We all see them on TV, in movies, on the cover of magazines or now all over the Internet. Be they actors or comedians, reporters or musicians, we see them and we feel a little glimmer, sense a bit of awe for these larger than life figures. They are “stars” and we are starstruck when we look upon them. But a star is always something more. We stare at the stars in the sky and we see these beautiful, resplendent kings and queens of the heavens. We look on them in awe. But if we see them through another lens, we know that they are giant balls of gas, light years away, dying or growing or just burning away. We can view them in a Romantic manner and/or see them in a scientific way. They need not be exclusive. A star can both “declare the glory of God” and be “a fixed luminous point in the night sky that is a large, remote incandescent body like the sun.”
But I’m not here to wax poetic, but to simply share a few books that I’ve enjoyed that look into the lives of the “stars” of our entertainment world. These books look behind the glimmer and glamour and get into the nitty-gritty of their stories. See what you think.
Red Skelton: An Unauthorized Biography– Arthur Marx
I read this book years ago, back in middle school. I had seen a few of Skelton’s shows and really enjoyed his goofy nature. Some of my earliest DVD purchases were a set of episodes from his old comedy series.
I really got into Skelton, and even bought a few items of clothing so that I could create my own clown outfit and maybe start performing. I never really did it, though– this was just part of my middle school pursuit of weird, goofy, oddballity. (I also wore tennis shoes with neon green shoelaces and at a church retreat wore one of these around my neck– don’t ask me why.) Anyway, I got ahold of this book around the time I got involved in puppet ministry at my aunt and uncle’s church.
I was shocked to find out some of the details behind Skelton’s image– death, business problems, alcoholism, suicide, depression. As one reviewer writes on Amazon.com, “It was often hard for me to read some chapters. He was human and had frailities like all men. The book gave a great deal of detail to his struggling years, both professionaly and personally” [sic]. Although I know I knew it before, this book was one of the first to show that people in show business really don’t always have it all together. They’re human just like us, which is encouraging in the end.
A Reporter’s Life– Walter Cronkite
I didn’t really know much about Cronkite before I read this book. I knew he was a famous reporter and that was about it. I picked up this book at home– don’t know when we got it or why or who bought it, but I started to read. And then I would stop for a week and pick it back up. Then stop for a month and pick it up again. Then I stopped for a few months and had to retrace my steps and finally finish it.
It was quite amazing how much Cronkite got to do in his life. As a reporter, he was connected to so many important moments in history– D-Day, the Nuremberg trial, the Kennedy Assassination, the Korean War.
And he was involved– he didn’t merely report, but he researched and got to know his subjects, traveling and meeting many individuals, unknown, famous, and infamous. It truly amazed me how much one person could do in their life– a little discouraging, because it causes you to look on your life as being so less vibrant, but also encouraging, because you never know what might come around the corner next!
This book had stood out to me for a few years. I’d see it in Barnes and Noble and Chapters and elsewhere. Now, at times I confused it for World War Z, because, well, how many books are there with a capital Zed in the title? But finally, I picked up this book at a Hastings in Huntsville one day I had off from the work out at camp, Summer 2011. I bought the book and started it that night with some yummy Taco Bell. I had trouble putting it down and finished it in a couple days
It tells the story of one man, Percy Fawcett, and his adventures throughout the world, especially in his pursuit of the “Z” in the Amazon rain forest, a mysterious civilization lost to history but mentioned in various records and legends. Fawcett was one of the main inspirations for the character of Indiana Jones!
The story is also about David Grann as he researched Fawcett’s travels. As Fawcett is lost in the story of “Z”, Grann is lost is the fantastical story of Fawcett– and the reader is lost in this story of mystery and legend, adventure and risk.
It was truly a story of commitment– What do you live your life for? What are you pursuing? Would you give your life to find it? Why or why not? Very serious, yet enjoyable, read.
I have more to share, the stories of some of my heroes– Rich Mullins, Keith Green, Billy Graham, Fred Rogers. But I’ll save those for another time. In the meantime, read! Go watch a clip of Red Skelton, Walter Cronkite, or Percy Fawcett’s story. But read as well! Look beyond the image and discover the person.