by Charles Grodin
April 9th 2009 by Springboard Press
Hardcover, 240 pages
0446519405 (isbn13: 9780446519403)
rating: 4 of 5 stars
“My first memory of something having a powerful, lasting effect on me came when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.”
I saw an interview once with Cameron Crowe in which he said that his movie “Almost Famous” was like blowing a kiss his early years as a roadie/music reporter and the people who’d been part of those experiences. I think, in a similar way, How I Got to Be is Charles Grodin’s kiss-blowing to his own past, both his boyhood and his journey from theatre to film to journalism. And it’s a sweet kiss.
Grodin’s newest book includes behind-the-scenes tales that feature actors, directors, writers, producers, journalists and politicians with whom he’s worked. It’s best to think of this book as a collection of essays. Other than Grodin himself, there’s no cohesive thread throughout. There’s a chapter about Dustin Hoffman and the movie The Graduate, a chapter about Grodin’s perspective on doctors and modern medicine, a chapter about Grodin’s work in Washington, D.C.
I had not known that Charles Grodin was such a political activist. In fact, he’s received the William Kuntsler Award for Racial Justice and has been honored by Habitat for Humanity for his humanitarian efforts on behalf of the homeless. One of my favorite anecdotes in How I Got to Be was the one in which Grodin describes his experience making a documentary with Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel. The three created a primetime special with actual footage from Vietnam, to explain how and why Simon & Garfunkel were writing anti-war music.
(also, all of Mr. Grodin's proceeds from this book go to Mentoring U.S.A.)