Film documentarian Bernstein (Crescendo! The Power of Music), the oldest of three children of conductor and composer Leonard Bernstein, presents an in-depth, intimate view of her father, juxtaposed with her own upbringing in his shadow. Her memories can be jarringly candid at times: she recalls the superstar conductor on the toilet while smoking, perusing a score, and promising to be with her as soon as he finishes “this movement.” Bernstein brings readers from her father’s early conducting days at the New York Philharmonic to the creation of such hit musicals as West Side Story and Candide, as well as his failures, such as the legendary flop 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. She depicts the family’s various homes (a country house in Fairfield, Conn.; a Park Avenue penthouse; an apartment in the Dakota building), as well as the famous people she met (Lauren Bacall, Jackie Kennedy, Stephen Sondheim, Lillian Hellman). Although the star-studded environment was stimulating, Bernstein longed for one-on-one time with a “normal” father. As a young adult, she grappled with the realization that her father was bisexual, unfaithful to her mother, and addicted to amphetamines. The larger-than-life maestro looms energetically over the family even after his death in 1990: all three children continued to work toward forwarding his legacy, either by organizing his archives or starting a newsletter for his fans. Bernstein paints a fascinating picture of the dizzying magic that Leonard Bernstein brought to his music—and the complexity to his home life. Photos. (June)
You think you had a complicated father? In this wry and clear-eyed, ardent and altogether terrific memoir, Jamie Bernstein lets us in on what it’s like to have a childhood as fraught as it was charmed. Plus, great gossip! (I’ve run out of friends to share the Michael Jackson anecdote with—so I’m going to meet more people.)
Growing up in the presence of a super famous parent is no easy thing. Jamie Bernstein presents an undisguised and understanding picture of her father, family, and friends. She chronicles her emergence as a partisan of ideals in which they believed. The book is full of inside stories and personal perspectives on the inspiring, spontaneous, and often no-holds-barred challenges of Bernstein’s multiple worlds.
Leonard Bernstein was a charisma bomb from the moment he first seized the podium of the New York Philharmonic in 1943, subsequently diffusing his radioactive talent through the theaters of Broadway, the concert halls of Europe, the state occasions of Kennedys, the walls of the Ivy League…..Jamie is in print a warm but unsparing eyewitness: peeking poignantly from the wings as her progenitor glories, sifting through the jumbo pillbox when he starts to fall apart. “The hardest feat in the world to pull off was to have a little one-on-one time with Daddy,” Jamie recalls with rue. How generous of her to share him with us yet again, this man who was not a rabbit-prey for a python after all, but a lion.
Making her literary debut, broadcaster and filmmaker Jamie Bernstein offers an intimate, gossipy, and candid memoir of growing up the eldest child of renowned conductor and composer Leonard Bernstein (1918-1990).... A cleareyed portrait of a spirited, and troubled, family.
Famous Father Girl is unique among classical-music memoirs for its physical intimacy, its humor and tenderness, its ambivalence toward an irrepressible family genius.... the existence of this well-written book, with its poignancy and its shuddery detail... is a mark of [ author Jamie Bernstein’s] sanity and survival. In telling [her father’s] story, she got to write her own.
Readers are taken behind the scenes into what most would consider a fantasy life. There were vacations, Beatles concerts, luxury apartments and dinner parties with famous guests. To many readers, Jamie Bernstein’s childhood will seem charmed. Alas, the family has its issues. Readers may find interesting the (largely) bygone era of extravagance, and and tales of a quirky, yet average American family who got to experience the extraordinary.
The challenges of living with a flamboyant, self-centered, and brilliant father.Making her literary debut, broadcaster and filmmaker Bernstein offers an intimate, gossipy, and candid memoir of growing up the eldest child of renowned conductor and composer Leonard Bernstein (1918-1990). When a second-grade classmate called her "famous father girl," Jamie did not yet feel the impact of her father's fame; but within a few years, she began to realize what it meant. The "endless parade of triumphs and that blazing energy that overtook every situation could be exhausting to live with," she recalls. LB, as he was known, "was a daredevil; he loved roller coasters, fast boats, vertiginous ski slopes," and the author yearned to be just like him rather than like her mother, "the family policeman and Lenny stabilizer." Family life buzzed with activity and famous visitors: Stephen Sondheim, for one, who started them playing fiercely competitive "cutthroat" anagrams; and the "notoriously imperious" Lauren Bacall, who was their neighbor at the Dakota. Her father's fame had benefits: With LB, Jamie got to go backstage to meet the Beatles, making her the envy of her friends; and through his connections, she got various jobs and eventually pursued her dream of becoming a rock musician. One summer, working at Tanglewood, where LB had been in the festival's first conducting class, she heard rumors of his "wild youth," which included "amorous escapades with other men." When she confronted LB, he denied the rumors, claiming that "wicked stories" were made up by envious detractors. But a few years later, he fell in love with an assistant, an affair that led to his leaving his wife; "acting exuberantly gay," he embarked on a new life. Although her mother had known of LB's homosexuality when they married, this new turn incited grief and depression. Jamie reflects sensitively about her mother, who died of cancer in 1978, and the particular challenges faced by her brother and sister.A cleareyed portrait of a spirited, and troubled, family.
Famous Father Girl paints a winning picture of the Bernstein family, especially her parents, the much-celebrated Lenny and the much-loved Felicia, while offering a poignant take on the complexities of growing up as the child of a legend—or, for that matter, as anybody’s child.
Bernstein’s jaw-dropping honesty and humor gives us the best example of the ‘growing up famous’ genre since Brooke Hayward’s classic Haywire.
Jamie Bernstein’s book about her fabled father not only takes us closer to Leonard Bernstein than anything yet published but stands by itself as a beautifully written and unflinchingly courageous expression of love, exasperation, amazement and forgiveness.
Yes, Famous Father Girl is a love letter. It is also honest.
Seduction might have been his greatest talent, one countered by his daughter’s aptitude for truth-telling. Her memoir portrays a man whose weaponized ego fits perfectly into American celebrity culture, but it’s also a story of how his daughter survived that ego to become her own woman, even as she remains intent on keeping her father’s legacy alive. By preserving his legacy, Jamie honors her father as both a great talent and a complex human being.
An intimate look at the famous, and famously private, musician, whose 7 Emmys only begin to scratch the surface of his musical achievements.
American musical icon Leonard Bernstein (1918–90) is forever associated with West Side Story, the New York Philharmonic, televised Young People's Concerts, humanitarian causes, and more. Here daughter and author Jamie Bernstein presents an in-depth, compelling memoir that portrays the private man from her early years of childhood onward. In the Bernstein household, celebrity visits, from Stephen Sondheim to Lauren Bacall, were the norm, and Leonard adored teaching his children about everything from music to word games. He loved parties, the Beatles and Mahler, family time at their country house, hilarious antics, and composing and discussing current events in a haze of cigarette smoke. Although the three Bernstein children loved their father, they often struggled to define their own identities. The author examines her family life with perceptive honesty, including the untimely death of her talented mother, her own journey, and her father's increasingly complex personality. Beautifully set within the cultural framework of 20th-century America, this sensitive portrait of a famous father and his world also traces the author's life-affirming discovery of her own gifts while simultaneously honoring a rich legacy. VERDICT An unforgettable memoir filled with poignancy and humor. A must for music lovers and general readers alike. [See Prepub Alert, 1/8/18.]—Carol J. Binkowski, Bloomfield, NJ