Tuesday, October 28, 2008
autobiography #1 - diahann

Diahann Carroll's book is very interesting. One feels that she is very honest in all that she reveals. I was interested in reading her book because our lives crossed way back in the early singing days. She was another person who took advantage of VAMP Studios back in the early 1950's around the time of her "Chance Of A Lifetime" win...(The American Idol of it's day....) And later, Nat Jones, who had been my accompanist began traveling with her as her accompanist---this was back in the early days of her very successful singing career.....Diahann Carroll has had great success with Recordings, Nightclubs, Broadway---She won a Tony Award----Films, too----she was nominated for an Academy Award for "Claudine", as well as a long career in Television---being Nominated for 4 Emmy's over her long and varied career.....Most recently she had an Emmy Nomination for playing Isaiah Washington's mother on "Greys Anatomy". Diahann Carroll, is still actively working in 2008! And may I say, I admire her talent, enormously! I probably have 7 or 8 'Albums' of hers....LP's....And back in the day' I saw her "Live" in The Persian Room of The Plaza Hotel....She is a true "STAR", and all that that word means, believe me.Part of what I found so very interesting about her book was her rather candid revelations about her long-time affair with Sidney Poitier.....I had heard those rumors, back in the day, but until you hear about something like this from 'the horses mouth' so to speak, stories like this cannot be taken seriously. The picture above is from the film "Paris Blues...a film that also starred two other amazingly talented people, Joanne Woodward and Paul Newman.Their were many firsts in Ms. Carroll's Show Business career. She was the first black actress to have her own television show, "Julia", where she played a nurse who worked for a doctor played by the very wonderful Lloyd Nolan, and she had a darling little son named 'Corey', played by Marc Copage......And she was the very first black actress to star in a Broadway Musical as part of an interracial couple who were involved romantically in a true and real love affair...."No Strings". This landmark show is the Richard Rogers musical that also starred the incredibly talented Richard Kiley, who was the other half of this couple and this was the Broadway show for which Diahann Carroll won her Tony. And there were many more "firsts", as well. She played the first 'black rich bitch' ever cast on television in that wonderfully decadent and fun night-time soap opera, "Dynasty"....!More recently, Diahann Carroll was the first actress of color to star as Norma Desmond in the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical "Sunset Blvd.". She played this show in Toronto, as well as a number of other cities in Canada. And there is a very interesting story included in her book about her initial encounter with the composer, Mr. Webber. Not a very nice story, I might add. And it just illustrated to me, one more time, that Andrew Lloyd Webber may be a very talented composer but he is not a very nice human being. And even though I knew somewhat first hand about this and then, second hand, too, that Mr. Webber was quite, shall we say, "full of himself", I was shocked to read about the way he treated Diahann Carroll. That he is a rude self-involved man is kind of legend in our business, and, as is quite well known, too, his treatment of Patti Lupone back in 1994-95, regarding this same show, was utterly horrific. And, even knowing all that history, the story that Diahann Carroll shares with us about her audition with Webber kind of takes your breath away. She is not exactly chopped liver, you know? And for him to treat her with such disdain...well....you just want to slap him silly, and say, "How dare you?". And despite Mr. Webber's terrible treatment of Diahann Carroll,
she not only got the part, but she blew everyone away with her performance in this production. Diahann Carroll's reviews were stellar! The thing about her is that she not only has the acting-chops for this part, but she also has the singing chops, as well. I sure wish I could have seen her in this role. I had seen Patti Lupone in London, and she was supremely superb! Again, she has it all: The Acting and The Singing! I saw Glenn Close do this part, as well, and though she certainly is a very good actress, she cannot hold a candle to either Patti or Diahann, in the singing department. I wish there was some kind of archival tape or DVD of this particular production....Now, that would be a real treat!


Diahann Carroll's book covers her four fairly tumultuous marriages and touches quite a bit on her relationship with her daughter, who certainly was the victim of Ms. Carroll's ambition and her very successful career. They are close now, according to the book, and Diahann Carroll adores her grandchildren and has great admiration for her very bright daughter, who's first responsibility and devotion was and is to her children. One has the strong feeling that Diahann Carroll truly admires her daughter for this accomplishment probably more than anything else, given her own failings as a mother too involved with 'career', which she speaks of very candidly. One has to admire her for that.The other thing I found interesting about her book is her honesty about her own vanity. How she looked and still looks has always been important to her, and though it may sound rather shallow, one cannot help but respect Ms. Carroll for her honest and open finger-pointing-at-herself, in this regard. And let's face it, she was and still is, one very very beautiful women as well as an incredibly talented one, too.And lastly, for me personally, I loved her dedication page:
"To my friend Josephine Premice-Fales. She was my mentor from the beginning. She was there for the entire experience, supporting and loving through it all. Thank you my friend."

Most of you have probably never heard of Josephine Premice, (That's her, above....) but I had the great pleasure of getting to know her a little bit and of watching her perform for a week of intense rehearsals and then for a week of playing, when she appeared in "Cabin In The Sky" in 1953 at The Sea Cliff Summer Theatre where I was working. She was, in two words: An Original. An amazing talent and a unique human being in almost every way. Diahann C. and Josephine P. were the dearest of friends until Ms. Premice's untimely death in 2001.....
And at the end of Diahann Carroll's book she thanks Josephine Premice's daughter, Susan Files-Hill, an amazing young woman in her own right....for her great help with this book, and in that 'thanks' I discovered that Susan Fales-Hill wrote a book about her mother, Josephine, called "Always Wear Joy".And, P.S., I am now reading that book. Hopefully I will write more about that when I am done with it. But as a little tease...Here is a quote from Josephine Premice to give you just a tiny glimpse into who she was: This is a conversation between the then 41 year old Josephine and her then 8 year old son, Enrico.

Enrico says, "Mom, what do I put down on the school form where it says 'Mother's Occupation' when you're not acting in a show?", Josephine answered...."Tell your teacher, 'My mother's an unemployed legend'......."

Perfect!

Diahann Carroll's book is very much worth reading, especially if one is interested in the facts of the historical context of her rise in Show Business as a young woman of color coming up in the 1950's....Part of those facts are that her career has covered every area of the business and she has been successful in all of them, and also, on top of everything else, she is a Cancer Survivor! She is a pretty amazing woman and someone I admire a great deal....! UPDATE: 10-29-08 I just found this great video on YouTube.....It is a three song medley and is fabulous......!



More To Come......







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28 Comments:
had this to say:

I always thought she was absolutely gorgeous! Back in the 80's, we saw Vic Damone in a nightclub on Hilton Head Island. He was married to Diahann then, I was so hoping she'd be in the audience - but she wasn't.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008 at 6:04:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

I saw Betty Buckley in Sunset Blvd. on Broadway and I think she did a great job!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008 at 6:08:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

Good Tuesday evening to you Naomi.

Honesty is so important.

In books and in life, it's what makes the difference between a person one can admire and respect - even when they have made mistakes - and not.

That is too bad about Andrew Lloyd Weber.

Good point as well that someone's professional talent does not necessarily mean that they are a good human being.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008 at 8:47:00 PM PDT 

Blogger Mar
had this to say:

She has always looked simply gorgeous!! and I remember watching that little guy named 'Corey' but had forgotten which tv show it was...you brought back b/w memories!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008 at 11:05:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

I love when you share your show biz stories with us. I just read the other post too. Thanks for the wonderful stories and pictures! I love show biz biographies and autobiographies. I've read two this year and now I want to read some more.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008 at 11:35:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

I still have some biographies here to read before I can go and collect more! lol

Those I have are "older" than Diane!! I still have Mary Pickford, Clara Bow and John Ford to read!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008 at 5:06:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

I remember watching Julia when I was a kid. Even then, Ms. Carroll emanated class. I'm not one for show-biz biographies, but I think this one will go on my "to read" list.

Cheers.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008 at 6:31:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

what a great review/sharing of her book!

I have always been a fan of Diahann - she did a great movie with James Earl Jones (I adore him!!) that always touched me.

And I remember her TV show being one of the very first times - even before Cosby - that black people were presented into my narrow childhood as being equal. Genuine people, not sterotypes.

My aunt - a terrible bigot unfortunately - always used to say how "much like a white girl" Diahann is. She really couldn't help herself but I imagine a lot of people viewed Diahann that way and it must have been such a struggle to stay true to herself.

Perhaps that is also partly where the vanity came from.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008 at 9:05:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

I loved the show "Julia" when I was little. I thought she seemed like the nicest (tv) mom.

And I love the music in "No Strings." "The Sweetest Sounds" stays in your head for days after you hear it. It's such an honestly romantic musical.

~S

Wednesday, October 29, 2008 at 10:47:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

Thanks for the review, Naomi. I always loved Diahann Carroll and remember "Julia" quite well. A real groundbreaker back then just to show an African American woman as a normal middle class working mom with normal problems. I actually have the CD somewhere of Diahann in the Canadian cast of "Sunset Boulevard." Have you heard that? I'll be happy to make you a copy. Love that she's so honest about her vanity.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008 at 11:55:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

I haven't seen her shows on tv or let alone know about Diahann but I am thankful that this post allowed me to know more about her and some tidbits of history. What a lovely post indeed Naomi!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008 at 3:40:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

It must be interesting reading a book about someone you actually know.

I saw "Sunset Blvd" when it came to Toronto many years ago with Diahann and Rex Smith (who I thought was hot!).

Wednesday, October 29, 2008 at 6:28:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

Heh, tell the teacher your mother's an unemployed legend! That is great!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008 at 7:04:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

I have always thought of her as magnificent -- the whole package: beauty talent and impeccable style. What a lady!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008 at 7:24:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

I saw her a few nights ago on the Travis Smiley show. She mentioned how important how she looks has always been to her, mostly because it was important to her mother. Seems she got raised that way. I also think when you get so much attention and praise for your looks that's a lot to live up to and makes it harder to lose one's looks.

I learned some new things about her from this post and admire her very much. Thanks!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008 at 7:54:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

Diahann was a very talented woman. I have always been facinated with her work.

It is funny that you bring up Andrew Lloyd Webber. I went to my daughters band concert tonight and they played some music from The Phanton of the Opera....He is very talented with his music but he sounds like he is hard to work with... Thanks for the post, loved it.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008 at 9:17:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

What a performance! At the same time she is really glamourous and elegant to look at

Thursday, October 30, 2008 at 1:39:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

Diahann Carroll is a talented elegant woman. I can't imagine it was easy for her to do what she did in the time in which she did it. We shall see how far we have come on November 4.

Thursday, October 30, 2008 at 5:24:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

I thought Diahann was fabulous in "Sunset Blvd." It was a good production and I was surprised it shut down so quickly :(

Thursday, October 30, 2008 at 5:59:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

What a beautiful woman and great talent. I loved her on Julia and had a lunchbox with her on it as a little girl. Thanks for a great review.

Thursday, October 30, 2008 at 6:09:00 AM PDT 

Blogger PI
had this to say:

ALW should be ashamed of himself!
Thank you for that great review - I had forgotten about her - which is a shame as she is a great talent and beautiful and honest. One can forgive her vanity- in that era with all the cards stacked against her - she needed all the help in the world. It's strange how so many stars failed their children and are redeemed by their grand-children.
BTW I remember reading that Joan Collins thought Sidney Poitier had the softest skin in the world. And I think she would know:)

Thursday, October 30, 2008 at 8:40:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

Naomi: I am on vacation in Florida at the moment with a very dodgy wi-fi internet connection so I will have to catch up with your stories and remeniscences when I get back to my own computer! I'm really unable to leave detailed comments as the connection keeps fading. I'll visit you when I get home! Meanwhile I will continue to post about what we are doing in Florida whenever I can.

Thursday, October 30, 2008 at 1:42:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

Oh I watched "Julia" when I was a little kid! Even at that age, I was mesmerized by her beauty. And Dynasty was one of my favorite shows. OK, Now I want the dirt on ALW and why he treated her and others so badly.

Thursday, October 30, 2008 at 2:21:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

hi naomi! just popped back to check on how you are doing. am officially on vacation so should have time to read all the other posts i have sorely missed. =)

diahann is such a fabulous and talented lady. i loved watching her on dynasty when i was a kid. i hope her book is available in our part of the world soon. thanks for sharing these wonderful snippets with us!

Thursday, October 30, 2008 at 2:45:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

Julia was one of my favourite shows when I was little.
I am not surprised to read that ALW treated Diahnn badly he does indeed have a rep. I saw him on some chat show not long ago and thought what a little toad he seemed ( he looks like one as well LOL )

Thursday, October 30, 2008 at 5:52:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

Fantastic tribute from you to a marvelous performer and to another I had not heard of to whom you said she dedicated her book. I enjoyed Miss Carroll's interview promoting her book on PBS with Tavis Smiley.

I really liked that "unemployed legend" line even better than "at liberty." How did you describe yourself when you weren't working, or maybe you always were before retiring?

Saturday, November 1, 2008 at 2:02:00 AM PDT 

Anonymous Anonymous
had this to say:

I have always liked Diahann Carrol so much. She truly IS stunningly beautiful and such poise and class. I used to watch her Julia show all the time. But....if you can believe it, I've never seen Paris Blues. I also didn't know about her and Sidney Poitier. (I adored him!) I'm going to have to rent that movie from Netflix.
Thank you so much for this review. I don't often read autobiographies (and don't know why not, because I always seem to enjoy them so much) I'm headed over to Amazon right now to order this one after your excellent review. And it's nice to know from you that the book is authentic.
Terri
http://www.islandwriter.net

Saturday, November 1, 2008 at 1:13:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

Hello Naomi,

I'm a little behind in my blog reading, just wanted you to know I enjoyed reading your review and will put her book on my "to read" list for this winter. Thanks for whetting our reading appetite yet again.

Monday, November 3, 2008 at 1:04:00 PM PST 

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