The Best Little Boy in the World Grows Upby Andrew Tobias
John Reid's The Best Little Boy in the World was hailed as a classic memoir of growing up gay in a straight world. But "John Reid" didn't write it. Years would pass before the writer could reveal his true identity as Andrew Tobias, America's bestselling financial guru, author of The Only Investment Guide You'll Ever Need. Now, twenty-five years later, Tobias, proud to use his real name, brings his remarkable life story up to date.
Writing with his customary charm and frank humor, Tobias tells of love affairs and heartbreak, hot New York parties and tough political battles, the excitement of genuine social change and the tragedy of seeing dear friends die young. Here too are the unforgettable scenes of Tobias revealing his sexual orientation not only to his parents but to the president of the United States.
The author is an irresistible companion as he shares with us his proud stories, embarrassing confessions, and hilarious musings on "the homosexual lifestyle." Witty, heartfelt, and wonderfully affirming in every sense, this is Andrew Tobias's finest book to date.
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Read an Excerpt
"What do you mean, `Proposed Epilogue'?" my editor at G. P. Putnam & Sons asked a quarter century ago when he had finished reading the final draft of The Best Little Boy in the World.
We had just gotten through a long discussion--I wouldn't call it a fight--where I was trying to persuade him to let me use "The Red Crayon" as my pen name, which he said was stupid. (How would it be alphabetized in Books in Print--under Crayon?) And now we were on to the fight--I wouldn't call it a discussion--over what to call the last section of the book. To me, this was even more important.
The pen name thing I just thought was clever, and might cause reviewers to focus on an anecdote in the book about how once, when I was about eleven and incredibly sheltered... I mean incredibly sheltered, and even more incredibly afraid someone would discover My Secret... I had been at a party where we were all given Crayons and paper and instructed to write some really terrible word. The slips of paper--all anonymous--would then be collected, and the hostess, also about eleven, would read some dumb fill-in-the-blanks story about a princess. (This was back in the days before most eleven-year-olds had beepers and subscriptions to Wired.) So, being the best little boy in the world, and crouching back there behind the couch with my crayon and scrap of paper, I did exactly what I was told. I wrote the absolute worst word I could think of. And then our hostess began reading.
"So the ... toilet ... princess and the ... booger ... prince went down to the ... slimeball ... fountain and"--all was going well until our hostess, looking at the next word to be inserted, burst into tears and went running from the room.
Something told me she had come to my scrap of paper. I began to sweat. "Okay!" her mother yelled, storming back into the room. "Which one of you has the red crayon?!"
Agh! The red crayon! It was supposed to be anonymous.
Anyhow, it seemed to me that the manuscript I had just submitted to G. P. Putnam's had in a sense all been written with that red crayon ... a book about things that--as strange as this may seem only twenty-five years later--were all but unmentionable.
So I just thought The Red Crayon was a more than apt pen name. And if it was different ... if it didn't fit the established mold ... well, wasn't that sort of the whole point? Wasn't that my life? And if it was a little on the cute side, what else was new? My college roommate Hank, as I called him in the last book--who went on to become mayor of Cincinnati, incidentally--always used to kid me about that. "Is it any good?" I'd ask him of whatever I'd most recently written. (In college, we'd coauthored a book called The Ivy League Guidebook.) "Well, it's... cute," he'd say.
So, cute I could live with. But my editor, who had already agreed to acquire this literary masterwork for $5,000, was not amused. I could publish the book under my own name or under a pen name, but not under the name of a crayon. Not only was it too cute, it just wasn't remotely practical or possible. "So forget it."
So I did. I went instead with the name John Reid, which was the Lone Ranger's real name (if you believe, as on some level I surely did, that the Lone Ranger was real). What was he trying to hide behind that mask ... his deep dark secret? Did you ever see him with a babe? He was just riding around with Tonto being good all the time. Only later would I discover that John Reid (spelled differently--Reed--but pronounced the same) was also the name of the famous Soviet-sympathizing American journalist Warren Beatty portrayed in Reds (making me not just a homo but a commie)--as well as the name of at least three men who wrote outraged letters to G. P. Putnam & Sons, fearful that someone might actually think this disgusting book had been written by them.
One even threatened to sue.
I don't know anyone named Crayon who would have sued.
But the pen name, though I cared deeply about it, was an argument I was willing to lose. The fight over this "Proposed Epilogue" thing was much more important.
"Just call it Epilogue," my editor said, growing testy.
"I can't," I said.
"That makes it sound like fact; but it's not fact. It's proposed fact."
I planned to tell my parents I was gay, and I expected they'd say that as far as they were concerned, I was still the best little boy in the world--but I had not yet in fact actually stepped up to the plate and made the announcement. My manuscript had gotten a little ahead of my real life.
"Well, then, fine," said my editor. "By the time the book comes out, it will be fact. So call it Epilogue. There's no such thing as a Proposed Epilogue."
"There is now!" I insisted.
After all, why not? How could this possibly matter to my editor? Surely it had nothing to do with selling the book or how it would be listed in Books in Print. But it was crucially important to me, because I had spent my entire life trying to be the best little boy in the world, trying never to lie ... and I had written the rest of the book, though disguised (it was Harvard, not Yale--that sort of thing), just as honestly as I possibly could, preposterous as that may sound to those of you who read it. (Yes, really: I was eighteen and a sophomore in college when I learned, by accident, to masturbate. One has to be honest-and-then-some to admit such things, even under a pen name.)
"Look," he said. "If you don't want to call it Epilogue, call it Chapter Sixteen."
This man was entirely missing the point. But after much back-and-forth I gave in. I figured, Well, this just gives me no out. I must tell them now, before the book appears, or else the book is dishonest. And they must say it's okay, or else I'm in deep trouble. Not only would I have the impossibility of losing their love and respect, I'd have the guilt of knowing that the entire two-sentence last chapter of my autobiography--"I told them. They said that so far as they were concerned, I was still the best little boy in the world"--was a lie.
I was virtually certain, having known them well for nearly twenty-five years, that their reaction would be as described. And I couldn't go any longer without telling them, anyway. It's one thing to keep the secret under ordinary circumstances. But to keep it when you were publishing a book about it, for crying out loud?
So I swallowed hard and agreed to Chapter 16.
A practical, courageous person at that point would have scheduled a dinner with his parents to tell them forthwith. That way, the matter would be resolved; and in the dread event their reaction were not as written, there'd be time to correct Chapter 16 in galleys (just before moving to Australia).
I am a practical person--very much so--but not particularly courageous.
I put it off.
After all, there would be nearly a year before the book actually hit the bookstores. In case this news would hurt the folks as much as I feared (though I was confident they'd still love me), why spring it on them any sooner than need be? I wasn't being a coward; I was being a good son!
The galleys arrived, and it was time to tell them. I just couldn't find the right moment.
A prepublication excerpt appeared in New York magazine (and they lived in New York). And I didn't tell them.
Of course, the excerpt was by "John Reid," and he went to Yale, not Harvard. But I got calls from friends I hadn't talked to in years--high school friends!--congratulating me on the excerpt. "Uh, what do you mean?" I would ask. "Well, the style is unmistakable," they'd reply.
All right, it wasn't dozens of calls, maybe just two. But if two high school friends I hadn't seen in years could figure it out, surely the Supreme Court (as I affectionately thought of them), who subscribed to this magazine--who bragged to all their friends that I was on the masthead of this magazine--would surely pick up on it, too.
For several weeks I was jumpy when the phone rang. But the dread call never came.
And then advance copies of the book arrived and I hadn't told them, and then it hit the stores (with a resounding "plip") and I hadn't told them, and then it was reviewed in The New York freaking TIMES, for crying out loud, and I hadn't told them.
I felt guilty; I felt odd (although perhaps I also felt a slight sense of living-dangerously exhilaration); and I just sort of pushed it to the back of the list of important things I definitely was going to do. Like writing a will.
In short, I lied.
I had not told them.
Meet the Author
Andrew Tobias was born in New York and attended Harvard College and Harvard Business School. He is the author of The Only Investment Guide You'll Ever Need, which has sold over one million copies, as well as eight other books, the most recent of which is My Vast Fortune. His work has appeared in Time, Worth, and Parade, and his name is well known to the computer buffs who for a decade used Andrew Tobias's Managing Your Money to take control of their finances. He has received both the Gerald Loeb Award for Distinguished Business and Financial Journalism and the Consumer Federation of America Media Service Award. He lives in Miami, New York, and firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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This second memoir from Andrew Tobias has as its message that the situation for gay people has improved dramatically over the past thirty years. He illustrates this thesis by telling the story of his own success (along with a few failures and embarassments). All this is done with a light touch. My frustrations with the book are probably a function of Tobias's friendly personality. He doesn't seem to dislike anyone. Anyone can change, and Andy thinks he can be a good influence. And I suppose he's right. Because he has wealth and ivy-league connections he can play a politics of schmoozing that most of us cannot, and he is very good at it. Tobias realizes that other people in other situations have other contributions to make. So his book is never patronizing. Those of us who use other political methods should return the favor.