The Legs Are the Last to Go: Aging, Acting, Marrying, and Other Things I Learned the Hard Way

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Overview

It's conventional wisdom that Hollywood has no use for a woman over forty. So it's a good thing that Diahann Carroll—whose winning, sometimes controversial career breached racial barriers—is anything but conventional.

Here she shares her life story with an admirable candidness of someone who has seen and done it all. With wisdom that only aging gracefully can bestow, she talks frankly about her four marriages as well as the other significant relationships in her life, including ...

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The Legs Are the Last to Go

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Overview

It's conventional wisdom that Hollywood has no use for a woman over forty. So it's a good thing that Diahann Carroll—whose winning, sometimes controversial career breached racial barriers—is anything but conventional.

Here she shares her life story with an admirable candidness of someone who has seen and done it all. With wisdom that only aging gracefully can bestow, she talks frankly about her four marriages as well as the other significant relationships in her life, including her courtship with Sidney Poitier; racial politics in Hollywood and on Broadway; and the personal cost, particularly to her family, of being a pioneer. Carroll's storied history, blunt views, and notorious wit will be sure to entertain and inform.

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Editorial Reviews

Liz Smith
“It has heart, without descending into the treacle of sentimentality. It’s upfront, bald-faced heart.”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060763275
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 9/15/2009
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 271
  • Product dimensions: 5.31 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.68 (d)

Meet the Author

Diahann Carroll is a legendary singer; theatrical, television, and film actress; Tony and Golden Globe Award winner; and Emmy, Oscar, and Grammy nominee. A veteran of the entertainment industry whose pioneering career has inspired many, Diahann made her Broadway stage debut starring in Harold Arlen and Truman Capote's House of Flowers. After seeing her in this production, Richard Rodgers created as a starring vehicle for Carroll the Broadway production No Strings, for which she won the Tony Award. Her recent theatrical appearances have also garnered acclaim, including her role as the "ultimate" Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard. Widely known as a pioneer, in 1968 she became the first black actress in television history to star in her own series, Julia, for NBC, which soared to the top of the Nielsen ratings and received an Emmy nomination. Other notable roles include the title role in Claudine, for which she was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress, and Dominique Deveraux in the wildly popular television series Dynasty. She has worked with legends such as Paul Newman, Sidney Poitier, Judy Garland, Michael Caine, Harry Belafonte, James Earl Jones, Sammy Davis, Jr., and Frank Sinatra. In no apparent rush to settle down, Carroll most recently appeared on ABC's Grey's Anatomy, for which she was nominated for an Emmy, and in a cabaret show that is currently touring the country, The Life and Times of Diahann Carroll.

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Read an Excerpt

The Legs Are the Last to Go

Chapter One

Upon the Wicked Stage

Call me crazy, but I understand Norma Desmond, the silent- screen diva who the world passed by in Sunset Boulevard. Norma Desmond drives a Rolls- Royce. Norma Desmond has a penchant for spending lavishly. She knows the magic of makeup and the thrill of casting spells over millions. She is a character who remembers what it's like to be adored when young. She also knows the savagery of show business.

And so do I.

Not that I've had it bad. How many actresses receive a call at fifty to play an overdressed black bitch on an international hit show like Dynasty? People still manage to keep me in mind, even now, twenty years later. I get my share of calls to sing in lovely venues, and still know the plea sure of standing on a well- lit stage performing. Sometimes, I am invited to accept an award. But that doesn't mean there aren't plenty of days when I feel completely passed over and passed by. Well, I imagine that's how many people feel when their high- powered careers slow down. Performers, of course, have to deal with droughts and doubts all the time, even when young. It's a tough field. You're in, you're out. You're right for something, you're wrong. You have to learn to live with rejection and curdled ambition on a daily basis, especially if you happen to be female.

Norma Desmond took her discomfort to an epic level. Yet what actress of a certain age would not cringe at the famous Rolls- Royce scene? Norma has finally gotten the call she's been longing for from an accomplished director. She prepares for weeks for her meeting with him—massages,facials, exercise—everything she can do to set back the clock and dazzle when she returns to the lights and cameras. When she finally arrives on the set, in all her glamour and glory, she is quietly hit with the terrible, insulting news that the movie studio has only called her because it wants to use her car, not her, for a movie. It has come to that. Her car is more in demand than she is.

When, in 1994, my agent called to tell me I'd been invited by the producers to audition for Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber's Sunset Boulevard, I was familiar with the rhythms of a life in which the phone didn't ring as often, at least not with offers for major roles. I was, after all, in my sixties at the time, and fully aware of the limited shelf life of any acting career. Happily, my emotional footing was far more secure than Norma Desmond's. I knew I wasn't being handed the role. I'd have to work to get it.

I started preparing with even more diligence than usual. And a few days into it, I was told that Sir Andrew was actually going to be at the audition. It was very nerve- racking. Auditioning always is. You have to find the character in your head, and worry if what you find will complement what the director, producer, and writer envision.

I go through this every time I audition. Even after NBC hired me to play Julia, a nurse and single mother, Hal Kanter, the creator of the show, had reservations. He was a charming and outspoken white Southerner who'd been a writer for Amos 'n' Andy, among many other projects, and he had a firm sense of what Middle America wanted for its first African-American sitcom star in 1968. And despite the network's faith in me, Hal was not completely convinced that I was the right woman for the role. He felt my image was too worldly and glamorous.

Well, I had won a Tony for playing a chic model in Paris for Richard Rodgers on Broadway, and I had done several Hollywood films with Otto Preminger. I performed in luxurious venues in New York, Las Vegas, and Miami, and had appeared on beautifully produced television specials for years. I was one of those fortunate performers—and there might have been only a dozen of us in total—who went from show to show—Ed Sullivan, Dean Martin, Judy Garland—holiday specials, shows about everything from Broadway to black humor. I was even chosen in 1967 to costar with Maurice Chevalier in the first collaboration between French and American television. Every appearance was more lavish than the next.

Hal Kanter knew all about my jet- set lifestyle when NBC told him he was to meet with me. I knew about his hesitancy, so for our first meeting, I dressed carefully—to look modest, and though it was a Givenchy, the line was so simple, I knew it would work—and walked into the Polo Lounge of the Beverly Hills Hotel.

I was told later that he didn't recognize me. "That's the look I want for this character," he told a colleague. "A well- dressed house wife just like that woman."

Then I came over to the table and he discovered that "that woman" was me.

"Hal," I said. "I know I can do this. I'm an actress. You saw me come through that door and I convinced you that I could be a house wife. Well, guess what? I prepared to be a house wife for this interview. And I think this is how Julia would dress."

I have to say, preparing to audition for Norma Desmond was less of a stretch. Although I've always considered myself more of a worker than a diva, I could relate to the character of an extravagant actress in the twilight of her career. I felt so much pressure for my Sunset Boulevard audition. I knew I was the first black actress to be considered for the role, and worked very hard to keep that thought out of my head as I rehearsed with my pianist. I was intent on nailing the character of a sixty- year- old woman living in complete denial, no matter what color she is.

The Legs Are the Last to Go. Copyright © by Diahann Carroll. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 9 )
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Sort by: Showing 1 – 12 of 11 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 12, 2009

    Carroll's Second Autobiography Is Interesting and Insightful

    This autobiography will be interesting to older women and to those who like to hear about the behind the scenes business of Hollywood. Most intiguing, however, is the discussion of Miss Carroll's relationship with her mother and her daughter.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted April 27, 2009

    Diahann Carroll Proves It's Never Too Late To Learn About Yourself

    I enjoyed this book very much because Diahann Carroll ends up sharing her many lessons in life with the reader.
    I always admired her and her work as both a vocalist and actress...and I knew she was far better an actress than people gave her credit for...it would be sad for her to be remembered only for "Julia" on TV. She proves that in this book. Most gratifying is seeing how she realizes how she was taken advantage of by several of her husbands, and realizes she doesn't need to have a man in her life to be complete. She is now focused on her relationship with her daughter and grandchild and that's a giant step for her. The reader roots for her to have a great connection with her only child....and she finally does.

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  • Posted April 27, 2009

    Not too exiting a litte bit too much of "how good am I"

    Still I read it all...............

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 23, 2009

    Beauty is only skin deep.

    Diahann Carroll has been through a great deal in her 72 years. This book
    expounds upon her struggles and her triumphs as a daughter, a sibling,
    a parent, a wife-lover. She has worked very hard for all that she has
    earned in show business. She does have an obession with her figure,
    her make-up, her high heels, her wigs, and her wardrobe but I think this is a
    by-product of being a performer. God bless her. Long may she wave.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted February 23, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Harlem Princess

    If you are curious about what is and how to create a "Harlem Princess" read this book. My book club "The Table of Context" began our club with this book. My sorority (Delta Sigma Theta) sister is directly related to Carolle Diahann and I was curious about Diahann Carroll's (AKA) thespian affiliation. It is a quick read! I wondered about Diahann's mother bias of her first born and did not share the same love with the second child exculpate her husband. I did enjoy the photographs and wish I could have seen pictures of her only black husband! The book provided a procative discussion of groups like the Links and Jack and Jill of America.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted November 5, 2008

    I Also Recommend:

    validating to all divas

    I felt a burden lifted for all the things I didn't get quite right up till now at age 54. I also feel validated for wanting to look good and feeling lighthearted when I look good. I accept the conflict with my daughter and parents and sibling. It's okay. I especially enjoyed the part about raising our children with an overall view of what comes with living. There is no fairy tale of happily ever after. Expect stuff, deal with it an move on. I loved listening to Diahann's articulation

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 16, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted January 31, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted January 28, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted December 15, 2008

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted October 23, 2008

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted February 21, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

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