Symptoms of Withdrawal: A Memoir of Snapshots and Redemptionby Christopher Kennedy Lawford
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Born into enormous privilege as well as burdened by gut-wrenching family tragedy, Christopher Kennedy Lawford now shares his life story, offering a rare glimpse into the private worlds of the rich and famous of both Washington politics and the Hollywood elite. A triumphantly inspiring memoir, the first from a Kennedy family member since Rose Kennedy's 1974 autobiography, Lawford's Symptoms of Withdrawal tells the bittersweet truth about life inside America's greatest family legacy.
As the firstborn child of famed Rat Pack actor Peter Lawford and Patricia Kennedy, sister to John F. Kennedy, Christopher Kennedy Lawford grew up with presidents and movie stars as close relatives and personal friends.
Lawford recalls Marilyn Monroe teaching him to dance the twist in his living room when he was still a toddler, being awakened late at night by his uncle Jack to hear him announce his candidacy for president, being perched atop a high-roller craps table in Las Vegas while Frank Sinatra and his Rat Pack swapped jokes and threw dice, and other treasured memories of his youth as part of America's royal family.
In spite of this seemingly idyllic childhood, Lawford's early life was marked by the traumatic assassinations of his beloved uncles Jack and Bobby, and he soon succumbed to the burgeoning drug scene of the 1970s during his teen years. With compelling realism mixed with equal doses of self-deprecating wit, youthful bravado, and hard-earned humility, Symptoms of Withdrawal chronicles Lawford's deep and long descent into near-fatal drug and alcohol addiction, and his subsequent formidable path back to the sobriety he has preserved for the past twenty years.
Symptoms of Withdrawal is apoignantly honest portrayal of Lawford's life as a Kennedy, a journey overflowing with hilarious insider anecdotes, heartbreaking accounts of Lawford's addictions to narcotics as well as to celebrity and, ultimately, the redemption he found by asserting his own independence.
In this groundbreakingly courageous and exceptionally well-written memoir, Lawford steps forward to rise above the buried pain that first led to his addiction, and today lives mindfully by his time-tested mantra: "We are only as sick as the secrets we keep." Symptoms of Withdrawal keeps no secrets and is a compelling testament to the power of truth.
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Symptoms of WithdrawalA Memoir of Snapshots and Redemption
By Christopher Lawford
HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.Copyright © 2005 Christopher Lawford
All right reserved.
That's the beauty of life.
What happens when you are born with the American dream fulfilled? The dreams that drew my ancestors here had been realized for me at my birth. I was born just off the beach in Malibu, California. My father, Peter Lawford, was a movie star and a member of the Rat Pack. My mother's brother Jack would be president of the United States. I was given wealth, power, and fame when I drew my first breath. Now what?
My mother gave birth to me in Saint John's hospital in Santa Monica, California, on March 29, 1955, on the same day that Judy Garland gave birth to her son, Joe, in the same hospital. I was named Christopher because my mom liked the name and had a thing for Saint Christopher -- the giant Catholic saint who carried the baby Jesus and the sins of the world on his shoulders. I received a Saint Christopher medal on every birthday until he was decanonized when I was fourteen because the church determined that the evidence of his existence was entirely legendary. My name lost a bit of its luster on that day, and I remember wondering if the Church might be able to negate my existence also.
The circumstances of my birth were further extolled because Judy was up for an Academy Award that year for A Star Is Born and the press was keeping a vigil. Western Union delivered a boatload of telegrams to my parents from those known and unknown.
We're so happy for you both. He'll be quite a boy. Love -- Jeanne and Dean MartinDear friends -- I'm so happy for you both and may I say you picked my favorite hospital for this epic event -- and I'm a man who knows about hospitals. Hello to sister Mary David -- Bing Crosby
"Quite a boy."
I was just out of the womb and there were already lofty expectations from some pretty accomplished folk. Uh-oh! I better get my shit together.
So thrilled for you both. Love Gary & Rocky Cooper
My aunt Ethel sent a telegram that read: What a difference a day makes. Whew. Little Ethel
She should know. She was pregnant at the time with her fourth child, David Kennedy, who would be born two and half months later and become my "best friend to the bitter end."
So Judy's son, Joe, and I were born on the same day to movie star parents in Hollywood, California, and the media were paying attention. From the moment I came into this world, I have had a bizarre and constant relationship with the media. They were rarely there to take a picture of me or get a quote from me, but I was always in the mix -- in the glow. I have known many people who have been touched by fame. For most of them -- whether movie stars, politicians, artists, or criminals -- it only lasts a short time. They go from ordinary to extraordinary and back again in the blink of an eye, but the damage done can last a lifetime. Once you have had a taste of the glare, it's hard to step back into shadows.
My family has maintained its currency with the press for most of my life. Very little we did went unnoticed. A flashbulb or television camera highlighted the ordinary events of life. Years later when I got sober, I realized for the first time that I thought everybody on the planet woke up every day and wondered what Chris Lawford and the rest of the Kennedy family were up to that day. In fact, it was something of a rude awakening when a friend of mine pointed out to me that "there are a billion people in China who don't know who your family is or more importantly, Chris, who you are!"
At the moment of my birth, my father was having lunch down the street at one of his hangouts, an ornate and hip Chinese bistro on Wilshire Boulevard named for its proprietor, the mysterious and ever-present Madame Wu. He was throwing down some of Madame's famous Chinese chicken salad with his sidekick and manager, Milt Ebbins, and talking to Cary Grant about the current state of affairs in Hollywood, as he awaited the call announcing the birth of his first child. Cary was reassuring him. Not about becoming a father but about his career.
"Don't worry, old man. As soon as you get a little gray in your hair, you'll work all the time. I didn't work for two years, my temples got gray, and it was a whole new ball game."
My dad began feeling a bit more optimistic, and then the call came. He thanked Cary for the encouragement by paying the tab and beat it to Saint John's, with the ever-present Milt in tow, just in time to see my mom being wheeled, semiconscious, out of the OR. A half hour later, he opened the door to her room to find her sitting up in bed with a bottle of J&B Scotch, ready to celebrate. "Come on in, boys, we've got a big beautiful boy. Let's have a drink." A few minutes later, the big beautiful boy was delivered to his celebrating mom and dad. My father looked down at me, saw my rather pronounced oriental features, and declared, "That's not my kid. He looks Chinese. Hey, wait a minute, Pat, wasn't the gardener Asian?" They laughed. And had another scotch.
My dad was right. I did look Asian. I was born with a Mongolian fold, which means that my eyelids droop slightly over my eyes. This condition is also referred to as "bedroom eyes" and I have milked it happily all my life. Thanks, Dad.
Excerpted from Symptoms of Withdrawal by Christopher Lawford Copyright © 2005 by Christopher Lawford.
Excerpted by permission.
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Meet the Author
Christopher Kennedy Lawford is the New York Times bestselling author of Symptoms of Withdrawal. He has worked extensively in Hollywood as an actor, lawyer, executive, and producer. He has three children and lives in Marina Del Rey, California.
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I recommend this book to anyone who needs it. Also its interesting to read about history and the Kennedy's.
This book is worthwhile; despite all the advantages of personal wealth and family connections, Lawford manages to waste much, misbehaves as a youth, and still achieves some success; he seems to realize some of his own callow shallowness, but his shortcomings are those any young man could fall prey to; it is just that others might suffer much more. Even though the Kennedys have suffered very public losses they seem to bounce back well. Lawford's father and mother provided him with a dysfunctional upbringing. The opening chapters are the best. When he just tells a family story the book reads well, when he tries to explain his recovery it reads less well. The book might have more depth if he suffered even more. He escapes too easily; hard time or a knife attack might have helped him and his story. His cousin RFK Jr.is depicted here too; the Kennedys endure some pressure and expectations and don't always measure up; the "character" RFK Jr. extols to Lawford seems not thoroughly present in either man's present life; these guys go from wife to wife to girlfriend with such ease; earning a living is never too difficult; attracting Hollywood actresses their forte. O well. Tough luck, sort of, but not really for them, it almost seems. Just keeping on keeping on.
Honest self-appraisal. The charm and wit of both his famous father and uncle permeate this thoughtful bio.
this book was ok i didnt really like how it was writtin. Lawford was out of place with snapshots, and some what repititve with some sayings. It was entertaining when it came to his familys history. It seemed as though he was descripitve with his writting during the more boring memorys in his life compared to the exciting ones. I think the title of the book should have been Life as a Kennedy rather than Syptoms of Withdrawal.
I'm sure that the Lawford book is very interesting, full of interesting stories, and jucy tidbits' however, THIS Lawford is not that much different from his sleezy father, Peter. I know that Peter was pretty much a 'pimp' for the Kennedys, and Marilyn was, just 'another piece of meat' for the Kennedy boys, thanx to Peter- that is why I will not spend my money on this book.