Malcolm Boyd on Michael Kearns
Memoirs are among the most interesting of books. They come in all shapes and sizes. Recently the New York Times contained a story, for example, about a woman who was for many years a receptionist at the fabled American magazine, The New Yorker. That experience became her career.
In Hollywood, most major stars have had an opportunity to write “the memoir” which ostensibly would bring them intimately close to fans and also make enough money to sustain a Swiss bank. I’m a bit of an expert on all this because a long time ago – in the 1940s to be exact – I worked in Hollywood myself and knew the scene at firsthand. When I was in my twenties I became a production partner of legendary star Mary Pickford. She and Charlie Chaplin invented what we know as global celebrity. This became the new royalty So for a decade Mary was close to being the most famous woman in the world. In fact, she wrote a short memoir, a somewhat obligatory tome. It was kind of like paying one’s dues. Perhaps needless to say, Mary’s memoir contained virtually not a shred of truth. A press agent might have written it. It was a PR machination. Since that time, as I’ve read dozens and dozens of memoirs by a brace of celebrities, I’ve noticed the vast majority have fallen into that trap.
Michael Kearns’ memoir does not. In the first place, he is stark naked as a figure of autobiography. He is telling his story in all its robustness and freshness. One has the feeling he is holding nothing back.
He gives us personalities. He drops names. (I suppose one could venture into another field here and say he also drops pants. Suffice it to say he does). Michael Kearns can be outrageous, funny, anecdotal, serious, witty and profound. Not all at once, of course, but as his anecdotes crop up in the pages of his tome.
Don’t forget, dear reader, that Michael Kearns’ story is one that’s told from the vantage point of being gay in, yes, Hollywood. I’m looking at his memoir from this exact vantage point. Like him, I was a young man – a kid – in the film industry. Industry is the key word here. Hollywood was never sentimental or particularly generous. It was a hard school. Dollars – the buck – drove its pseudo-creativity. It ground up talent like meat. The price of fame was huge. There were more broken lives than swimming pools. In between the lines, Kearns documents a number of these.
His memoir is not a chronicle of broken hearts because he’s funny. He grasps the humor in the whole thing. He is not a victim at all but a success story. We welcome his memoir and cheerfully tip our hat to him.
Malcolm Boyd departed Hollywood in 1951 to become an Episcopal priest. He marched with Martin Luther King Jr. in the civil rights movement, was a Freedom Rider for racial justice, became a bestselling author (his book of prayers, “Are You Running with Me, Jesus?” sold one million copies) and he became a Gay Elder. For the past three decades he’s been in a relationship with gay author-editor Mark Thompson. Boyd is a regular blogger-columnist for the international online newspaper the Huffington Post.