Sunday, April 15, 2012

Book Report: Moon River and Me by Andy Williams

I've blogged about my love of Andy Williams's Christmas music and its starring role in my childhood (it's not Christmas until Andy comes out!) many a time.  But it wasn't until I read Williams's autobiography, Moon River and Me, that I met the man (as VH1 would say) behind the music.  For instance, I didn't know that he, along with his three brothers, had been part of one of America's first "boy bands."  Or that after the breakup of said boy band he was so broke that he resorted to eating dog food.  Of course, he was eventually able to upgrade to caviar, and that was when the anecdotes became really interesting.  In addition to launching the Emmy-winning "Andy Williams Show," the "King of Easy Listening" hosted the first televised Golden Globes, the first-ever Grammys (and went on to do so for the next seven years), discovered the Osmonds, owned the record label that released the first Jimmy Buffet album, was a part owner of the Phoenix Suns, was (and still is) an art connoisseur and collector, and topped it all off by returning to his Midwestern roots to build his beloved theater in Branson, Missouri. 

As is the case with almost any celebrity autobiography, Moon River and Me has its fair share of scandal.  Williams's first wife was a nineteen-year-old French cancan dancer who, after their divorce, shot and killed her Olympic skier boyfriend.  Williams himself (and it pains me to say this) sometimes comes off as chauvinistic and lecherous, especially upon shacking up with a baton-twirling coed at the age of 50.  A times the writing seems stilted, not so much in narrative style, but in what Williams is willing to reveal.  Yet at others it's surprisingly candid, baudy even, coming from a personality marketed as wholesome.       

After a Google search I learned that Williams is now 84 and battling bladder cancer.  That made me sad.  Not to mention a little sheepish for some of my less complimentary thoughts. 

Overall, I can't deny that Moon River and Me is an illuminating and entertaining read.  There were times when I was laughing out loud (if not always for the right reasons), and I remain bowled over by Williams's perfectionism and unflinching work ethic.  There's no doubt that the classic crooner has led a fascinating life and is deserving of every ounce of his success.  But for me, and perhaps for others, the heart of his legacy remains his timeless holiday hits.  As Williams writes, "To this day people stop me on the street and tell me how much they cherished the Christmas shows and how much it meant to their whole family.  I've always loved Christmas, and for me it really is "the most wonderful time of the year." (155)                

An apt note to end on if ever there was one.


SparkleFarkle said...

I'm a big, BIG Andy Williams fan, too. Some of my fondest TV memories come from watching The Andy Williams Show. (Yes, I still have a crush on Donny Osmond!) I remember when Andy helped launch his wife's singing career on his show. I was fascinated with her! For weeks after the program, I was a thirteen-year old wearing my momsy's "Evening in Paris" perfume and singing "Sunwise, Sunset, swifwee flo da day..." in Claudine Longet's french, sometimes other worldly, mouse-sized voice. (I loved her rendition of "L'amour est bleu" ("Love is Blue"), too!)

I think I'm going to have to read Moon River and Me. Thanks for the heads up!

Valerie said...

Not only do I also love Andy Williams and his music-especially his Christmas music, but Tracy-this was such an excellently written review of the book that I plan to read it now too! Thanks for sharing your thoughts!