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July 3, 2013

'Read My Lips' may not be a memoir for everyone


Forty-three years after the film’s premiere, Kellerman has finally written her autobiography. Fittingly, it’s called “Read My Lips: Stories of a Hollywood Life.” I was attracted to the book because I wanted to read some insights into the movie (it is one of the best films I’ve ever seen) and find out more about an actress I only identify with that one role.

What I found was that Kellerman has had quite a roller-coaster life. She has seen it all despite having grown up near Hollywood and living in Los Angeles her entire life. She knew a lot of the big-time celebrities and even dated Henry Kissinger at one time.

Kellerman also starred in several films that I either didn’t see or never heard of, provided the voice-over for more products that I can name, and even had a successful singing career. She has basically been under-the-radar other than her role as “Hot Lips.” I didn’t even know she sang!

Reading her book reminded me of Penny Marshall’s autobiography. They were both exposed to Hollywood as aspiring young actresses and ended up meeting many of the heavyweights of the industry. It’s notable how casually both mention superstars as being life-long friends as if it’s no big deal. You get the impression that all celebrities literally know each other.

One stereotype of Hollywood that is apparently true is that the drug culture is alive and well and has been so for at least a couple of generations. Both Kellerman and Marshall speak of the casual use of marijuana and harder drugs as if it’s a natural part of the celebrity existence. Neither one makes any value judgments on their widespread use.

Kellerman always seemed to be battling back from something tragic whether it was the loss of a close friend to cancer, a bad investment or a horrible marriage. Despite the downside, she shares some wonderful anecdotes. Besides her experiences with “M*A*S*H” (which she called the greatest of her life), Kellerman has some fascinating tales of her “relationship” with Kissinger, her “terrifying” neighbors who weren’t so terrifying, and the hiring of a carpenter who ended up destined for stardom.

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