Swans and Pistols: Modeling, Motherhood, and Making It in the Me Generation

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A vivid portrait of a woman finding her place in the glamorous world of Los Angeles in the 1960s and 1970s?perfect for readers of high-flying memoirs such as Pattie Boyd?s Wonderful Tonight.

Fashion icon, Broadway and Hollywood insider, mob mistress, confidante to notorious gang members of both Crips and Bloods, wife, mother, award-winning journalist, L?on Bing has not followed the typical path through life. From her formative relationship with her mother to her days as a star ...

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Swans and Pistols: Modeling, Motherhood, and Making It in the Me Generation

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Overview

A vivid portrait of a woman finding her place in the glamorous world of Los Angeles in the 1960s and 1970s—perfect for readers of high-flying memoirs such as Pattie Boyd’s Wonderful Tonight.

Fashion icon, Broadway and Hollywood insider, mob mistress, confidante to notorious gang members of both Crips and Bloods, wife, mother, award-winning journalist, Léon Bing has not followed the typical path through life. From her formative relationship with her mother to her days as a star model to her sisterly relationship with Mama Cass Elliot and ultimate reinvention as the author of the bestselling gang exposé, Do or Die, Swans and Pistols details Bing’s always exciting and sometimes dangerous life. In a series of riveting stories of unconventionality, Bing wrestles with the themes of mothers, daughters, and reinvention—a concept inseparable from the experience of her early adult life in the 1960s and the city she called home.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"A... traipse through the world of fashion and film [that] also reveals the struggles of a modern working woman... Though it’s entertaining to read about Cher’s baby shower, her brush with Warren Beatty at the Troubadour or her close friendship with Cass Elliot... there are profound, poignant moments as well... In these recollections, the author’s writing finds a steady rhythm that effectively conveys her passion, trepidation and love—what seems to be the real Bing underneath the famous model exterior. Worth reading... for the author’s ability to trace her journey through the many joys and obstacles of life in the modern era." —Kirkus Reviews

"A namedropping delight, full of brushups with the rich and famous—Bing had a several years’ long affair with artist Ed Ruscha, was close friends with Mama Cass and hobnobbed with plenty of actors. Bing can turn a lovely phrase... The book really comes alive near the end when curiosity about homeless kids in Venice, Calif., leads her to write an article that unexpectedly launches her journalism career." —Publishers Weekly

Publishers Weekly
Everyone may have a story in them, but the memoir of former 1960s model-turned-journalist Bing raises the question: does every story need to be told? Bing, who wrote the award-winning gang exposéDo or Die, is less successful at turning her journalist's eye on her own life. The book starts slowly with exposition-heavy memories of her childhood, in which she was raised by her wealthy grandparents and saw her aloof mother only on weekends. The book takes on color when Bing begins to work as a runway model in New York, mainly because of the high-profile people who populate her stories, from mobster Micky Cohen to director Mike Nichols and composer and lyricist Stephen Sondheim. In fact, the book is a name-dropping delight, full of brushups with the rich and famous—Bing had a several years' long affair with artist Ed Ruscha, was close friends with Mama Cass and hobnobbed with plenty of actors. While Bing can turn a lovely phrase and displays intelligence, the book is so outwardly focused that Bing herself seems merely a bit player in her own life. The book really comes alive near the end when curiosity about homeless kids in Venice, Calif., leads her to write an article that unexpectedly launches her journalism career. (Nov.)
Kirkus Reviews
A diverting traipse through the world of fashion and film also reveals the struggles of a modern working woman. Born in Oakland, former model Bing (A Wrongful Death: One Child's Fatal Encounter with Public Health and Private Greed, 1997, etc.) grew up privileged in most ways, attending boarding school and then embarking on a successful modeling career in New York and Los Angeles. She spends a large part of the book discussing her friendships and acquaintances with big names like Mickey Cohen (the famous West Coast gangster), David Merrick (the Tony Award-winning theater producer) and Edward Ruscha (the successful pop artist). Though it's entertaining to read about Cher's baby shower, her brush with Warren Beatty at the Troubadour or her close friendship with Cass Elliot, this aspect of the book rings somewhat hollow, as though she is telling her audience what she thinks they want to hear from a famous model. Amid the name-dropping and mentions of casual drug use, however, there are profound, poignant moments as well, such as her discussion of her close-knit yet unconventional family; her open fascination with the lives of street kids and gangsters, which helped inspire her writing career; and her heart-wrenching chronicle of her once-vibrant and stylish mother's decline into sweatsuit-wearing self-starvation. In these recollections, the author's writing finds a steady rhythm that effectively conveys her passion, trepidation and love-what seems to be the real Bing underneath the famous model exterior. Worth reading not for its revelations about famous names, but for the author's ability to trace her journey through the many joys and obstacles of life in the modern era. Author events in LosAngeles. Agent: Neil Olson/Donadio & Olson
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781596914810
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
  • Publication date: 10/27/2009
  • Pages: 240
  • Product dimensions: 6.42 (w) x 9.60 (h) x 0.88 (d)

Meet the Author

A former model, Léon Bing is the author of Do or Die, a profile of the archrival gangs the Bloods and the Crips, which she wrote after spending extensive periods of time among the two factions. She lives in Los Angeles.

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted February 14, 2011

    HIGHLY Recommend

    Leon is one hell of a writer. From her true-crime nonfiction to her NY Times bestseller expose on gangs DO OR DIE, she will draw you in with a single word.
    This piece is better still because its about HER, a fashion model, who hung out with legendary artists, big name musicians, and infamous actors. She not only knew them, she observed them with an intuition, a sensitivity and an intellect rare in such a beauty. Don't miss this first-hand account of an important time in our cultural history.

    Havuk88

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