Four celebrities, four very different autobiographies. Are they all worth a read?

Four celebrities, four very different autobiographies. Are they all worth a read? -
16th November 2021


Books Entertainment Pop Culture Television Media

Billy Connolly, still standing and still likeable.


By Simon Caterson

Windswept & Interesting, Billy Connolly, $49.99
Putting the Rabbit in the Hat, Brian Cox, $34.99
Baggage: Tales from a Fully Packed Life, Alan Cumming, $29.99
Taste: My Life Through Food, Stanley Tucci, $45

Showbiz celebrities are just like the rest of us, only more so. That much, at least, is confirmed by these sometimes indiscreet, occasionally harrowing and frequently amusing memoirs from well-established transatlantic stars of the stage and screen. The three Scots reside in the US, while Stanley Tucci, the sole American, lives in London.

All four are old-school showfolk who paid their dues by treading the boards and appearing on the biggest screen. In different ways they carry the traditional entertainment ethos into these books, which no doubt will please their many fans. Billy Connolly arguably had the toughest early career path as a stand-up comedian and on the whole he seems the most grounded and likeable.

None had the advantage of a privileged background. The youngest, Alan Cumming, is 56 and the most senior, Connolly, is 78. Brian Cox, arguably, right now enjoys the highest profile of the quartet, currently starring as the ruthless media mogul Logan Roy in Succession.

All four have reached the point where they have nothing to prove. Cumming is happy to gossip about Faye Dunaway’s diet being based on weighing the food before eating it, while Cox seems to have a score to settle with those actors, directors and films he regards as overrated, and there are a sizeable number of those.

One, it seems, is Gary Oldman, who won an Oscar for Best Actor for portraying Winston Churchill in the same year that Cox portrayed Churchill in another, less commercially successful film. No prize for guessing whose performance Cox feels deserved the award more, though he does insist it is nothing personal.

Tucci and Connolly write freely about their major health problems. Connolly lives with Parkinson’s disease, which has advanced to the stage where he can no longer write and dictated Windswept & Interesting into his phone – the book is dedicated, backhandedly, to the device. Apparently, the transcription app couldn’t cope with Connolly’s Glaswegian accent and his children helped turn his words into text.

After losing his first wife tragically young to breast cancer, Tucci is recovering from cancer of the mouth. The grandson of Calabrian immigrants who settled in New York, Tucci’s book is informed by an ancestral love of food of any kind. The Tucci clan will try anything once, it seems. Tucci remembers seeing his grandmother skin a squirrel for the family dinner pot.

Tucci himself is an omnivore who once ordered the minke whale and puffin dishes at a restaurant in Iceland after being assured by the waiter that the species weren’t endangered. He liked the whale, the puffin not so much. Taste is not an ideal book for vegan or vegetarian readers.

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(The Sydney Morning Herald)