ralph Meeker, etc.) and pix with Mike Wallace, Jackie Gleason, Ingrid Bergman, Perry Como, etc.
Why did you want to write this book? I set out to write historical fiction. I’ve long been enamored of the Quatro Cento Medici, the “golden” Medici, and wanted to write something in which they provided the historical background. Then I learned about my (new) husband’s fascinating and historically significant Anglo-Irish family: The earls of Strafford, primarily Sir Thomas Wentworth, and the earls of Roscommon, primarily the poet and playwright Sir Wentworth Dillon. However, I couldn’t find a historical-fiction class.
There were memoir classes galore and one in particular, given by MediaBistro, had appeal. I remembered a book that playwright Dale Wasserman had given to me years ago: Hadrian’s Memoirs, which was historical fiction structured as a memoir, as, similarly, was I, Claudius. So I enrolled. Lizzie Simon conducted the class.
My intention was not to write an autobiography, but rather to spell out the convergence of my path and Dale Wasserman’s. I’d known him virtually since I stepped off the train from Philadelphia, before he wrote the stage version of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and long before he wrote Man of La Mancha, which was first a prize-winning TV play, I, Don Quixote. (There are nine boxes of his scripts, largely TV, at the Lincoln Center Library for the Performing Arts.) The work I envisioned had Dale Wasserman at the center.
However, feedback from the other writers in the group led me to change my focus. What resulted was Misadventures of a Would-Be Muse, an account of my own (mis)adventures.
What would you say was the most challenging part of writing this book? Being honest without hurting people, being revealing without embarrassing those close to me. Initially Alan was askance, even though he’d already known the who, when and where.
How long did it take you to write this book? Several months
Oprah once famously said that there is no such thing as luck, without preparation and a moment of opportunity. Would you agree or disagree with regard to your own success as a writer? Define success. That questioned, I’d agree with Oprah – but my mother said it first.