from Funny Face to Eloise
Craig Wilson, USA Today, 12/28/2010:
There's so much you don't know about Kay Thompson
But this biography reveals every detail
Book review By Craig Wilson
Kay Thompson is known for being the author of the Eloise books, about the poor little rich girl who lives at the Plaza Hotel.
Most people would gladly settle for such fame. Not Thompson.
Where to begin? That must have been the question Sam Irvin asked when he sat down to write his biography of this entertainment
dynamo whose life (1909-1998) spanned almost a century. (The first Eloise book was published in 1955.) In her childhood, as she played
piano with the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra? With her singing career at the swanky Cocoanut Grove? Or with her early days in
Hollywood, where she worked with everyone, and we mean everyone — Frank, Bing, Marilyn, Bette, Ginger? (Judy Garland even made
her the godmother to daughter Liza Minnelli.)
Where to begin, indeed. Thompson was even a fashionista, inspiring a line of slacks for women long before women wore such slacks.
But Thompson was more than just a talent. She was a handful. A headstrong handful.
Along with her ambition came a certain stubbornness, which worked both for and against her. She often got what she wanted but paid
the price. Fred Astaire, for instance, snubbed her after she upstaged him and Audrey Hepburn in Funny Face.
Irvin explores this whirling dervish's other sides, too — her drug dependence, obsession with plastic surgery, less-than-blissful marriages
and rumors of lesbianism. Irvin says she wasn't gay, listing a long line of her affairs, including one with a much younger Andy Williams.
Irvin superbly tells the whole story about a fabulous yet flawed woman who paved the way for thousands of others trying to make their
way in a man's world. Yes, Thompson comes across as downright exhausting at times. This biography is anything but.
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