Luck and Circumstance : A Coming of Age in Hollywood, New York, and Points Beyond
From acclaimed director Michael Lindsay-Hogg (The Normal Heart, The Beatles' Let It Be, Brideshead Revisited, The Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus, etc.), son of glamorous Warner's movie star Geraldine Fitzgerald: a magical dreamscape memoir of his boyhood, coming-of-age, and making his way in the worlds of theater, film, and television.
Lindsay-Hogg's father, an English baronet from a family whose money came from the China trade, lived in Ireland and was rarely seen by his son. The author's stepfather was the scion of the Isidor Straus fortune, co-owner of R. H. Macy's; Straus went down with the Titanic, and the author's stepfather was, alas, fortune-less.
The author's mother, Geraldine Fitzgerald, the redheaded Irish seductress who won instant acclaim as Bette Davis's best friend in Dark Victory and in William Wyler's Wuthering Heights, spent time with Hollywood's elite--Laurence Olivier, Charles Chaplin, and Orson Welles, with whom she worked in New York at the Mercury Theater and in other productions.
Lindsay-Hogg writes of how he wented his way into this exotic, mysterious, and seductive world, encountering as a small boy the likes of Marion Davies and William Randolph Hearst, playing hide-and-seek with Olivia de Havilland, serving drinks to Humphrey Bogart, discussing life with Henry Miller.
At the book's center, an offhand comment made to Lindsay-Hogg by his mother, when he was sixteen, about talk circulating (false, she claimed) that she had had a romantic relationship with Orson Welles (Fitzgerald and Welles had lived together at his home in Beverly Hills) and that Welles, rumor had it, was Michael's father ("It's not true," she said. "You know how people put two and two together and get three . . .").
That was the end of the conversation. ("It's time for bed . . . You have school in the morning . . ." she said.) For Lindsay-Hogg, it opened up a whole new realm of his life. He was forever changed by the knowing--of not knowing.
Interwoven throughout his narrative is the element of questioning who his father was. Was he the patron saint of American pictures, the legendary genius of the twentieth century, Orson Welles, a consistently inconsistent person in Michael's life . . . or was he the man who considered himself Michael's real father? What did his "father" know? What did Welles know? And what did his mother know to be true (she had brought the author up to believe that she always told the truth)? And when would she tell her son what the truth was . . .
As Lindsay-Hogg struggled to make sense of it all, questions of missed chances, conversations never had, questions of what is withheld and what is true took root, dogging him, shaping his life . . . questions still, that haunt and inform this moving, deft, and illuminating memoir.
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September 26, 2011
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Excerpt from Luck and Circumstance by Michael Lindsay-Hogg
Anxious, I sat on the sofa for about twenty minutes and then the door opened and a tall, husky, shaggy man wearing glasses smiled and said, "They won't be long." This was Mal Evans, who was one of the original few who'd come from Liverpool and was now their head roadie and because of his size an impediment should anyone try to get too close. (His heft masked a friendly, gentle, and humble nature, and so it was a shock to learn that he'd been shot and killed in 1975 in Los Angeles by the police. They'd gone to his apartment to check on a dispute. Mal was holding a rifle that he refused to put down.)
He smiled again and closed the door and I sat back to wait and get more nervous when, almost immediately, the door opened again and in came six people, Mal, and Neil Aspinall, who had the hard shiny face of someone who could be an unwelcome foe. He'd started by driving their van in Liverpool, Beatles and instruments crammed in the back. He went on to run their company, Apple Corps, for almost forty years.
And the four of them who looked like the four of them. Their faces had become so famous that it was like being in a room with iconic characters, as from the comics, say-- Mickey and Donald, Archie and Jughead.
I had gotten to my feet as they'd all entered, out of politeness I like to think. They took random places around the table as prawn cocktails were served by a maid, with white, ros?, and red wine on offer and Coca-Cola with or without scotch. Everyone started to eat, pour drinks, and continue to talk about whatever they'd been talking about when they'd come in. I stood there wondering what was going to happen next.
Paul was beside Neil, facing my way, and was the first to speak to me.
"Michael, right? Come over and give us your ideas."
Those with their backs to me did not turn around. I did not think he meant for me, as I gave my ideas, to stand while they sat. But the problem was there was nowhere to sit at the table. The chairs were all taken. The sofa and armchairs were too big to move. So it was to be the hassock. I looked at the hassock. The hassock looked at me, dark leather and fat. I gauged it was too large in circumference and bulk to lift. I put my foot at its base and applied pressure, hoping to seem, until I tested its weight, that I wasn't doing anything other than just standing there. It did not budge.
Paul and Neil had gone back to eating. The others were talking, backs to me, unconcerned.
I'd have to shove this malignant object, and so I leaned down and initiated a pushing-like activity, ungracefully angled, ass out. The hassock started to move but not as though willing, with the carpet being no friend, fibrous and resistant. It was harder than I'd thought.
Maybe wondering what had become of me, in relation to his invitation to "come over," Paul lifted his eyes from his prawn cocktail and took in the sight in front of him.
"Are you all right?" he asked.
Sensing something was going on, the others, Mal, John,
George, and Ringo at the head of the table, previously obscured, turned in their chairs toward me.
"I'm fine," I grunted, in a manner which I hoped conveyed no sense of strain.
Mal started to rise to give me a hand.
"No, don't get up!" I heard myself shout. "It's no problem."
With a final muscle-tensing effort, I maneuvered the hassock the last half dozen feet and slammed it into a space between Mal and George.
"There, I've done it."
Those at the table, including the four most famous people in the world, had stopped eating and were staring at me.
I stood back and smiled as though what had just occurred had been, for me anyway, a pleasant, familiar experience.
I started to sit down and it was at this point that I realized a hassock's original purpose was to rest weary legs after a long day and consequently it was lower in height than a regular chair and so I'd be sitting somewhat lower than the four most famous people in the world.
My chin was at table level as I wiped the sweat offmy forehead, looked up at The Beatles, and said, "I really like the record."
What they saw was some white tablecloth and a disembodied, flushed, moist head which had just spoken to them.
I waited for the discussion to begin.
There was silence until George, courteous by nature, asked, in a slightly concerned voice, "Would you like some water?"