Salah's interview on Australia's Today Extra with the wonderful David Campbell and Belinda Russell
Celebrities meet, talk, and light up the room in this beguiling showbiz memoir.
Bachir, a Toronto-based businessman who worked in video distribution and published the entertainment magazines Premiere and Famous, recalls 40 years of encounters and friendships with actors, directors, singers, artists, writers, and the odd politician (including former Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau) and boxer (including Muhammad Ali). He tells of Marlon Brando, who proved a sublimely charming conversationalist when he came to a backyard barbecue at Bachir’s parents’ house and bonded with the author over their weight problems; Katharine Hepburn, who tartly refused to collect an award from Bachir, calling it too high a price to pay for fame; Bette Davis, who was, according to the author, “as close to a gay man as you can get” and happily collected an award from the author; Gregory Peck, who indulged the author’s flirting (Bachir: “I’m developing a little crush on you”; Peck: “Well, you’re a pretty handsome fella yourself”); Sean Connery, who laughed when Bachir voiced admiration for his chest hair; piano maestro Liberace, who “had his hand on [Bachir’s] knee throughout” their lunch together in the 1980s, according to the author; and comedian Phyllis Diller, who revealed herself to be a supremely poised and tasteful artist and concert pianist. Along the way, Bachir explores his own early childhood in a close-knit Lebanese village, his coming-out journey, his charitable work for AIDS and kidney patients, among other causes, as well as his wedding to artist Jacob Yerex in 2015, with k. d. lang singing along at their reception.
Bachir’s memoirs paint a colorful portrait of a movable feast of celebrity socializing at swanky restaurants, candlelit dinner parties, awards shows, and fundraising galas, featuring personalities whom he genuinely liked and admired. (Among the few he didn’t were James Stewart for being a rare conservative Republican in the entertainment industry, and Joan Rivers for her mean-spirited jokes about other peoples’ weight.) The narrative unfolds in brief, punchy episodes stocked with piquant details—fashion designer Yves Saint-Laurent, he writes, had “the most beautiful skin and soft silky hair…that Nice ’n Easy shampoo commercial type”—and slyly hilariously passages, as when he tells of an autograph-seeker asking a bemused Tennessee Williams at a luncheon if he’d considered writing a sequel to A Streetcar Named Desire. Bachir’s profiles of his subjects include nuanced appreciations of their public personas—“I always thought people misunderstood and underrated Doris Day”—but he also manages to look past the veneer of fame to the vulnerable psyches beneath, as when he tells of Elizabeth Taylor feeling wounded by one of Rivers’ barbs. Above all, he pays rapt attention to how conversation reveals character: Orson Welles “never stayed on topic. He spoke in his resonant, mesmerizing voice, with his beetling brows forming punctuation marks….sucking me in, before spinning vertiginously down rabbit holes of thoughts and ideas.” The result is a wonderful, casual survey that brings many of the last century’s most creative figures to vivid life.
An album of entertaining, richly drawn sketches of charismatic people with surprising quirks.