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‘The Fat Lady Sang’ celebrates ‘the Kid’ who still strives to stay in the picture

Dennis King Modified: January 24, 2014 at 6:15 am •  Published: January 24, 2014
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Apparently, it’s not over until Robert Evans – actor, producer, raconteur, supreme egotist and one-time notorious Hollywood playboy – says it is. In his fast and raunchy memoir, “The Fat Lady Sang” (It Books, $17.99), the irrepressible hustler and huckster in Evans appears to be still alive and jiving, even though the author is well into his 80s.

Since his best-selling 1994 memoir, “The Kid Stays in the Picture,” much has transpired in the life of this one-time dreamy young studio contract player who rose to become head of Paramount Studios, where he had a hand in producing some of the most acclaimed films of his era (“The Godfather,” “Chinatown,” “Rosemary’s Baby,” “Love Story” and “Urban Cowboy,” among others).

And, as he so vividly and zestfully described in his earlier memoir, he also emerged as a world-class lothario, seducing and bedding scores of Hollywood and society beauties and marrying more than a few (Ali MacGraw and Phylllis George are among his seven marriages).

An inveterate name-dropper and outrageous storyteller, Evans proves in this long-in-coming follow-up memoir that, despite scandal (drug charges and a tangential connection to a murder case) and three debilitating strokes that laid him low in 1998, he’s as feisty and self-absorbed as ever.

In the new book, he cites his strokes as a turning point in which he confronted his fears of debilitation and intimations of mortality and looked back again on the escapades of his glamorous and debauched Hollywood life.

The juicy and frank anecdotes that follow are peppered with a dizzying array of famous names – friends, colleagues, enemies, lovers, etc, – that runs a range from old Hollywood (Jimmy Cagney, Tyrone Power, Darryl Zanuck, Ava Gardner, Errol Flynn, Grace Kelly, John Wayne, Frank Sinatra) to political and religious icons (Presidents Kennedy and Reagan, Henry KIssinger Pope John Paul II) to current hip-hop and rock royalty (P. Diddy, Slash, 50 Cent, Snoop Dogg).

During his slow, painful recovery, Evans reserves special affection for old friends such as Warren Beatty, Jack Nicholson, Sumner Redstone and Beverly D’Angelo, for encouragement, therapy, sage advice and camaraderie.

Among his more puzzling detours of the past 15 years, recounted by Evans with his signature braggadocio and flippant man-talk writing style, was his sudden decision to marry actress Catherine Oxenberg (more than 30 years his junior). He deftly recounts his full-frontal wooing of her (gifting her with a Jaguar and jewels), despite warnings from friends and doctors that his health wasn’t up to such arduous behavior. In the end, he scaled back his plans for an opulent French honeymoon, and the marriage was soon annulled.

Such is the outlandish stuff of “The Fat Lady Sings,” which celebrates the excesses, grand ambitions, opulent lifestyle, bad behavior and monumental ego a man who became a Hollywood legend, if only in his own mind.

- Dennis King