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My First Hundred Years in Show Business: A Memoir

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Mary Louise Wilson became a star at age sixty with her smash one-woman play Full Gallop portraying legendary Vogue editor Diana Vreeland. But before and since, her life and her career—including the Tony Award for her portrayal of Big Edie in Grey Gardens—have been enviably celebrated and varied.  Raised in New Orleans with a social climbing, alcoholic mother, Mary Louise mo Mary Louise Wilson became a star at age sixty with her smash one-woman play Full Gallop portraying legendary Vogue editor Diana Vreeland. But before and since, her life and her career—including the Tony Award for her portrayal of Big Edie in Grey Gardens—have been enviably celebrated and varied.  Raised in New Orleans with a social climbing, alcoholic mother, Mary Louise moved to New York City in the late 1950s; lived with her gay brother in the Village; entered the nightclub scene in a legendary review; and rubbed shoulders with every famous person of that era and since. 'My First Hundred Years in Show Business' gets it all down. Yet as delicious as the anecdotes are, the heart of this book is in its unblinkingly honest depiction of the life of a working actor. In her inimitable voice — wry, admirably unsentimental, mordantly funny — Mary Louise Wilson has crafted a work that is at once a teeming social history of the New York theatre scene and a thoroughly revealing, superbly entertaining memoir of the life of an extraordinary woman and actor.


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Mary Louise Wilson became a star at age sixty with her smash one-woman play Full Gallop portraying legendary Vogue editor Diana Vreeland. But before and since, her life and her career—including the Tony Award for her portrayal of Big Edie in Grey Gardens—have been enviably celebrated and varied.  Raised in New Orleans with a social climbing, alcoholic mother, Mary Louise mo Mary Louise Wilson became a star at age sixty with her smash one-woman play Full Gallop portraying legendary Vogue editor Diana Vreeland. But before and since, her life and her career—including the Tony Award for her portrayal of Big Edie in Grey Gardens—have been enviably celebrated and varied.  Raised in New Orleans with a social climbing, alcoholic mother, Mary Louise moved to New York City in the late 1950s; lived with her gay brother in the Village; entered the nightclub scene in a legendary review; and rubbed shoulders with every famous person of that era and since. 'My First Hundred Years in Show Business' gets it all down. Yet as delicious as the anecdotes are, the heart of this book is in its unblinkingly honest depiction of the life of a working actor. In her inimitable voice — wry, admirably unsentimental, mordantly funny — Mary Louise Wilson has crafted a work that is at once a teeming social history of the New York theatre scene and a thoroughly revealing, superbly entertaining memoir of the life of an extraordinary woman and actor.

30 review for My First Hundred Years in Show Business: A Memoir

  1. 5 out of 5

    John

    The author may well be known for many readers for her stint on the TV sitcom One Day at a Time. I never particularly liked the show, and she left as fast as she could. I did see her one-woman show as Diana Vreeland 20 years ago, but it's not absolutely necessary in order to appreciate the book. As for what to expect, she was not the most wildly successful actress with a big name out there, so she really doesn't have the material for a full-blown Memoir as such, so this one contains her memories o The author may well be known for many readers for her stint on the TV sitcom One Day at a Time. I never particularly liked the show, and she left as fast as she could. I did see her one-woman show as Diana Vreeland 20 years ago, but it's not absolutely necessary in order to appreciate the book. As for what to expect, she was not the most wildly successful actress with a big name out there, so she really doesn't have the material for a full-blown Memoir as such, so this one contains her memories of show business along with interspersed chapters on her planning and development of the Vreeland show itself. She's a funny writer, never dry, so no over the top reminiscences. The other actors with whom she references as having worked with back in the day are names that many readers should know.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Frank

    It's easy to forgive the few factual errors in this memoir because Wilson is such a skillful shaper of prose. Her observations on show business, particularly the state of older women who have not yet made it big, are telling. In addition, her sense of humor leads to some very funny observations of co-workers and projects (look out for her description of working on "One Day at a Time" and star Bonnie Franklin). The book alternates between a loose autobiography, hitting just the highlights in her It's easy to forgive the few factual errors in this memoir because Wilson is such a skillful shaper of prose. Her observations on show business, particularly the state of older women who have not yet made it big, are telling. In addition, her sense of humor leads to some very funny observations of co-workers and projects (look out for her description of working on "One Day at a Time" and star Bonnie Franklin). The book alternates between a loose autobiography, hitting just the highlights in her long and varied career, and a more detailed account of her work on "Full Gallop," a one woman show she co-wrote and in which she played Diana Vreeland. It will both make you want to develop material of your own and cower in terror at the thought of going through the development process.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Kristin

    After seeing MLW in On the 20th Century, I was delighted to discover that she was publishing this memoir. It was everything you could want: heartfelt, sometimes sad, brutally honest and downright HILARIOUS. Completely engrossing from the first page, it tells (mainly) of the development of her show "Full Gallop". Intertwined are stories from her personal life and an insightful behind the scenes look at many of the shows/roles throughout her career. I wish there had been just a tiny bit more about After seeing MLW in On the 20th Century, I was delighted to discover that she was publishing this memoir. It was everything you could want: heartfelt, sometimes sad, brutally honest and downright HILARIOUS. Completely engrossing from the first page, it tells (mainly) of the development of her show "Full Gallop". Intertwined are stories from her personal life and an insightful behind the scenes look at many of the shows/roles throughout her career. I wish there had been just a tiny bit more about Grey Gardens, but again, that show wasn't really the focus of the book. This is truly a must-read for all of her fans and anyone who loves the theatre!

  4. 5 out of 5

    Kevin

    Octogenarian character actress Mary Louise Wilson has a face that's more familiar than her name. "I'm not well known, I didn't have a glittering career studded with affairs and celebrities," she writes. What she is, however, is a survivor in a very tough profession, and a born storyteller with a deliciously acerbic sense of humor about everything, especially herself. In her mid-50s, Wilson realized that she had to take control of her flagging career by writing (with Mark Hampton) and starring in Octogenarian character actress Mary Louise Wilson has a face that's more familiar than her name. "I'm not well known, I didn't have a glittering career studded with affairs and celebrities," she writes. What she is, however, is a survivor in a very tough profession, and a born storyteller with a deliciously acerbic sense of humor about everything, especially herself. In her mid-50s, Wilson realized that she had to take control of her flagging career by writing (with Mark Hampton) and starring in Full Gallop, a one-woman show based on the life of Vogue magazine editor Diana Vreeland. The focus of My First Hundred Years in Show Business is Wilson's eight-year journey to bring Full Gallop to the stage. "If you never want to hear from somebody again, send them your play," Wilson writes. Alternating with this long-gestating project are short, juicy chapters covering her film, TV and theater roles and her private life. Wilson has decades of great backstage anecdotes, starting with her Broadway debut in the 1963 flop Hot Spot starring Judy Holliday--who fired several directors and refused to speak to Wilson offstage. Wilson's behind-the-scenes stories are equally compelling: an accidental overdose, an African American cross-dressing boyfriend, a pre-legal abortion and a cocaine-addicted dentist who used Crazy Glue to fix her teeth. Wilson won major theater awards in her sixth and seventh decade and has no interest in retiring. At age 82, she writes, "The need to perform doesn't die. It's like lust; it's like throwing a lit match on a pile of dry hay." Wilson's frank and fascinating story of perseverance will encourage aspiring actors and entertain theater buffs.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Daniel Krolik

    A fun, honest and appropriately catty read from a brilliant character actress. Wilson's struggle and perseverance in getting her one-woman Diana Vreeland show produced is inspiring for those of us who are artistically frustrated and at a crossroads (which is all of us, right?) Her anecdotes about her amazing career are both touching and candid (especially her cohort from the Angela Lansbury Gypsy0, and she doesn't mince words about her conflicts and disappointments. This book serves as a great t A fun, honest and appropriately catty read from a brilliant character actress. Wilson's struggle and perseverance in getting her one-woman Diana Vreeland show produced is inspiring for those of us who are artistically frustrated and at a crossroads (which is all of us, right?) Her anecdotes about her amazing career are both touching and candid (especially her cohort from the Angela Lansbury Gypsy0, and she doesn't mince words about her conflicts and disappointments. This book serves as a great tribute to character actors of all shapes and stripes.

  6. 4 out of 5

    David Jay

    I have been living in New York my entire life, and I love to talk to people. So I've had a lot of celebrity encounters. Bar none, the most interesting one I've had was chatting with Mary Louise Parker in a West Village park shortly after "Grey Gardens" opened. She was charming, open, lovely. So maybe my review is a little biased. Her memoir is charming, and inspiring; here is an actor who achieved her major successes in her 60s and 70s. A real look at the challenges inherent in the actor's life. I have been living in New York my entire life, and I love to talk to people. So I've had a lot of celebrity encounters. Bar none, the most interesting one I've had was chatting with Mary Louise Parker in a West Village park shortly after "Grey Gardens" opened. She was charming, open, lovely. So maybe my review is a little biased. Her memoir is charming, and inspiring; here is an actor who achieved her major successes in her 60s and 70s. A real look at the challenges inherent in the actor's life.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Kathleen Gray

    Hilarious! while she told all about the business (and spared herself little), she does pull some personal punches (drops casually that she's an alcoholic for example). For anyone interested in Broadway- recommend. Hilarious! while she told all about the business (and spared herself little), she does pull some personal punches (drops casually that she's an alcoholic for example). For anyone interested in Broadway- recommend.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Deb

    Having just seen "She's the Best Thing in It," the documentary about MLW, I thought this might be a lot of repetition. There was some but the book does not disappoint. Wicked and fragile at the same moment, MLW is a treasure we are discovering all over again. Having just seen "She's the Best Thing in It," the documentary about MLW, I thought this might be a lot of repetition. There was some but the book does not disappoint. Wicked and fragile at the same moment, MLW is a treasure we are discovering all over again.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Robert

  10. 4 out of 5

    Cecilia Dunbar Hernandez

  11. 5 out of 5

    Jami

  12. 5 out of 5

    Susan Krawitz

  13. 5 out of 5

    Megankellie

  14. 5 out of 5

    Karen Fulton

  15. 4 out of 5

    Mickey Anthony

  16. 5 out of 5

    Kevin

  17. 5 out of 5

    Janice

  18. 5 out of 5

    John Reilly

  19. 5 out of 5

    Lynn

  20. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer Gibbons

  21. 4 out of 5

    Bill

  22. 4 out of 5

    Brian McCann

  23. 4 out of 5

    Thom

  24. 4 out of 5

    James Coleman

  25. 4 out of 5

    Catherine Cook

  26. 5 out of 5

    Susan

  27. 4 out of 5

    Emma Parry

  28. 4 out of 5

    Ken

  29. 4 out of 5

    Christopher

  30. 5 out of 5

    Jay Lesiger

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