Hello Goodbye Hello: A Circle of 101 Remarkable Meetingsby Craig Brown
Hello Goodbye Hello is a daisy chain of 101 fascinating true encounters, a book that has been hailed by reviewers in London as “howlingly funny” (The Spectator), “original and a complete delight” (The Sunday Times), and “rich and hugely enjoyable” (The Guardian). Or, as the London Evening Standard put it, “the truth and nothing but the plain, bonkers, howling truth . . . It is partly a huge karmic parlour game, partly a dance to the music of chaos—and only the genius of Craig Brown could have produced it.” Who could imagine such unlikely—but true— encounters as these:
Martha Graham meets Madonna
Igor Stravinsky meets Walt Disney
Frank Lloyd Wright meets Marilyn Monroe
Marilyn Monroe meets Nikita Khrushchev
President Richard Nixon meets Elvis Presley
Harpo Marx meets George Bernard Shaw
Cecil Beaton meets Mick Jagger
Salvador Dali meets Sigmund Freud
Groucho Marx meets T.S. Eliot
Brilliant in conception, Hello Goodbye Hello shows how the celebrated and gifted—like the rest of us— got along famously or disastrously or indifferently with one another, but, thanks to Craig Brown, always to our amusement and entertainment.
From an opening story in which Adolf Hitler survives being knocked down by a careless English driver in 1931 to the Duchess of Windsor’s meeting with the Führer over tea, and 99 others in between, Hello Goodbye Hello is the perfect example that truth is stranger than fiction (and infinitely more enjoyable).
"Captivating. . . . A glittering daisy chain that reads like a mathematical proof of the theory of six degrees of separation. . . . Mr. Brown constructs portraits that have all the immediacy of reportage, all the fanciful detail of fiction. He has whipped up a gratifying summertime confection — funny, diverting, occasionally sad."
—Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
“The book that made me laugh most was Craig Brown’s quirky game of biographical consequences.”
—Julian Barnes, Times Literary Supplement “Books of the Year”
“Much of this tragic-farcical Dance to the Music of Time is wistful and moving, as well as howlingly funny.”
—A.N. Wilson, The Spectator
"Deliciously clever. . . .  improbable encounters, many of them exceedingly funny, a few of them surprisingly revealing and a few rather sad, and all of them connected by the daisy chain to end all daisy chains. . . . Hello Goodbye Hello is splendid company, not to mention perfect for the beach, the lake, or the pool."
—Jonathan Yardley, the Washington Post
"A hilarious collection of strange-but-true tales of encounters between the rich and famous. . . . Brown is as smart as he is puckish, and there are plenty of laughs on this terrific trip through modern fame."
—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
"Craig Brown is something of a national treasure in Britain. . . . Hello Goodbye Hello is a bravura feat of narrative engineering. . . . A joyful, fun read espsecially for its widgety, ingenious construction."
—David Kamp, Vanity Fair
"Cheekily inspired. . . . Might be the ultimate pocket guide to the modern history of noteworthy meet-ups."
“A delightful page turner, informed throughout with wit and learning.”
—Toby Clements, The Daily Telegraph
“[Brown] provides a rollicking glimpse into the wild, weird, and wacky world of the renowned and reviled. Irresistibly fun and informative.”
“Captivating…Glittering…Engaging…Entertaining…[Brown] has whipped up a gratifying summertime confection — funny, diverting, occasionally sad.”
Michiko Kakutani, New York Times
“Deliciously clever and amusing…Hello Goodbye Hello is splendid company, not to mention perfect for the beach, the lake or the pool.”
Jonathan Yardley, Washington Post
“Hello Goodbye Hello is a hilarious book, clever and thoroughly researched…dip into this book anywhere and you will be rewarded with something delightful.”
Moira Hodgson, Wall Street Journal
“Brown’s collection of odd encounters could be titled Famous People Behaving Badly. They’re irresistible.”
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Read an Excerpt
FRANK LLOYD WRIGHT
DESIGNS A HOUSE FOR
The Plaza Hotel, Fifth Avenue, New York
One afternoon in the autumn of 1957, the most venerated architect in America, Frank Lloyd Wright, now aged ninety, is working in his suite in the Plaza Hotel, New York, when the doorbell rings. It is Marilyn Monroe, come to ask him to design a house.
Since their marriage in June 1956, Arthur Miller and his bride Marilyn Monroe have been based at Miller’s modest two-storey country house near Roxbury, Connecticut. Dating from 1783, it has 325 acres of land planted with fruit trees. A verandah at the back looks out across endless hills. A short walk from the house is a swimming pond, with clear spring water.
It is just right for Miller, who likes to live in the countryside, away from the flash world of celebrity, and is known to be careful with money. But Marilyn has other plans. She loves to spend, and has firm ideas about what is glamorous and what is not. Her self-esteem is bound up with her ability to splash out; she craves nothing but the best.
Like so many men, Frank Lloyd Wright is immediately taken with Marilyn.35 He ushers her into a separate room, away from his wife and his staff, and listens intently as she describes the sort of home she has in mind. It is spectacularly lavish. Once she has left, Wright dips into his archives and digs out an abandoned plan for a building he drew up eight years earlier: a luxury manor house for a wealthy Texan couple.
The parsimonious Miller is taken aback when he hears of Marilyn’s grandiose vision for their new home. ‘That we could not really afford all of her ideas I did my best not to dramatize, but it was inevitable that some of my concern showed.’ When she tells him the name of the architect, Miller’s heart sinks. But he bites his lip, hoping good sense will prevail. ‘It had to seem like ingratitude to question whether we could ever begin to finance any Wright design, since much like her, he had little interest in costs. I could only give him his day and let her judge whether it was beyond our means or not.’
One grey autumn morning, the Millers drive Frank Lloyd Wright to Roxbury. Wright is wearing a wide-brimmed cowboy hat. He curls up in the back seat and sleeps throughout the two-hour journey.
The three of them enter the old house together. Wright looks around the living room, and, in what Miller describes as ‘a tone reminiscent of W.C. Fields’s nasal drawl’, says disparagingly, ‘Ah, yes, the old house. Don’t put a nickel in it.’ They sit down to a lunch of smoked salmon. Wright refuses any pepper. ‘Never eat pepper,’ he says. ‘The stuff will kill you before your time. Avoid it.’
After lunch, Marilyn remains in the house while the two men trudge half a mile up the steep hill to the crest on which the new house is to be built. Wright never stops to catch his breath: Miller is impressed. At the crest, Wright turns towards the magnificent view, unbuttons his fly and urinates, sighing, ‘Yes. Yes indeed.’ He glances about for a few seconds, then leads the way back down the hill. Before they go back into the house, Miller steals a quick private word with Wright. ‘I thought the time had come to tell him something he had never bothered to ask, that we expected to live fairly simply and were not looking for some elaborate house with which to impress the world.’
The message is plural, but it should have been singular. An elaborate house with which to impress the world is, in a nutshell, just what Marilyn is after, which is why she hired Frank Lloyd Wright in the first place. But Wright affects not to hear. ‘I saw that this news had not the slightest interest for him,’ says Miller.
A few days later, Miller visits the Plaza Hotel alone. Wright shows him a watercolour of his extravagant plan: a circular living room with a dropped centre surrounded by five-foot-thick ovoid columns made of sandstone with a domed ceiling sixty feet in diameter, rounded off with a seventy-foot-long swimming pool with fieldstone sides jutting out from the incline of the hill. Miller looks at it in horror, mentally totting up the cost. He notes with indignation that Wright has added a final flourish to his painting – a huge limousine in the curved driveway, complete with a uniformed chauffeur.
Miller asks the cost. Wright mentions $250,000, but Miller doesn’t believe him: it might cover the cost of the swimming pool, ‘if that’. He also notes that Wright’s ‘pleasure dream of Marilyn allowed him to include in this monster of a structure only a single bedroom and a small guestroom, but he did provide a large “conference room” complete with a long board-room-type table flanked by a dozen high-backed chairs, the highest at the head, where he imagined she would sit like the reigning queen of a small country, Denmark, say’.36
The marriage goes from bad to worse. Miller and Monroe have nothing to say to each other. ‘He makes me think I’m stupid. I’m afraid to bring things up, because maybe I am stupid.’ Marilyn adds that ‘I’m in a fucking prison and my jailer is named Arthur Miller ... Every morning he goes into that goddamn study of his, and I don’t see him for hours and hours. I mean, what the fuck is he doing in there? And there I am, just sitting around; I haven’t a goddamn thing to do.’
Miller fails to give the go-ahead to Wright, who dies in April 1959. Miller and Monroe divorce in 1961; Monroe dies in August 1962.
Thirty years later, the plans are dusted off and enlarged. Marilyn’s dream home finally emerges as a $35-million golf clubhouse in Hawaii, complete wtih banqueting rooms, a men’s locker room and a Japanese furo bath with a soaking pool, not to mention seated showers.
Meet the Author
Craig Brown has been writing the Private Eye celebrity diary since 1989 and is a columnist for London’s Daily Mail. He has also written parodies for many publications, including the Daily Telegraph, Vanity Fair, The Times, and The Guardian. The author of several books of fiction and nonfiction, he lives in London.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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I liked this book. I would recommend it. I think the idea is pretty clever -stringing the people together like this, however, it is a "dry" read- a bit hard to get through and at times I found myself going over a page because my mind would wander and here, it was something laugh out loud funny - just the way it's written, it is in English but I do find sometimes when I am reading a book from a British author, I have trouble with it and I do not know why that is. It's something I've noticed. Also the people I was very familiar with, of course, I liked those stories much better than those I was not as familiar with. I would borrow this one from a library rather than running out and buying it.
easy read, interesting how one persons life interacts with another.
Most of the stories were entertaining, however I thought a lot of them were boring.
This is a book filled with almost trivia facts of encounters within interesting or famous people.it is a book to pick up when you want to distract yourself and read something of some interest.It is well written and has an interesting devotion by the author for research on issues one wouldn't come across otherwise.
Can we go to dark light? Im locked out of the second