"This is a fun romp: witty writing, passion and fashion, and oodles of Audrey. A perfect cure for the mean reds." Booklist
|Publisher:||St. Martin's Press|
|Product dimensions:||8.20(w) x 5.50(h) x 1.00(d)|
|Age Range:||14 - 18 Years|
About the Author
MITCHELL KRIEGMAN has been published in The New Yorker, The National Lampoon, New York Press, Glamour, and Harper's Bazaar. A winner of four Emmy Awards and a Directors Guild Award, he was also a writer for Saturday Night Live. Kriegman was the creator of the classic groundbreaking television series Clarissa Explains It All, as well as the executive head writer on Ren and Stimpy, Rugrats, and Doug.
Read an Excerpt
Being Audrey Hepburn
By Mitchell Kriegman
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2014 Mitchell Kriegman
All rights reserved.
It all started with that little black dress.
Yeah, I mean the little black dress — the wickedly fabulous, classic, fashion perfection Givenchy that Audrey Hepburn wore to brilliance in the opening scene of Breakfast at Tiffany's.
Right in front of me was the dress dreams were made of.
"Let me try it on, please, please, please," I begged Jess.
"No way," she said. "I'll get fired."
Jess was already the special projects assistant at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, otherwise known as the Met. It was kind of a glorified grunt and gofer position but a real foot in the door at the museum, and like me she was only nineteen. That was just one of her jobs. Jess attended fashion-design school all day, worked the Met at night, and waited tables with me at "the Hole" on weekends.
Determined to design her own line of clothing before she turned twenty-five, she'd always known what she wanted to do — like the way she "came out" in tenth grade and never looked back. Considering she was an absolute genius with fabric, scissors, and a sewing machine and the most responsible, goal-oriented person on the planet, let alone anywhere near where we lived in South End Montclair, New Jersey, I had no doubt she'd pull it off.
"You won't get fired," I pleaded and gave her my saddest, most pathetic, BFF, puh-leese let me try on the most spectacular dress in existence face.
"Nobody's here but you and me. It's the least you can do for dragging me out on a sweaty Friday night in July to sort a bunch of broken pottery fragments from the ancient Nile while all the Park Avenue princesses and baby moguls whoop it up downstairs." We could hear the party from the main galleries below: popping corks and clinking champagne glasses, the opulent uppity classes murmuring obscene nothings to one another in their preppy Manhattan tones at another over-the-top celebutante gala.
Jess was the only person in the world besides my Nan who had any idea what a big deal that dress was to me. Breakfast at Tiffany's wasn't just my favorite movie ever, it was my jam, my mantra, my addiction, the one thing that got me through all the crap at home.
Unless you live in a cave, I know you've seen it. I don't know if anything more perfect has ever existed on film. The pearls! The tiara! That dress! Really, what would you give to live for one day in a world where it would be perfectly normal to wear a little tiny tiara without looking like a runner-up in the Miss Hackensack pageant?
To think that this scrawny girl who came from nothing could become a fabulous socialite with mobsters and writers and photographers and millionaires falling all over themselves for her. New York City in 1961 was cooler and more wonderful than it is today, so full of possibilities. All the men Holly knew turned out to be rats, of course. Or super-rats. Holly was so right. There are so many super-rats out there.
"Please," I whined. "You know how much I love that movie."
"Yeah, I know," said Jess. "That's why I'm letting you see the dress."
I gently lifted the dress out of its archival wrapping and held it up. I knew for a fact that Audrey Hepburn and I were almost exactly the same size, 34-20-35, although she always appeared elegant and gamine, where I tended to be more, well ... scrawny and boyish. My boobs were smaller — I could maybe hit 32-20-33 if I held my breath and thought Katy Perry.
The black satin was rougher than I expected. It had a hip-length slit on the left side and was accompanied by a pair of elbow-length gloves in a tinted plastic bag pinned to the satin padded hanger inside the box.
This was the mystery dress that everybody swore existed, but almost nobody had ever seen or touched, Givenchy's hand-stitched original design. I wondered if the delicate smell of the fabric was something from the preservation, though I secretly hoped it was a tiny bit of leftover Audrey Hepburn perfume.
"You're such a stalker," Jess whispered. "Be supercareful. That's like a million-dollar dress."
"Actually, 923,187 dollars. The highest auction price ever received for a dress made for a film at the time. And this one might be worth even more." I sighed and held the dream dress up to my body.
She took a deep breath and looked me in the eye.
"Okay," she said. "Try it on. But just for a minute."CHAPTER 2
If you'd told me that, while I caressed the rough satin of Audrey's famous black dress, my life was about to change in a million unimaginable ways, I wouldn't have believed it. Not because I didn't believe that Audrey's dress was magical. Or that I didn't believe in magic. I did, desperately.
In fact, I saw magic around me all the time — in the lives of the famous people I ogled in movies and magazines and online. But magic was for those people, not me. I just couldn't imagine how magic could even find me sitting in the gray Jersey suburbs where I'd lived my whole life.
Five hours before caressing Audrey's precious Givenchy, I stood at ground zero of my totally unmagical life: the greasy South End diner where I waitressed, the Finer Diner, appropriately nicknamed the Hole. I was wearing "eau de short-order grill," the smelly, sweaty perfume of a diner waitress, along with a greasy pink apron. I had just dropped two mugs of coffee and a plate of fried pickles. The zombie shift at the diner was enough to kill you, and I had just finished a double. It wasn't like I had anything else to do.
Making my way home on 21S, one of New Jersey's finest state highways, I thought I might fall into a coma. I turned off at the 4th Avenue exit, struggling to keep my eyes opened, and drove down Bloomfield Avenue to my house, thankful there were no cars outside.
"Hey, sis, you look like shit," Ryan said, startling me as I stumbled through the front door. For a thirteen-year-old, he already had a sewer mouth. But considering the way Mom talked, what could you expect? He gave me a crooked grin and twirled that nasty braided mullet of his. As usual, Ryan was playing World of Warcrack, as Mom called it. The most addictive computer game ever created, where kids with no lives have names like Worgen and are always leveling up.
"Thanks a lot, Ry. Where's Mom?" I asked.
"She went with Courtney to pick up her car. It got towed."
"Again? How long ago?" I contemplated whether to flee and crash at Jess's house.
Car doors slamming and the rusty screech of the screen door gave me the answer — it was too late.
"You don't know crap!" Mom yelled as she barreled through the door. "You can't go through life without a plan." She lit up a cig and headed for the kitchen. She wore her usual pale blue scrubs from the hospital.
"I have a plan! It's just not your plan!" screamed Courtney, stomping just a few steps behind, tramping around in her furry boots wearing shredded Daisy Dukes. Her deep-scoop tank was so tight that her breasts looked like they'd pop out any second.
Ryan gazed up at me with that glazed look and went back to slaying warlocks and werewolves. A death stare from Courtney made it clear that, unless I wanted to become the equivalent of roadkill, I had better get out of there. Getting in the middle of a blowout was the last thing I wanted to do anyway. In this situation, either Mom or Courtney could train their sights on me, so I made a beeline for my bedroom.
"Where do you think you're going?" Mom shouted. I froze. Between alcohol and cigs, her voice sounded like she had swallowed a shot glass.
"I just got off work and I smell like bacon," I said as softly as possible. "I have to take a shower." She turned to the cabinet, grabbed her coffee mug, and went to the fridge for some ice cubes. I slinked away.
The walls in our house were so flimsy that even in my bedroom I could hear Courtney clomping across the linoleum floor and Mom rattling the ice cubes in her cup of Gordon's.
It didn't take much to get Mom going at Court. Toenail clippings left on the bathroom floor? A 2:30 A.M. hookup in the driveway? The fact that my older sister was flunking out of junior college because she hadn't attended a class? Or just another bad day of work at the hospital for Mom — all of the above could trigger Argumageddon. I did, however, know how it would end. The same way it always ended.
You would have thought Mom would have been happy she wasn't drunk driving. I guess it didn't help that Courtney had left her car by the side of the road in a stupor for the second time this month. The three- hundred-dollar towing fee had to hurt.
"A plan is something with a future. Responsibility. Not getting shitfaced, smoking weed with your idiot friends, and leaving your car by the side of the road," Mom spit out downstairs. "I can't keep saving your ass all your fucking life."
"Nobody wants you to!" Courtney screamed.
Mom was wrong about Courtney. She did have a plan. Her goal was to relieve the world of all its alcohol, one Jell-O shot at a time, in Jersey City's vast array of lowlife nightclubs, while fantasizing she would get picked next season as a finalist on American Idol or The Voice. Courtney believed she should get her own reality show — hey, everybody has that same dream, right? Once, she made up a whole new family and seriously tried to get a slot on Mob Wives. There just aren't enough of those reality shows around for all of us real people to become famous.
Sometimes, it seemed like Courtney was trying to outdo Mom. See, I knew from Nan, my grandmother, that back in her day, Mom was the same as Courtney, only more so. Before MTV discovered New Jersey, Mom was drinking and cruising the seventy-five exits of the Garden State Parkway from Whippany to Seaside Heights. She practically invented shooting beers. She was like the original JWoww, before rehab became a college alternative.
The door slammed, and the vibrations echoed throughout our tiny house. The walls might as well be hospital partitions. That slam was definitely the kitchen door. I listened for the sound of Courtney's junker starting.
Nothing. Shit. That meant get ready for round 2.
Really, in this situation, the best thing to do was to lock myself in the closet. I just needed to stay out of the line of fire; otherwise, I'd be collateral damage.
I was the middle child. Staying out of the way was my specialty. In fact, I was so out of the way, I was nowhere, but that was better than being somewhere in the middle of what was going on at home.
"You're just mad because you're old and you're always going to be alone and nobody cares about you!" Courtney yelled. I guessed Court had come back inside.
There was a pause for crying until Mom finally said something that was hard to hear because it was buried in tissues. "You have no right to talk to me that way ..." And another pause. "This is my house."
"Nobody cares!" screamed Courtney. The door slammed again, and I waited.
Inside my closet, the sounds coming from downstairs were considerably more muffled. You probably thought I was kidding about the closet.
My closet was my haven, my panic room, my refuge. Mom usually came home from work at 4 P.M. and got her drink on until she passed out on the couch. Once in a while, she'd get super tipsy and silly — singing old Springsteen songs. That was fun. We'd play along until she fell asleep at the kitchen table. But most of the time, she'd get all weepy, and then start hurling ashtrays. She was always angry.
See, Mom never had a "plan" either. After her party years, she never moved away like she told Nan she would. She expected Dad would make money someday, but instead he ditched us and left Mom with a ton of debt.
Eventually she had to make ends meet, so she went back to her maiden name to avoid all the creditors and spent a year in vocational school to become a nurse. We ended up in South End, which isn't exactly Upper Montclair or even Lower Montclair. Lower Montclair, which we're close to, was where all the hip professionals lived. They had three ice cream shops and lots of espresso bars and clothing stores like Anthropologie and American Apparel. In South End, we had the K&G Fashion Superstore and Advanced Auto Parts.
Mom worried 24-7. She worried about the dishes in the sink, about the heating bills, about Courtney stealing her last two cigarettes. Then there was my brother, Ryan. At thirteen, he had racked up so many misdemeanors that the security guards at the courthouse knew him on sight.
And my "plan"? Good question.
My life was mapped out. I'd always been the good girl. As much as I'd missed out on a lot of the kind of wild stuff Courtney did (binge drinking, wet T-shirt contests, and generally waking up someplace and having no idea how you got there), I was fine with following the rules. Honestly, I didn't want to put myself out there that much. Too many friends and friends of my sister's ended up pregnant early, drunk, addicted, or dead without ever even getting old. Maybe it was that middle-kid thing (if you consider my younger brother, Ryan, in the category of "kid," rather than, say, devil spawn or homeland terrorist threat). I never had a rebellious phase.
But just because I was quiet didn't mean I had no opinions. In my head I always had a witty retort. I just never had the guts to say anything out loud. I'd mumble to myself or write it down in my journal. No one really knew I had a clue, except Jess. After all, I wasn't sitting home like a shut-in licking orange dust from the last bag of Cheez Doodles or anything. I'd go out weekends just to get out of the house. I drank a little, but I never got in trouble or drew attention to myself.
Mom's plan for me was two years at Essex County Community College to get all my requirements out of the way and then Montclair State University for a MSN or DNP degree. Mom wouldn't have to pay my room and board because they were both close to home. The goal was to become a nurse-practitioner, which was one step below a doctor but a step above being a nurse like Mom. Mom told everybody about her plan for me whenever she introduced me to anyone.
The truth was, I'd agreed and got decent grades just to keep everyone off my back. Courtney even helped me cram for finals because she wanted me to go, too. It took the pressure off of her.
Downstairs, Courtney must have come back inside. She was still screaming, but the words were hard to hear with my closet door closed. They were probably in the living room. But it didn't matter where in the house they were. I knew the words by heart. In fact, I was the only one who knew why they fought — even though they didn't.
Underneath it all, Mom and Courtney always argued about the same thing. My sister and my mom were like the same person at different points in time. Like Back to the Future, where you traveled forward in time but had to be careful not to run into your future self at the Piggly Wiggly because the space-time continuum would collapse. That space-time collision pretty much happened at my house every day.
Though Courtney was a total bitch to me, I felt for her, because Mom knew everything Courtney was going to do wrong before she even thought of doing it, like she was crawling inside her skin. I think that's why Courtney pushed it to the limit.
Then there was my surprise baby brother, Ryan, who seemed destined to become a complete undermining tool. Dad left a few months before Ryan was born. Funny about that.
When Ryan was little, he burned through babysitters like toilet paper. It didn't matter if they were nice old ladies, perky teenagers, a Navy SEAL or the Cat in the Hat. None of them made a difference, and none of them lasted. Mom used to joke that she felt like the devil recruiting new souls for a three-to-midnight shift in hell. Once Ryan turned twelve, Mom just gave up.
It sounds weird, but I'd been hanging in my closet since I was five. First time was when Dad put his fist through the kitchen wall, which was followed by a barrage of dining room plates Mom hurled at him. Years later, Courtney and Mom's screaming matches sent me into hiding again
I pulled the door tight. It was pretty comfy when I was little, almost like a walk-in, so it's not like I was a total coffin freak. Although these days, I had to squeeze. Even though we didn't have AC, the temp in my closet was pretty cool. Mashing the pillows around me like a nest, I pushed the big turquoise body pillow to the door, blocking the light and their voices.
I grabbed a Coke out of the minifridge. Yes, I had a minifridge in my closet. I won it by selling more wrapping paper and chocolate than anyone in the history of my tenth-grade class. My secret weapon was to hit up old lady Conner down the street for a bundle. She smoked a lot of weed and bought my chocolates so I wouldn't tell anyone. As if I would.
I opened my laptop and thanked God for the Internet. There was always a new Web site to check out. I think the Internet was designed for people like me, who need somewhere to go to forget where they really are.
Excerpted from Being Audrey Hepburn by Mitchell Kriegman. Copyright © 2014 Mitchell Kriegman. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Being Audrey Hepburn is a fun little novel with a lot of heart. The concept is very cute, and I loved many things about it. It's a nice contemporary read, especially for those of us who are very fond of Audrey and her films. It's a unique spin on the usual coming-of-age novels. A large topic in the novel involves taking control of your own life and deciding what it is you want to do. Lisbeth initially struggles between what is wanted and expected of her and what she learns she'd like to pursue. I loved this as part of novel, as it is so easy to relate to for many teenagers who feel pressured to live up to expectations and/or decide what they want to do with their live. This, along with her quirkiness and excitement, makes Lisbeth a likeable character...despite the fact that she doesn't always make the best of decisions. (Of course, the times were she can get a bit self-absorbed or in her own little world is probably more authentic when it comes to teenagers than other traits.) I did like the relationships between characters, and thought they felt true-to-life. Lisbeth had a lot of problems with her family, but they also were important to her. Some friendships and relationships were lasting while some were fleeting. People helped each other and people hurt each other. It wasn't forced or unbelievable. In fact, even the rush into fame felt realistic. Speaking of which, I absolutely loved the glamor described within the fashion industry and socialite connections. In a sense, it's like a new world that's brought to life through the novel. Which is very cool. The emphasis on fashion and the altered dresses Lisbeth wore were great to read about, and the opening scene at the Met was one of my favorites, just for that reason. Some parts of the story toward the middle did move a bit slow compared to the rapid ending, but the characters and dialogue still made it enjoyable, all the way to the satisfying end. Being Audrey Hepburn really is a fun read, and I can easily recommend it to contemporary fans.
Received a copy from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. "Being Audrey Hepburn" is perfectly marvelous, darlings! ;) Mitchell Kriegman spins a charming and inspired tale full of mischief, romance, and to-die-for fashion! Seriously well done on the fashion descriptions. I think a lot of authors get caught up in the mundane details of what the characters are wearing. But this felt like Kriegman was painting a fashion masterpiece with the words. Lisbeth makes for a great MC. She’s totally adorable and an easily relatable gal trying to find her voice and her way in the world. I have to say the story was surprisingly unpredictable in some ways which made for a total breath of fresh air in the genre. My only wish was that her romantic relationships had been a bit more developed. I feel like we missed out on seeing her fall for the guy. The romance was there—I just wasn’t quite as invested as I would have been if the audience had gotten to fall in love along with her. This book is filled to the brim with nods to Audrey, which makes it an absolute dream for her fans. If you love Audrey Hepburn (I know I do), then this one is not to be missed! P.S. This would make for a fun movie. Hope someone options it…
Something I think everyone wishes they could do if only they wouldn't get caught. Great, quick read!