Lucky Man: A Memoir

Lucky Man: A Memoir

4.4 157
by Michael J. Fox

View All Available Formats & Editions

A funny, highly personal, gorgeously written account of what it's like to be a 30-year-old man who is told he has an 80-year-old's disease.

"Life is great. Sometimes, though, you just have to put up with a little more crap." --Michael J. Fox

In September 1998, Michael J. Fox stunned the world by announcing he had been diagnosed with Parkinson's

…  See more details below


A funny, highly personal, gorgeously written account of what it's like to be a 30-year-old man who is told he has an 80-year-old's disease.

"Life is great. Sometimes, though, you just have to put up with a little more crap." --Michael J. Fox

In September 1998, Michael J. Fox stunned the world by announcing he had been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease -- a degenerative neurological condition. In fact, he had been secretly fighting it for seven years. The worldwide response was staggering. Fortunately, he had accepted the diagnosis and by the time the public started grieving for him, he had stopped grieving for himself. Now, with the same passion, humor, and energy that Fox has invested in his dozens of performances over the last 18 years, he tells the story of his life, his career, and his campaign to find a cure for Parkinson's.

Combining his trademark ironic sensibility and keen sense of the absurd, he recounts his life -- from his childhood in a small town in western Canada to his meteoric rise in film and television which made him a worldwide celebrity. Most importantly however, he writes of the last 10 years, during which -- with the unswerving support of his wife, family, and friends -- he has dealt with his illness. He talks about what Parkinson's has given him: the chance to appreciate a wonderful life and career, and the opportunity to help search for a cure and spread public awareness of the disease. He is a very lucky man, indeed.

The Michael J. Fox Foundation

Michael J. Fox is donating the profits from his book to the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research, which is dedicated to fast-forwarding the cure for Parkinson's disease. The Foundation will move aggressively to identify the most promising research and raise the funds to assure that a cure is found for the millions of people living with this disorder. The Foundation's web site,, carries the latest pertinent information about Parkinson's disease, including:

--A detailed description of Parkinson's disease
--How you can help find the cure
--Public Services Announcements that are aired on network and cable television stations across the country to increase awareness
--Upcoming related Parkinson's disease events and meetings
--Updates on recent research and developments

Read More

Editorial Reviews

Vito F Sinisi
Why does Michael J. Fox consider himself a "lucky man?" Most of us would be devastated to discover we'd contracted a severe and apparently incurable neurological disease. And if our livelihood depended on appearing before the camera, and being funny, you'd think the news would be even more difficult to deal with. To Fox, though, it was a desperately necessary wake-up call. Here is the revealing, heartfelt, and ultimately inspirational story of an entertainment icon who found his world shattered and decided to put himself together again, better than ever.

Product Details

Hachette Books
Publication date:
Sold by:
Hachette Digital, Inc.
Sales rank:
File size:
593 KB
Age Range:
13 - 18 Years

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Gainesville, Florida-November 1990

I woke up to find the message in my left hand. It had me trembling. It wasn't a fax, telegram, memo, or the usual sort of missive bringing disturbing news. In fact, my hand held nothing at all. The trembling was the message.

I was feeling a little disoriented. I'd only been shooting the movie in Florida for a week or so, and the massive, pink-lacquered, four-poster bed surrounded by the pastel hues of the University Center Hotel's Presidential Suite still came as a bit of a shock each morning. Oh yeah: and I had a ferocious hangover. That was less shocking.

    It was a Tuesday morning, so while I couldn't recall the exact details of the previous night's debauchery, it was a pretty safe bet that it had something to do with Monday Night Football. In those first few seconds of consciousness, I didn't know what time it was, but I could be fairly certain that I hadn't overslept. If I was needed on set, there would have been a phone call from my assistant, Brigette. If I had to leave the hotel at 10:00 A.M., let's say, she would have called at 9:30, again at 9:40, then finally at 9:50 she would have taken the elevator from her floor up to mine, let herself into my room, propelled me to the shower, and slipped into the kitchen to brew a pot of coffee. None of that having transpired, I knew I had at least a few minutes.

    Even with the lights off, blinds down, and drapes pulled, an offensive amount of light still filtered into the room. Eyes clenched shut, I placed the palm of my left hand across the bridge of my nose in a weak attempt to block the glare. A moth's wing—or so I thought—fluttered against my right cheek. I opened my eyes, keeping my hand suspended an inch or two in front of my face so I could finger-flick the little beastie across the room. That's when I noticed my pinkie. It was trembling, twitching, auto-animated. How long this had been going on I wasn't exactly sure. But now that I noticed it, I was surprised to discover that I couldn't stop it.

    Weird—maybe I slept on it funny. Five or six times in rapid succession I pumped my left hand into a fist, followed by a vigorous shaking out. Interlocking the fingers of each hand steeple-style with their opposite number, I lifted them up and over behind my head and pinned them to the pillow.

    Tap. Tap. Tap. Like a moisture-free Chinese water torture, I could feel a gentle drumming at the back of my skull. If it was trying to get my attention, it had succeeded. I withdrew my left hand from behind my head and held it in front of my face, steadily, with fingers splayed—like the bespectacled X-ray glasses geek in the old comic book ad. I didn't have to see the underlying skeletal structure; the information I was looking for was right there in the flesh: a thumb, three stock-still fingers, and out there on the lunatic fringe, a spastic pinkie.

    It occurred to me that this might have something to do with my hangover, or more precisely, with alcohol. I'd put away a lot of beers in my time, but had never woken up with the shakes; maybe this was what they called delirium tremens? I was pretty sure they would manifest themselves in a more impressive way—I mean, who gets the d.t.'s in one finger? Whatever this was, it wasn't alcoholic deterioration.

    Now I did a little experimentation. I found that if I grabbed my finger with my right hand, it would stop moving. Released, it would keep still for four or five seconds, and then, like a cheap wind-up toy, it would whir back to life again. Hmmm. What had begun as curiosity was now blossoming into full-fledged worry. The trembling had been going on for a few minutes with no sign of quitting and my brain, fuzzy as it was, scrambled to come up with an explanation. Had I hit my head, injured myself in some way? The tape of the previous night's events was grainy at best. There were a lot of blank spots on it, but there were a couple of possibilities too.

    Woody Harrelson was in Gainesville with me on this film, and he had been in the bar the night before—maybe we'd had one of our legendary drunken slap fights. Woody and I were (and remain) close friends, but for some reason after an indeterminable amount of alcohol consumption, we'd find some excuse to start kicking over chairs and stage elaborate mock brawls. No harm was intended, and the majority of punches were pulled, but Woody is a foot taller and fifty pounds heavier than me, which meant that whenever the game got out of hand, I was always the one that took the most serious ass-kicking. So maybe I'd caught a Harrelson haymaker to the side of the head.

    But I couldn't recall any such melee. I did recall, however, a moment at the end of the night, when my bodyguard, Dennis, had had to prop me up against the door frame while he fumbled the key into the door of my suite. By the time he'd turned the knob, my weight had shifted onto the door itself; as he flung it open I'd careened into the room, barreling headfirst into the foyer table. But I didn't feel any bumps, so that couldn't have been it. Any pain in my head was from boozing, not bruising.

Throughout the course of the morning, the twitching would intensify, as would my search for a cause—not just for the rest of that day, but for months to follow. The true answer was elusive, and in fact wouldn't reveal itself for another full year. The trembling was indeed the message, and this is what it was telling me:

That morning—November 13, 1990—my brain was serving notice: it had initiated a divorce from my mind. Efforts to contest or reconcile would be futile; eighty percent of the process, I would later learn, was already complete. No grounds were given, and the petition was irrevocable. Further, my brain was demanding, and incrementally seizing, custody of my body, beginning with the baby: the outermost finger of my left hand.

    Ten years later, knowing what I do now, this mind-body divorce strikes me as a serviceable metaphor—though at the time it was a concept well beyond my grasp. I had no idea there were even problems in the relationship—just assumed things were pretty good between the old gray matter and me. This was a false assumption. Unbeknownst to me, things had been deteriorating long before the morning of the pinkie rebellion. But by declaring its dysfunction in such an arresting fashion, my brain now had my mind's full attention.

    It would be a year of questions and false answers that would satisfy me for a time, fueling my denial and forestalling the sort of determined investigation that would ultimately provide the answer. That answer came from a doctor who would inform me that I had a progressive, degenerative, and incurable neurological disorder; one that I may have been living with for as long as a decade before suspecting there might be anything wrong. This doctor would also tell me that I could probably continue acting for "another ten good years," and he would be right about that, almost to the day. What he did not tell me—what no one could—is that these last ten years of coming to terms with my disease would turn out to be the best ten years of my life—not in spite of my illness, but because of it.

    I have referred to it in interviews as a gift—something for which others with this affliction have taken me to task. I was only speaking from my own experience, of course, but I stand partially corrected: if it is a gift, it's the gift that just keeps on taking.

    Coping with the relentless assault and the accumulating damage is not easy. Nobody would ever choose to have this visited upon them. Still, this unexpected crisis forced a fundamental life decision: adopt a siege mentality—or embark upon a journey. Whatever it was—courage? acceptance? wisdom?—that finally allowed me to go down the second road (after spending a few disastrous years on the first) was unquestionably a gift—and absent this neurophysiological catastrophe, I would never have opened it, or been so profoundly enriched. That's why I consider myself a lucky man.

Recognizing just how much irony figures in my story, I recently looked the word up in the dictionary:

irony n. expression of meaning by use of words normally conveying opposite meaning; apparent perversity of fate or circumstances.

The definition floored me, particularly the second part, in italics. Now I looked up the word perverse: "directed away from what is right or good ..." and realized that here was yet another rich irony. Despite appearances, this disease has unquestionably directed me toward what is right or good. I went back to the first definition—expression of meaning by use of words normally conveying opposite meaning; apparent perversity of fate or circumstances—and smiled. How ironic.

    Here's one more "apparent perversity": If you were to rush into this room right now and announce that you had struck a deal—with God, Allah, Buddha, Christ, Krishna, Bill Gates, whomever—in which the ten years since my diagnosis could be magically taken away, traded in for ten more years as the person I was before—I would, without a moment's hesitation, tell you to take a hike.

    I am no longer the person described in the first few pages of this chapter, and I am forever grateful for that. I would never want to go back to that life—a sheltered, narrow existence fueled by fear and made liveable by insulation, isolation, and self-indulgence. It was a life lived in a bubble—but bubbles, being the most fragile constructions, are easily destroyed. All it takes is a little finger.

New York—fully 1990

In order to illustrate the full dimensions of the bubble in which I lived and to trace the events leading up to that fateful morning in Gainesville, I need to go back a few months, and then back a few months more. The story would start, not in a hotel room in Florida, but inside my dressing room—trailer, parked in the Lower East Side. Anyone who's ever come across a film crew shooting on the streets in Manhattan, Los Angeles, or any other American city has seen one of these motor mansions and wondered about the thespian holed up inside. You know we're in there, we know you're out there, and—to put the interests of candor over public relations—we like it that way. The trailer is one of the many bubbles within the bubble.

On this particular early afternoon, I had a visitor to my trailer, a man I'd never met before. Michael Caton-Jones looked a mess, and that's meant as a compliment—believing, as I do, in a bit of wisdom gleaned from amongst the more scatological offerings scrawled on a toilet stall door in Vancouver's Arts Club Theatre, circa 1978: A creative mess is better than an idle tidiness. Shambling into my motor home, Caton-Jones was dripping sweat. His full, ruddy face unshaven, he wore the kind of loose-fitting, mismatched, thrift-store ensemble that was trendy in the summer of 1990, but that he would have worn regardless.

    Handshakes, quick, friendly "Good-to-meet-you's" out of the way, he sprawled sideways across one of the Winnebago's two swivel chairs, threadbare from the asses of a thousand actors. "Have you got a beer?"—in a thick Scots burr, more of a mutter than a request. I liked this guy already.

    Pulling a Molson's from the mini-fridge, I considered one myself, but instead grabbed a Diet Pepsi—which, contrary to popular belief, was my second favorite carbonated beverage. With several scenes remaining on the day's schedule, alcohol was not an option.

    It was a blistering July day, the kind that feels especially oppressive in New York City. Heat like that, if you're angry, just makes you madder still, and from outside on the street, above the rattle and drone of traffic, I could hear voices pitched in fury. We were in the Alphabet City section of Manhattan, working on The Hard Way. We were technically on lunch break; shooting had been delayed much of the morning because a hastily organized act of civil disobedience blocked our access to the set. A homeless group was protesting outside, pissed off—justifiably—because the city had rousted them from the abandoned tenement they had been occupying. "Unsafe stairwells," the city had told them—then apparently turned around and sold Universal Pictures a film permit to haul thousands of pounds of lighting and camera equipment up those same stairs.

    While producers, film commission reps, homeless activists, and city officials huddled in the production trailer trying to hammer out an accord, Mike and I enjoyed the sporadic bursts of air conditioning kicked out by the portable generator and talked movies. Warner Brothers wanted me for a project called Doc Hollywood, and with an eye toward green-lighting production that fall, they had flown a few potential directors out to New York to meet me, each pitching his particular take on the material. Caton-Jones was the latest candidate to pay a visit. Not knowing much about the guy—based in London, snooty sounding, veddy British hyphenated name—I was surprised and relieved to meet this working-class kid from Glasgow, early thirties at the oldest. His most recent work, Memphis Belle, a WWII drama about the final mission of the legendary bomber, was, I thought, a remarkably confident piece of work for such a young director. What he really wanted to do next, he announced, was make a Capra-esque American comedy.

    Seated across from each other at the fold-down dinette table, I picked through an oily catering truck salad while he sipped his beer. We debated the best films of Frank Capra, the great populist director whose classics—Mr. Smith Goes to Washington and It's a Wonderful Life—had lightened the hearts of Depression-era audiences. These were among Michael's favorites, along with Meet John Doe starring Gary Cooper and Barbara Stanwyck. A romantic evening early in my relationship with Tracy had started out with a video of It Happened One Night—so I had to put that wry, sexy 1939 Clark Gable-Claudette Colbert comedy at the top of my list.

    The mention of Colbert led us to 1942's The Palm Beach Story, directed not by Capra, but a director/screenwriter we agreed had had an even greater influence on us both: Preston Sturges. In tribute to Sturges, master of the American screwball comedy, Mike said he had named his production company "The Ale and Quail Club," after the train car full of rowdy, hilariously shit-faced millionaires in Palm Beach Story. For my part, I confessed that the movie I was working on owed a small debt to Sturges's masterpiece, Sullivan's Travels. In The Hard Way, I was playing a spoiled young Hollywood movie star who, after traveling incognito to New York, tags alongside a reluctant NYPD detective as research for a role that, he is convinced, will finally get him taken seriously as a dramatic actor—you can see how I could relate. In Sturges's film, Joel McCrea is a director who assumes the life of a hobo, an experience that, he is convinced, will prepare him to tell a cinematic story possessing much deeper social relevance than the silly but popular comedies that have brought him fame and riches. McCrea's character eventually discovers that the films he was already making had great meaning for his escape-hungry audiences. I discovered, in the end, that The Hard Way owed less to Sullivan's Travels than it did to Beverly Hills Cop, Cobra, or any of a number of other big-budget action movies.

    Interrupted by a knock on the door, we looked up to see Charlie Croughwell enter, unbidden and apologetic. An inch or so shorter than me, ten pounds less body and twenty pounds more muscle, Charlie is even tougher than he looks—and he looks like George Raft.

    "Sorry, Mike ... but it doesn't look like we're getting inside that building today, so they're setting up to toss you through the barroom window in about a half an hour."

Excerpted from Lucky Man by Michael J. Fox. Copyright © 2002 by Michael J. Fox. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Read More

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network


Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >

Lucky Man: A Memoir 4.4 out of 5 based on 1 ratings. 157 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Michael J. Fox was born in Edmonton in 1961. Residing in Burnaby, British Columbia, while his father was in the Royal Canadian Army Signal Corps, he recounts growing up with parents, siblings, Nana, and friends. Describing himself in the toddler years, Michael says, '¿ a handful, a whirlwind¿ precociously funny in a what-spaceship-dropped-off-this-alien kind of way.' Michael's early love of music, specifically the guitar (self-taught), was fruitful as a member in the 'Halex' band. His love of drama and art was realized at age sixteen when Michael made his debut as a twelve-year old in the Canadian Broadcasting Company's production of the series 'Leo and Me'. Fox's American career was launched with Disney in 'Midnight Madness'. Career credits include the theater screen with 'Back to the Future', 'Teen Wolf', and 'Doc Hollywood'; and popular television series, 'Family Ties' (on the set, Michael met actress/wife Tracy Pollan), and 'Spin City'. With humor Michael describes success, '¿those who got, get', i.e., if famous and with fortune, free offers abound. Just the mention of his favorite beer in a conversation, brought a truckload of the beverage to his front door¿ with a promise of more anytime he wanted it! Fox's emotional journey in facing the reality of the diagnosis of Young Onset Parkinson's Disease (PD) began in 1990 with the twitching of a finger. In LUCKY MAN, Fox approaches his story with wit, positive attitude and honesty, emotions, and the trials in the continuation of his career. The diagnosis of PD was understandably kept from the public for seven years¿ shared only with his inner circle of family and trusted associates. Michael experienced the ritual commonly traversed with diagnosis of debilitating diseases including anger, denial and acceptance. Candidly, Fox tells his faults, ups and downs, the highs and lows of life and show biz, his philosophy, and the thrill of playing hockey against Bobby Orr. In admitting his problem with alcohol and the existence of PD, Michael is led to a therapist and engages a permanent neurologist for treatment of his illness. As an advocate for PD research funding, Fox has testified before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee Hearing. His campaigning efforts, continued to this day, have had a definite effect on raising awareness of PD in the public and private sectors. Specifically, the acknowledgement that PD is prevalent in earlier ages vs. the medical textbooks statement that PD is diagnosed in later ages of 50-65 years. The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Disease Research has become a passion in his life. To this date, the exact cause of PD is unknown. LUCKY MAN is not only biographical, it is a highly-informational writing with regard to the progression and research of PD. Medications associated with treatment are described, differing in results with each person. Fox says of his release of the diagnosed illness to the public, 'Disclosure had allowed me to rearrange life so that I could get more from it.' Michael J. Fox possesses obvious penchant for writing. His exceptional narrative in LUCKY MAN is philosophical, uplifting and insightful. While reading LUCKY MAN, I laughed and I cried. I am in awe of Michael J. Fox for his honesty, humility, compassion, and courage (that includes wife/actress Tracy Pollan and his four children). [Note: The author's profits from the sale of 'Lucky Man' are donated by the author to The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research. Please visit the author's website:]
yellowdaisy More than 1 year ago
I never thought it possible to admire someone more than I do Michael J. Fox. He writes in a way that makes you feel like you are sitting there listening to him talk. His story really makes you think about your own life and how you would handle things if you were in his situation. I found his book to be inspiring and enjoyable on so many levels. Great actor, great writer, awesome human being.
krazikate57 More than 1 year ago
This book, purchased in the Summer... took with me on vacation. Didn't take more than 2 days to read it. After completion, I realized just how lucky I am to have my health and my family. Great book, easy read, makes you think. Michael J. Fox is an inspiration to us all.
pierre-orourke More than 1 year ago
Michael J. Fox's autobiography is one of the top I have ever read, especially for those of a celebrity nature. Buddy Ebsen's "The Other Side of Oz" would be one of the others. "Cagney by Cagney" is another. Having worked with many celebs, I have never met Mike but now count him as one of my heroes. He points out his luck and his hard-work, but what's more impressive to me...he points out where he basically screwed the pooch in his life, and luckily survived to tell. And he does so in a totally non-self-praising manner. His writing style is unique, and able to share humor in the places a person might need it the most. I think Jimmy Cagney would have adored this book.
bookholiday More than 1 year ago
I have always been a fan of Michael Fox and so naturally I had to read this book and can say I was pleasantly surprised. Loved it
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Everyone knows that Michael J. Fox is a tremendous actor who has managed to put together and sustain a terrific career. However, I had no idea that he was such a talented writer. I was surprised at how passionate he is about all of the wonderful things in his life (especially his family). Lucky Man is a journey through the struggles and successes of a man overcoming many obstacles in his life to become an example of strength and faith at there best.
SecondRunReviews More than 1 year ago
An engaging memoir of an actor many of us watched grow up on TV and in movies. Can't wait to read the follow up.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I have loved Michael J. Fox ever since I saw him in Back to the Futrue. I loved this book because it gave you an inside look at his life and how he had problems to deal with like a normal person. He was very open with some of the problems that he has had to face and overcome, like alchoholism and learning how to deal with everyday life and still have Parkinson's Disease. While I was reading this book, I loved how he showed us as the reader that he is just like everyone else. He goes through tough problems and questioning situations about his disease that everyone else would probably ask too. What I didn't like about the book was that it was a biography about his life and not just about dealing with Parkinson's Disease. Overall I found this book to be motivational and moving. He is a great man and I admire him for coming out about the disease and not letting the disease controll him but how he's controlling the disease and making an effort in trying to find a cure. I recommend this book to anyone that has lost someone to an uncureable disease or that is going though a tough time with alchoholism. This book will show everyone that it's ok to deal with problems but to never let the problems controll you.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Michael J. Fox's 'Lucky Man' is a wonderful read about the life and times of the great actor. This biography allows the reader to view Fox's life pre-fame, through movies and into his fight with Parkinson's disease, the hardest obstical he is forced to face. After coming out with his disease, Fox became a large activist in curing Parkinson's with stem cell research and continues to promote it while still keeping his position in show-biz. One of the major themes in this book is taught by Fox himself, to take whats given to you and make the best out of it. many times Fox looks back at how 'lucky' he was to get to where he is today. The high point, or crux of this book had to be his discovery of his illness and how he took action to it, his overall positive outlook. I greatly enjoyed this book, and as a fellow actor I look up to successes like Michael J. Fox and how he maanged to continue his dream through his stugles and sufferage from Parkinson's. The one dislike I have about this book would be the first few chapters, which seemed to drag on a little. I would highly recomend this book for a read if you are a young actor like myself who can only dream of attaining the goals which Fox has already surpased.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Sometimes when you give up on everything around you and feel that life has been unjust to you, One should always think about the ways to enjoy what he has instead of keeping his eyes fixed on things and goals he might not ever reach...This book was so inspiring for me, I ve always respected Michael J. Fox he's one of the remaining few...
Anonymous 6 months ago
MJF writes with such honesty and openness, such wisdom and powerful insights. He's such a brave and incredible man, so thankful that wrote this to share and inspire us all.
Anonymous 8 months ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
If you've not read any of Michael J. Fox's books, I recommend you do so. I started with "Lucky Man" and thoroughly enjoyed it. I found his writing to be articulate, insightful, and entertaining. His experiences are also a wonderful reminder about the power of positive thinking and tenacity. For those of us who grew up watching him in his roles as an actor and advocate, this is also an intriguing walk down memory lane with an entirely new, very personal perspective.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Loved the entire book.  Hated when i had to put it down. As I came to the last pages I wanted more. Recommend this book very much.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Pat-in_IL More than 1 year ago
I was very impressed with this book. It gave not only the story behind the man and his career, but also the details of a illness that affects so many people of all ages. As someone who has a family member with PD, it gave me a better understanding of the aspects, symptoms and treatments available.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
If you enjoyed him on tv and in theaters and want to know more.....then this is your book. From starting his movie career to being diognosed with parkinson 's he tells you how he felt and how lucky a man he is. I especially loved the part where he talks about how he first fell in love with Tracy. Sorry about the spelling errors.