Just after actor Tab Hunter died, I decided to read his autobiography called Tab Hunter Confidential, written by Tab Hunter and Eddie Muller. Tab was a closeted gay movie star from the 50’s. The book talks about his childhood, the movies he made as well as being a gay actor in Hollywood in a time where you could not come out. He also talked about his relationship with Anthony Perkins, who is best known for playing Norman Bates in Alfred Hitchcock’s masters Psycho. I highly recommend Tab Hunter Confidential. The book feels like he is chatting with the reader, telling us about working with Natalie Wood, Gwen Verdon and his favorite leading lady, Divine.

For the longest time, from my teens to my 40’s, I basically read fiction. I wanted to escape to other worlds. I occasionally read non-fiction until I finally read Angela’s Ashes by Frank Mc Court. I remember it was very popular for a long time and I was curious, so I finally read it. I absolutely loved it. It basically told the story of growing up poor in Ireland. His father was an alcoholic who drank most of the money he earned and did not provide well for his family. It was a great book but I took a break after the 3rd kid died. Even though there are some grim moments, there are some funny moments like when he threw up in his grandmother’s backyard after his first communion. The book ends with Frank on a boat to America, landing in Albany, N.Y.

I have also read some good biographies over the years and there are two I want to recommend. The first is a book about another Frank, Frank O’Hara. The book is City Poet by Brad Gooch and it talks about O’Hara, who moved to NYC and pretty much became the city’s poetry ambassador in the 50’s and 60’s. O’Hara became the quinicental city poet. He was friends with abstract artists and became their advocate, especially through his job at the Museum of Modern Art. City Poet is a breezy, gossipy look back at his life and work. The other biography also about another transplanted New Yorker, Edie Sedgwick, who became one of Andy Warhol’s “superstars”. The book is called Edie: An American Girl by Jean Stein and George Plimpton. The book is an “oral biography “. The tragic story of Edie in this book is told entirely with interviews with family members and people involved with Warhol’s Factory at the time. Edie survived a troubling childhood in California and moved to New York, where she met Warhol and was in his films. Sedgwick was a striking beauty and some people thought she could be a film actress, but she got hooked on drugs and eventually was kicked out of Warhol’s circle. The book details Edie’ s short and sad life. Well worth seeking out.

A memoir that also takes place in New York is Patti Smith’s brilliant Just Kids. This book details her relationship with the famed photographer Robert Mapplethorpe. For a time they were lovers until Mapplethorpe came to terms with his sexuality. They used to hang out at Warhol’s beloved Max’s Kansas City and lived for a time at the Chelsea Hotel. I usually don’t cry when I read books but Smith’s last chapter about Mapplethorpe’ s memorial had me in tears. I do have a copy of M Train, her second memoir and I want to read that eventually.

If you want a memoir that will make you laugh, I suggest Running With Scissors by Augesteen Burroughs. Even though it’s another memoir about family dysfunction, it has a number of very funny moments. Burroughs’ mom sends him as a teen to live with a psychologist and his dysfunctional family. A lot of the humor comes from the unorthodox therapy Burroughs is forced to endure. I liked it much better than his memoir about his alcoholism, Dry, which is very harrowing.

Other memoirs I recommend are The Glass Castle, Under the Tuscan Sun ( although there is no gay bus of Italy like in the film) and Mississippi Sissy by Kevin Sessums. I feel bad that I came late to memoirs and biographies but I’m glad for the ones I have read.