A hilariously offbeat memoir about an adventurous young woman's escapades as she defies conventions and transforms an ordinary Los Angeles life into a star-studded, extraordinary miracle of self-discovery.
Queen of the Oddballs forms a chronology of Hillary Carlip's habitual straying from roads more traveled from a wisecracking third-grader suspended from school for smoking (while imitating Holly Golightly) to a headline-making teen activist, juggler and fire eater, friend (NOT "fan") of Carly Simon and Carole King, grand prize-winning Gong Show contestant, cult rock star, and seeker of spiritual and romantic truths that definitely defy expectations.
Illustrated with ephemera from diary entries and photographs to a handwritten letter from Carly Simon Queen of the Oddballs presents a virtual time capsule of pop culture's last four decades and celebrates a creative life lived to the hilt.
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About the Author
Hillary Carlip, author of Girl Power, has written commentaries for NPR, and is a performer and artist. She is the creator of the acclaimed personal essay Web site freshyarn.com, and she lives in Los Angeles.
Read an Excerpt
Queen of the OddballsAnd Other True Stories from a Life Unaccording to Plan
By Hillary Carlip
HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.Copyright © 2006 Hillary Carlip
All right reserved.
What do you do when you feel so invisible you can't sleep without a light on, afraid that in the dark you just might vanish entirely? Simple. Become someone interesting enough to be noticed. And that's exactly what I did when I was eight years old.
I took on different personas the way other kids tried on clothes. I Frugged and Mashed Potatoed incessantly for an entire month when I was being a go-go dancer from Hullabaloo! After that, for several weeks I yanked my short hair into pigtails, wore all black, and skulked around the house and school, acting "creepy, kooky, mysterious, and spooky," when I was being Wednesday from The Addams Family. A few months later, hooked on Gerry and the Pacemakers, I sang and spoke only in an English accent. How much more interesting could I get?
The answer came one night when my parents were out and my ten-year-old brother, our teenage babysitter, and I watched the movie Breakfast at Tiffany's on TV. I was smitten with Holly Golightly. Daring and darling, she shoplifted and had only one friend, her cat named Cat. She was strong and independent, saying things like "You don't haveto worry. I've taken care of myself for a long time." Those words rang so true to me.
My parents, Mim and Bob, both on the short side, each with open, reassuring expressions and sympathetic smiles, took on full-time jobs as compassionate listeners to everyone else's problems -- the gardener's, the grocery checkout clerk's, the mailman's. In fact on more than one occasion, they invited our mailman, Felix, to join us for dinner at the end of his route. They helped the neighbor's daughter get into private school, found a job for the pharmacist's son, and took in Esperanza, a teenage boarder from Guatemala. Whatever remained of my parents' energy was sucked up by my hyperactive, rebellious older brother, Howard, whose constant demands for attention began as early as when, at six months old, he literally threw himself out of his crib.
I was definitely noticed when I started acting like Holly Golightly. Unfortunately, it wasn't quite the sort of attention I had desired.
I sat on a hard wooden chair in the principal's office, my arms hidden behind my back, when my parents walked in.
Mr. Shelton, the principal at Bellagio Road Elementary School, sported a head of bushy gray hair and matching moustache, making him look like Larry Tate from Bewitched. I wished I could twitch my nose like Samantha Stephens and turn myself into something tiny and unnoticeable, like a postage stamp.
"Your daughter's being suspended from school," he told my parents.
"From the third grade? Why?" My mother was stunned.
"What did she do?" my dad asked.
"Her teacher, Mrs. Renzoli, caught her on the playground smoking cigarettes."
"What?" My mother shrieked as my dad's eyes darted around, searching for an ashtray to stub out his Benson and Hedges.
"Hill, why were you smoking?" Mom asked.
I shrugged. My dad excused himself, opened the office door, stomped out his cigarette on the sidewalk right outside, then hurried back in. "Answer your mother," he said.
I slowly pulled my arms from behind my back, revealing my mom's black, elbow-length gloves that, on me, went up to my shoulders. "I was being Holly Golightly."
"Who?" Mr. Shelton asked. It figured he didn't know who she was.
"She's a character from Breakfast at Tiffany's," my mother responded. "Hillary saw the movie recently, and I guess it made an impression."
"I tried to get a long cigarette holder, but I couldn't find one anywhere," I said, confident in that moment that my parents were now on my side, having to explain to the ignorant principal who Holly Golightly was.
But they weren't at all on my side. In fact, my latest shenanigans not only got me suspended, they also resulted in my being sent to Dr. Eleanor Troupe, Child Psychologist.
"Please, Mom, don't make me go," I begged at the door of Dr. Troupe's office, a fading salmon pink one-story duplex dwarfed into near oblivion by the high-rises on busy Wilshire Boulevard in Westwood Village. "I'll do anything you want if I don't have to go -- name it."
My mother took a deep breath and exhaled any doubts she may have had. "Sorry, Hill. Your father and I have made our decision, and it's final."
We stepped into a waiting room, and I begrudgingly sat on the sofa -- but it was difficult to maintain an attitude with my 3'10" body swallowed up by puffy pink pillows.
Dr. Troupe came out to greet us, and the sight made me gasp out loud: a woman older than my grandmother, her body was distorted in several directions at once. She limped in on her left leg, which was bent to the right, while her torso twisted in the opposite direction. Her right hand looked like a claw, raised in a permanent fist near her shoulder, and her mouth warped to the left, creating a bucktoothed, snarly smile.
"You must be Hillary," she sputtered. "I've heard a lot about you, and you sound like a very interesting young lady. I'm very happy to meet you."
Though I was terrified by her deformities, this was the first time anyone had called me interesting. That was enough for me to willingly follow her into her office. She motioned with her eyes -- the only uncrossed thing on her body -- for me to sit in a maroon leather chair. My mother called out from the waiting room, "I'll pick you up in an hour," then left.
Dr. Troupe pointed with her claw to a large glass jar filled to the top with a mix of Brach's chewy chocolate and caramel squares wrapped snugly in smooth plastic. "Help yourself," she said.
I did as she opened a cupboard and pulled out a board game. "You ever play Clue?"
Excerpted from Queen of the Oddballs by Hillary Carlip Copyright © 2006 by Hillary Carlip. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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What People are Saying About This
“Colorful? She was a kid Auntie Mame! Her book should be mandatory reading for anybody contemplating fabulousness.”
“Hillary Carlip is the best kind of eccentric: Genuine, ballsy, funny and soulful. ... She deserves to be our queen.”
“An unpredictable, fresh, distinctive memoir ... it will suck you in before you know it.”
“A hilarious and inspiring read for all of us who were too afraid to be ourselves. Or stalk Carole King.”
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Hillary Carlip's account of her extremely un-ordinary life was amusing and fun to read, but it dragged a bit in places (especially the screenplay chapter - I thought it would never end!). She made me laugh out loud in several places. Definitely a fun way to spend an evening.
This book was a quick but fun read. It contained very interesting facts aobut different eras and a lot of celebrity encounters. I think I like Laurie Notaro a LOT better than Hillary, but overall, it was a fun read!
Purposely slowed down reading this book to make it last until 2007. Wanted the first book on the list for the year to be this one,
Hillary Carlip seems to have spent her life searching for her own way to stand out, while trying on various methods to see if they suit her. The amazing part is that most of them did indeed suit her, so she has a lot of great stories to tell.
I FOUND U!!!
I would like to sign up.
Lets go back to the main room at princess school result two. See you there she says kising him on the lips
Personally I loved this book. Though not a deep though provoking novel, this memoir is hilarious! Growing up in Hollywood, Carlip's tale of finding herself contain such a sense of humorous adventure that it just pulls you right in and makes you feel as though you were actually there with her that summer that her and a friend decided to find and befriend Carol King. From taking on different persona's as an eight year old to appearing on the Oprah show as an adult, each almost unbelievable story is hilarious. Every character is so unique AND real and combined with her writing style, again, you feel like you know them and can see them. Her imagery is very colorful and there is never any part that feels like it's just dragging on for an unnecessary amount of time. A great and quick read, this book is the perfect book for anyone who's looking for a fun story to brighten up their own or a friend's day or weekend. I recommend this read to every woman, especially those who are 'oddballs' themselves.
From the hilarious cover of this little treasure of a book through the insightful writing and gifted comedic tales of reality pushed over the edge and happily falling with it, QUEEN OF THE ODDBALLS is not only a book that defies us to read a few chapters at a time, but instead finds us placing this tenderly and warmly funny memoir at bedside for a chuckle and smile before retiring. Hillary Carlip may have found a means to entertain the reader: she has also discovered the path to the heart and conscience and mind that is bound to make some changes in the way the public perceives a gay persona.Beginning with the year 1965 and continuing through the year 2004 Hillary Carlip provides us with several valuable and insightful sources of information. First, she opens each of her chapters with the events of the particular year during which the brush with celebrity occurred (listing such events as the Vietnam war, Nixon and Watergate, Apollo 15 landing on the moon, the banning of cigarette ads, Roe vs. Wade, Chippendales, Rubik's Cube, Jenny Craig's arrival on the weight scene, Tom Cruise's debut in his underwear, the Rodney King incident, Princess Di's death, the OJ Simpson trial) and then following each of these bongers with an experience of her own relating to such figures as Carly Simon, Carole King, The Gong Show, Olivia Newton-John and making those incidents feel as full of impact as the real historical events. And she decorates her action with scrapbook photographs of a crazy life shared.Hillary Carlip, like of many of the silent multitude, has spent her life of feeling unnoticed by drawing attention to the fact that she is alive and well, uniquely gifted, hilarious, poignant, and brave. After reading QUEEN OF THE ODDBALLS once, we get the importance of the strange title (full of metaphors!). Reading it again we begin to wonder if Carlip is just a fine writer, or that perhaps she is a philosopher of sorts, a Foucault in funky costume, or perhaps just one of the more gifted communicators to come around in the past few years. This is a wonderfully entertaining, sensitive journey through a life not always friendly on the surface: Carlip knows how to make the most of a bland or bad situation. Recommended Reading! Grady Harp