"This is, flat out, one of the best Hollywood memoirs ever written… An absolute treasure." --Booklist (STARRED)
In my ninety-plus years I’ve lived a multitude of lives. In the course of all these lives, I had a front-row seat at the birth of television; wrote, produced, created, or developed more than a hundred shows; had nine on the air at the same time; founded the 300,000-member liberal advocacy group People For the American Way; was labeled the “no. 1 enemy of the American family” by Jerry Falwell; made it onto Richard Nixon’s “Enemies List”; was presented with the National Medal of the Arts by President Clinton; purchased an original copy of the Declaration of Independence and toured it for ten years in all fifty states; blew a fortune in a series of bad investments in failing businesses; and reached a point where I was informed we might even have to sell our home. Having heard that we’d fallen into such dire straits, my son-in-law phoned me and asked how I was feeling. My answer was, “Terrible, of course,” but then I added, “but I must be crazy, because despite all that’s happened, I keep hearing this inner voice saying, ‘Even this I get to experience.’”
Norman Lear’s work is legendary. The renowned creator of such iconic television programs as All in the Family; Maude; Good Times; The Jeffersons; and Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman, Lear remade our television culture from the ground up. At their peak, his programs were viewed by 120 million people a week, with stories that dealt with the most serious issues of the day—racism, poverty, abortion —yet still left audiences howling with laughter. In EVEN THIS I GET TO EXPERIENCE, Lear opens up with all the candor, humor, and wisdom to be expected from one of America’s greatest living storytellers.
But TV and politics are only a fraction of the tale. Lear’s early years were grounded in the harshness of the Great Depression, and further complicated by his parents’ vivid personalities. The imprisonment of Lear’s father, a believer in the get-rich-quick scheme, colored his son’s childhood. During this absence, Lear’s mother left her son to live with relatives. Lear’s comic gifts were put to good use during this hard time, even as they would be decadeslater during World War II, when Lear produced and staged a variety show for his fellow airmen in addition to flying fifty bombing missions.
After the war, Lear tried his hand at publicity in New York before setting out for Los Angeles in 1949. A lucky break had a powerful agent in the audience the night Danny Thomas performed a nightclub routine written by Lear, and within days his career in television began. Before long his work with Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis (and later Martha Raye and George Gobel) made him the highest-paid comedy writer in the country, and he was spending his summers with the likes of Carl Reiner and Mel Brooks. Movies followed, and soon he was making films starring Frank Sinatra, Dick Van Dyke, and Jason Robards. Then came the ’70s, and Lear’s unprecedented string of TV hits.
Married three times and the father of six children ranging in age from nineteen to sixty-eight, Lear’s penetrating look at family life, parenthood, and marriage is a volume in itself. A memoir as touching, funny, and remarkable as any of Lear’s countless artistic creations, EVEN THIS I GET TO EXPERIENCE is nothing less than a profound gift, endlessly readable and characteristically unforgettable.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
A true Hollywood legend!
While the book does talk at length about Hollywood don't expect it to be a tell-all trash feast. Lear (as always) tells it like it is but doesn't reveal all that many secrets about the people we've all been watching onscreen most if not all of our lives. However, he does share a lot of fascinating tidbits about how the shows themselves were created week by week and how they struggled with the network censors.
Even though I'm a bit of a Hollywood fanatic I wasn't disappointed with the lack of dirty little secrets because hearing the inner workings of my favorite shows is still incredible. Making the connections between his shows and his life was just as interesting. For me, I was also curious to read how much his father still effects this "ninety-something".
More style and substance than most Hollywood memoirs overall it is a great read.
Truly brilliant in its honesty as one would expect from the man who transformed television from a myopic center of banality into a medium of accountability. All of the major controversies that confront us today, from war and peace on through race relations, gay rights, gender equality, freedom of and from religion, economic inequality, the right and obligation to challenge power and the powerful, and the reality that the American ideal would always be a work in progress was brought into the American home by this genius. From the first pages of this book, one is made aware that he did all that because he has lived his near century on this earth as a constant challenge to find justice as well as joy in all of his actions both private and public. I first met Norman Lear more than 30 years ago interviewing him for the Los Angeles Times when he told me there was no reason to fear failure as a writer because "you can always put another blank piece of paper in the typewriter and get it...
Norman Lear is a genius without question. If he was British, he would be knighted for his services to television comedy. Since he is American, there is only one honor left to bestow upon him, the Kennedy Center Honors. Time is running out since it is only for recipients to travel to Washington D.C. To attend the annual event. To me and millions of others, Norman Lear changed the face of television sitcoms forever. To this day, "All in the Family," is perhaps the best sitcom to air on television. No other sitcom before or after has been influential or so groundbreaking. If it was up to me, there would be the Norman Lear School of Television Studies.
Finally we get to read his autobiography. He could easily written volumes of his life and his work. If I have some criticism, I wished he focused on his famous sitcoms behind the scenes. "Good Times" was stellar until James Sr. was killed off after the fourth season. I wished Lear listened to the cast about their...
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