Most people know of Larry in his show business guises as Peter Pan's son, Jeannie's master, and a certain Texas oil baron who TV audiences loved to loathe. But Larry life and career have been filled with true-life adventures and incredible experiences that rival anything Hollywood could dream up. How many people also know, for example, that Larry had a brief stint in the Ringling Brothers circus that included dressing up as a lion? Or that he was enlisted in the Air Force? That, with barely a dollar to his name, he was once forced to live in a men's lavatory? Or that he was commonly known as the "Mad Monk of Malibu" by his California neighbors? These are just some of the fascinating pieces of information about himself that Larry candidly reveals in his dishy, witty and entertaining autobiography.
In HELLO, DARLIN': Tall (and Absolutely True) Tales About My Life, Larry shares all the behind-the-scenes drama of his impressive career on stage, in movies, and on television, as well as intimate details about his equally colorful personal life. The book's friendly title indicates the big Texas charm with which he speaks to his readers, at times tickling funny bones with outrageous anecdotes, at others providing more emotional commentaries about various difficulties he grappled with in life. As Larry describes his book, "Some of it's funny, some of it's serious, and some contains the wisdom that comes from discovering that having it all doesn't mean you actually have it all. In writing this book, I decided to throw all that mumbo in the gumbo, to stir in the stories, the little-known details, and the lessons I've learned..."
Born to the legendary performer Mary Martin, and going on to have his own 50-year-long career in entertainment, Larry life story is truly that of an actor's, one filled with action, drama, and comedy. Larry takes readers through the many significant events in his life, including: his initial decision, after a failed attempt to live like a real Texas cowboy, to become an actor; his conflicts with his step-father that led to periods of estrangement from his beloved mother; his early efforts to break into the acting trade, barely scraping by with the few dollars he was able to earn; his courtship of and long marriage to Maj, the great love of his life and a vital source of support and inspiration; his stage career, working alongside some of the biggest names and egos in the business; his breakthrough into film and eventually to television with the hit shows I Dream of Jeannie and Dallas , and the backstage conflict and plotting the public never saw; the many ways his life changed as the world wondered "Who Shot J.R.?"; and finally, his more recent health struggle and highly publicized liver transplant operation.
What makes Larry's book so unique, and such a tremendously enjoyable read, are the many true tall tales he shares throughout, stories that are by turns humorous, moving, strange, and astonishing. These incredible reminiscences and revelations include:
- when Larry attended a Woodstock, Vermont boarding school as a teen, where he managed to break the "three biggies" prohibiting smoking, drinking, and sex - and accidentally set fire to the boys' dorm.
- how his father, as many Texan patriarchs were prone to do at the time, took him to Mexico to lose his virginity; Larry instead simply paid off the chosen prostitute to tell everyone what a powerful and virile young man he was.
- descriptions of his alcohol binges which started at a young age, when at one point he got so sick that his mother kicked him out of the house.
- a raucous road trip when, desperate for work, he drove a theatrical crew from New York to Florida, his passengers including a bevy of chorus girls, three sniping Pekingese, and a woman with a close relationship with her Great Dane.
- his memorable London stage debut - working in a small part in a production of South Pacific starring his mother - when his anxiousness to introduce his mother led to a particularly embarrassing stage entrance.
- enlisting in the U.S. Air Force during the Korean War and serving as military entertainment director for the United Kingdom - and dating a young actress named Joan Collins before falling in love with Maj.
- co-starring with George C. Scott on Broadway and seeing firsthand the actor's infamous tirades, including dangling a terrified co-star by his heels over a parapet.
- appearing in his first movie, Fail Safe starring Henry Fonda, partying it up, experimenting with marijuana, acid, and peyote.
- behind-the-set battles on the set of I Dream of Jeannie, as Larry pushed for it to be the great comedy he thought it could be, while wrestling for creative control with a belligerent director.
- inadvertently becoming addicted, along with his wife, to weight-loss pills, leading to a complete physical and emotional breakdown on the Jeannie set.
- his "Mad Monk of Malibu" escapades, including leading flag-waving parades dressed in a caftan, grocery shopping in a chicken suit, and refusing to speak on Sundays for 25 years (but offering to listen to anyone who wanted to unburden themselves to him).
- the many hilarious pranks Larry played on costars, friends, and neighbors (including blasting "Penguin" sounds on his stereo while his irate neighbor Burgess Meredith was hosting a party).
- how he transformed a secondary part on a new nighttime soap into one of the most popular characters in TV history, and eventually had to respond to the notoriety of being J.R. (i.e. having old ladies hit him over the head for being such a louse, and even having the Queen Mother demand he reveal who shot him).
- the miracle of having his life saved by an unnamed donor, and the profound new insights about life and death, and about our shared humanity, that the experience generated for him.
Like a juicy episode of Dallas, HELLO, DARLIN', with its outrageous episodes and incredible developments, is a guilty pleasure of a celebrity memoir that's just impossible to put down.
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