Over the last couple of weeks I've read three memoirs..."They Call Me Baba Booey" by Gary Dell'Abate, "The Birthday Party - A memoir of survival" by Stanley N. Alpert, and “The Hilliker Curse” - My Pursuit of Women, a memoir, by James Ellroy.
The most enjoyable read was "They Call Me Baba Booey."
Gary Dell'Abate has been the producer for the Howard Stern Show for years, which is probably why he got a book contract. With a built-in audience from Stern's show it's no wonder a publisher jumped on Gary's book. Gary might not have been able to throw a decent first-pitch across home plate at one of his beloved Mets' baseball games, but he did score a home-run with this book.
It's not just about the Howard Stern show but about Gary's life. I love reading books where I can relate to the person writing it as I did with Gary who is just two years younger than I am. Born into an Italian family, we both have the Bensonhurst connection so I enjoyed reading about his experiences during an era when I also grew up, touching on everyday routines, the "crazy" family, and ritual Sunday afternoon dinners.
From an early age Gary was always a hard worker who climbed his way up the success ladder until he settled into his "dream job." Like Gary's father said to him, I also say to my children, "If you find a job you love, you'll always be happy, and it will never feel like you're working."
His upbringing helped create the tough skin one would need to have on Stern's show and shaped who he became, which to me is who he always was, and who I hope he remains as he becomes more successful. Anyway, the book is written well with no need for long superfluous sentences that forces the reader to work too hard. Anyone who grew up in New York in the 70's and beyond will be able to relate to Gary's tales, especially his music lists. All in all, a fun, quick read.
The memoir I read before Gary's book, "The Hiliker Curse" was written by a more famous person, James Ellroy who is most noted for his books "The Black Dahlia" and "LA Confidential," both of which were made into movies. I haven't read either book, but was not a fan of either film.
"The curse" was uttered by Ellroy when he was a young boy towards his mom, "I wish she was dead." She died a couple of months later. Naturally Ellroy had some "issues" because of it, and spent his warped life looking for a "replacement" but not in the way one would think. It was pretty ho-hum overall. I wasn't crazy about his style of writing, but I'm sure fans of his will enjoy this book.
The first book I read was Alperts memoir, "The Birthday Party." The blurb on the jacket, "On January 21, 1998 federal prosecutor Stanley Alpert was kidnapped off the streets of Manhattan. This is the story of what happened next…" attracted me to check out the book. Out of the three, this was the most disappointing book. Even though it was a true story, it didn't ring true. The author seemed too concerned with being politically correct.
He was almost apologetic that he got kidnapped. When writing about his captors it came across as if he “felt bad for them.” At one point the lawyer who "fights big business" even railed against the evil Republicans and big bad oil companies more so than his captors. The dialogue between the kidnappers also did not ring true. I found it hard to believe they would refer to themselves as African Americans.
At one point Alpert recounts what one of the accomplices to the kidnappers said about Alpert, “I already knew from the get go that he was afraid. ‘Cause he’s by himself. They got all these bunch of black people there. The majority of white people, they scared of black people. You know that.” Alpert then declares, “I have a dream that someday we will live in a land where Ramos’s words will have lost all hint of truth.” Is he for real? Of course a white person who has been forced into a car at gunpoint, held captive blindfolded while the kidnappers clear out his bank account all the while threatening to kill him would be scared of black person, especially if the black person is a kidnapper holding a gun!
At the end of the book he writes how the experience has taught him in so many words, to live life to the fullest, buy what you want and not look for a bargain, etc. Okay, agreed, but then ruins it by writing how he bought a car, a Cabrio. “Naturally the Cabrio is fuel efficient and small. I wouldn’t take an SUV if I won it in a raffle.” Huh? His trying way too hard to appeal to a certain audience alienated me.