Review: Gypsy and Me

Dear Constant Reader,

Not only do I have a pile of books to review, I also have a passel of books I reviewed elsewhere, but not here. Since I’m on a bit of a history kick (I’ll explain why in another missive), here’s Gypsy Rose Lee’s son’s memoir about growing up with America’s most famous stripper as a mother.

Gypsy and Me: At Home and on the Road With Gypsy Rose Lee by Erik Lee Preminger (1984). Also published as My G-String Mother.

Picking up years after Gypsy left off, Gypsy Rose Lee’s only child chronicles his conflicted and often combative relationship with his famous mother. The story begins when Erik was 12 and Gypsy has decided to give up “the act”, the striptease show she’s been doing for decades. Now she needs another source of income.

His depiction is not always so flattering. He shows a Gypsy that was stingy, self-absorbed, and domineering. She was terrified of poverty, despite her frequently lavish spending, and constantly searched for the next thing that would support her. The author paints a flawed portrait of himself as well, honestly relating incidents of his anger, disobedience and petty crime.

Despite all the clashes between them, he loved her deeply and she was a devoted mother. She would take Erik on tour with her because she hated to be separated from him. He would help her set up her act and was even her dresser. She was a terribly hard worker, throwing herself into projects, barely eating and rarely sleeping. He describes her with tea stains on her clothes and cigarette ashes powdering her reading glasses. She was witty and clever in private, as well as in her public image. And she adored animals, sometimes more than people. She was terribly proud of Erik and wanted everyone to know he was her son. She even toured Southeast Asia to entertain the soldiers after Erik joined the Army.

Despite a truly unusual and often difficult childhood, Mr. Preminger is not bitter about his mother, and strives for an honest accounting of a very contradictory woman.

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Published in: on 30 July 2020 at 4:27 pm  Leave a Comment  
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