Celebrities in Their Own Words, Others' Voices

What an honor to hear your personal memoirs read out loud WORD FOR WORD in a theater! Then again, as Mo Rocca tells us, maybe not . . .


Imagine, if you will, that we're NOT in a small Manhattan theater.

Rather, comedienne Rachel Dratch takes us into the predawn home of . . . Joan Lunden:

"'Good Morning, America' may go on the air at 7:00 a.m., but our workday starts some three hours earlier, at 4:00 a.m. to be exact. . . . I'm a fanatic about not disturbing the family in the morning, so I take the extra precaution of oiling the door hinges every month or so to prevent any loud squeaks."

Next, Mario Cantone escorts us behind prison walls, and the horror of Zsa Zsa Gabor's 72 hours in jail.

"Terrified, I try to block out the noise," he reads from "One Lifetime Is Not Enough" by Zsa Zsa. "As I do, I realize that for the first time since I am a child, I, who normally sleep naked except for diamond earrings, am not wearing them."

The show is called "Celebrity Autobiography," where actors and comedians read from actual celebrities' actual autobiographies: The Jonas Brothers! Burt Reynolds! Madonna!

The creators, and sometime performers, are Eugene Pack and Dayle Reyfel. They showed Rocca their "artistic mountain of material."

Talk about suffering for their art: They've read more than 300 celebrity autobiographies.

"After the show, people come up to different people and they'd say, 'Oh, that was really funny what you wrote. Or did you write this? Or who put this…'" said Pack. "But it's real! "

Such as the poetry of Suzanne Somers, from the volume "Touch Me," recited by actress Rosie Perez:

"I like the gentle quiet loneliness of being alone. Although I thought of a friend last night and almost called, but I decided not to because my hair needed washing."

"Does this change the way you think about poetry in any way?" Rocca asked Perez.

"No!" she laughed.

"If anyone has any extra love, even a heartbeat or a touch or two, I wish they wouldn't waste it on dogs."

"You know these people - well, you think you know them," said Perez, "and then you read something that's intimate and personal, and you're like, "Oh, that's who they really are."

"Suzanne Somers isn't just the Thigh Master lady - she also doesn't like dogs too much," said Rocca.

"Exactly!"

"Celebrity Autobiography" relies on a rotating cast, many of them celebrities themselves, like America's mom, Florence Henderson, playing (who else!) Pamela Anderson.

Last-minute coaching spills into the stairwell . . . Look! There's Brooke Shields! One night Shields channeled Elizabeth Taylor. Another night, Liz speaks through Sheri Sheppard.

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It turns out that star-love is often star-crossed. Who could forget the saga of Burt and Loni . . . told here in dueling autobiographies, with Kristen Johnston as Loni and Ryan Reynolds as Burt:

Kristen/Loni: "He was sweet and tentative and gentle, almost as if he thought I was gonna break."

Ryan/Burt: "During the nonstop animal passion … "

"This whole show, I think, is just structured around, you know, celebrities' occasional lapse in judgment," Ryan Reynolds told Rocca.

Would the actual writing of the autobiography be a lapse in judgment?

"That, right there, is the KEY lapse in judgment," he laughed. "Being a celebrity and saying, 'You know what? People need to hear who I really am.'"

And then it was Rocca's turn. But whose words could he presume to interpret?

Eugene Pack suggested "Vanna Speaks" by Vanna White.

Vanna, letter-turner on "Wheel of Fortune," doesn't really speak, Rocca noted: "So it leaves a lot of room for interpretation."

"Exactly!" said Pack.

An excerpt:

"My main job is turning the letters. Merv says that he hired me because I turn the letters better than any of the 200 other women who auditioned."

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But while Rocca has a little Vanna in him (and who doesn't) he has a whole OTHER side just waiting to be unleashed . . . Dayle Reyfel thought it would be a "perfect piece" for him.

"Sorry Vanna," Rocca said. "I had to turn to Mr. T."

"So here is the unadulterated truth told, written and spoken in such terms that even a fool can understand what I am talking about."

Yes, celebrity autobiographies have given us so much to talk about.

"But we loved, God how we loved!"

Passion and heartache .... triumph and failure.

But mostly, celebrities have given us that most precious thing of all: themselves.

We leave you with Scott Adsit reading from the autobiography of Kenny Loggins:

"My gift is simply this: to be here with you as fully as the gods will allow and just let you … love me."


For more info:
"Celebrity Autobiography"
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