Love Affair


A searing literary memoir of a disconnected childhood, a multigenerational upbringing and incest— from the daughter of legendary jazz pianist Stan Kenton

Leslie Kenton was the only child of Violet, a stunning Hitchcock blonde, and the legendary jazz giant Stan Kenton. The story takes place on the road in 1950s America and in the mania of Hollywood—a world of jazz clubs, dance halls and onenighters, where lives were lived on a razor’s edge.


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Love Affair

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A searing literary memoir of a disconnected childhood, a multigenerational upbringing and incest— from the daughter of legendary jazz pianist Stan Kenton

Leslie Kenton was the only child of Violet, a stunning Hitchcock blonde, and the legendary jazz giant Stan Kenton. The story takes place on the road in 1950s America and in the mania of Hollywood—a world of jazz clubs, dance halls and onenighters, where lives were lived on a razor’s edge.

Love Affair takes us beyond the bright lights and glamour into an intense, claustrophobic world of a father and the only child of his troubled marriage. As Stanley grapples with alcohol and his personal demons, gradually his actions threaten to destroy the only real, untainted thing in his life: Leslie.

A true story of obsession, tragedy and grace, Love Affair is Leslie Kenton’s powerful memoir. At its heart is the complex, ultimately incestuous, relationship with her father–a union so powerful it defines all that came after. As their lives become increasingly entangled, so do the forces of darkness and light that exist within us all, leading to destruction for him and heartbreaking redemption for her.

There have been memoirs about incest before, but Love Affair is a surprisingly moving and elegant treatment of a young life, shared passion, and boundaries crossed.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"Stan Kenton's orchestra captured the world's imagination in the late 1940s, just as other swing bands were fading. For the next three decades, he would be the most popular bandleader who played what was, essentially, art music. Unlike Count Basie's band, Kenton's didn't play primarily for dancers. Unlike Woody Herman's, it didn't have an entertaining, singing showman up front. Unlike Duke Ellington's, it didn't have a repertoire of well-known, original popular songs to bring in crowds. Yet Kenton was a master of marketing: He packaged and sold the concepts of newness and modernity to a pop-music audience.

At first his experiments ran parallel to the beboppers, who were likewise introducing a more sophisticated harmonic system into jazz. Along with Dizzy Gillespie, Kenton introduced Afro-Cuban polyrhythms to North America. And where Ellington famously disdained categories, Kenton reveled in creating terms like "artistry in rhythm" and "progressive jazz." His music was at once futuristic, masculine and highly romantic, and his fanatical followers were the jazz equivalent of Trekkies.

Onstage, though, Kenton seemed far from a wild-eyed avant-gardist; his manner was buttoned down and conservative. He never appeared in less than a suit and tie and conducted himself like a combination of college professor and church leader...Certainly bebop legend Art Pepper—a star of several Kenton orchestras who wrote a powerful memoir of his years as a junkie—perceived a world of difference between himself and his employer.

Yet "Love Affair"—a harrowing and intimate memoir by Kenton's daughter, Leslie—now reveals that he and Pepper were more alike than anyone realized. Mr. Sparke mentions that Kenton abused alcohol in later life; Ms. Kenton depicts her father as a lifelong alcoholic and such a troubled soul that you wonder at times how he could hold himself together well enough to keep his band going. Most shockingly, Ms. Kenton asserts that their own relationship was, for a time, incestuous.

Ms. Kenton's book is a fall-and-rise "recovery" memoir in the tradition of Lillian Roth's "I'll Cry Tomorrow" (1954). She worshipped her father in spite of his apparent shortcomings, and they bonded over a shared love of art and music. The tone she takes toward her father is one of forgiveness rather than accusation, and often the book reads like the tale of a taboo liaison (it's worth noting that she titled it "Love Affair," not "Daddy Dearest"). But keep in mind she was only 11 when, she says, he first forced himself on her, and only 13 when they broke the physical "affair" off.

Ms Kenton maintains that she and her father never stopped caring about each other, and she even seems to shield him from blame, claiming he suffered from dissociative identity disorder and portraying him as dominated by his controlling mother. Because Kenton had divorced Leslie's mother, her grandmother played an outsize role in her life as well. At one point, Ms. Kenton charges, her grandmother sent her off to a sanitarium without reason. On another occasion, she pushed her 10-year-old granddaughter to play "dress up" with a pair of creepy cross-dressers backstage at a theater in New York.

Fans of the bandleader, who have long been known for being insular and cultish, will be scandalized by the suggestion that his family life could be so sordid. In particular, they'll be horrified by the idea of Kenton as a victim rather than the one in control. Yet such revelations won't change the quality of the man's music, and in some ways Ms. Kenton's account is the most sympathetic and human portrait of the bandleader yet to be published."--Wall Street Journal 

Library Journal - BookSmack!
Born in 1941 to jazz musician Stanley Kenton, Leslie grew up surrounded by dysfunction. Alternately raised by unbalanced, abusive grandmothers and following her father's band, she watched her parents' marriage dissolve and spent her summers traveling with Stanley, acting as his support system while his mental state devolved. At one point, their relationship took a dramatic turn from which it could never recover.What I'm Telling My Friends An extremely difficult story of multigenerational abuse and father-daughter incest, this was one of the most challenging reads I've encountered. I'm still not entirely certain how I feel about it, but I admire Kenton's courage for facing her past and putting down her feelings with clarity and empathy. Approach cautiously. — "Memoir Short Takes," Booksmack! 2/3/11
Kirkus Reviews

The author chronicles a bizarre, tortuous journey from incest with her jazz-musician father to late-life healing.

Born in Los Angeles to a glamorous couple—Stanley Kenton was a jazz pianist and composer who was forging his own band, and Violet was the beautiful woman who believed in his dreams of success—filmmaker and health-book author Kenton (Raw Juicing, 2009, etc.) wasan only child and a somewhat awkward appendage to their show on the road. The anxious, fearful author grew up isolated from other children, her youth spent driving from city to city with her mother and father, staying in hotel rooms most nights. Stanley was a heavy pill-popper and alcohol abuser who was prone to wild mood swings, and his daughter "escaped into a world of my own making, away from the adult craziness around me." Eventually, her parents broke up, and Violet remarried and moved to another town. Kenton spent summers with her father. When she was 10, a series of shocking events robbed the child of her innocence, beginning with an afternoon in New York spent playing dress-up and stripping with a bunch of theater people—an outing apparently engineered by her paternal grandmother, Stella, a highly shadowy figure in this narrative. Kenton's closeness with her father—they often slept in the same bed—transformed into a sexual relationship over the next three years. She adored him but learned to dissociate herself, unable to deal with the emotional conflicts required to keep their secret. The book is full of these gaps, in memory and detail, yet the undertow of feeling is powerful. The girl's increasingly erratic behavior (mysterious illnesses, an attempted suicide) began to alarm her flipped-out dad and evil grandmother Stella, who took advantage of Stanley's absence to rehabilitate the 13-year-old, drugging her and sending her secretly to a sanatorium for electro-convulsive therapy.

Kenton tells a truly harrowing story of the violence inflicted on her younger self, and she writes eloquently of the time and therapy that allowed her to heal.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781250002754
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 1/17/2012
  • Pages: 384
  • Sales rank: 799,817
  • Product dimensions: 5.70 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

LESLIE KENTON is an award-winning writer, broadcaster and filmmaker who has written more than thirty books on health, beauty and spirituality, many of them bestsellers in the UK. She conceived the Origins product line for Estee Lauder, and was the first chairperson of The Natural Medicine Society in Great Britain. She lives in London and New Zealand.

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