Thursday, October 8, 2009

Book Review: Moon River and Me

I can't say I knew much about entertainer Andy Williams before I started reading his memoir -- other than the fact that he was famous for singing the theme song from one of my favorite movies, Breakfast at Tiffany's.

After reading Moon River and Me, I now know a lot about this 82-year-old singer... and I'll say that the time I took learning about him was vastly enjoyable.

Williams' memoir starts back when he was a young boy in Iowa, singing at home with his family. His father soon recognized Andy and his brothers had talent and got them together to sing in a group -- the Williams Brothers. Jay Williams pushed his sons to practice, practice, practice, and then went from singing at a funeral parlor to singing on the radio. Then eventually had a successful traveling act with entertainer Kay Thompson.

Later on, Williams built a very successful solo career as a singer and even had a long-running The Andy Williams Show, known especially for its fabulous Christmas specials. Never slowing down, he currently sings at his Moon River Theater in Branson, Missouri.

Williams' honest account of his life as a celebrity is heartfelt and intriguing. Williams lets the reader into his life, including discussing his despair early on as a solo performer (he finally hit rock bottom when he realized he was eating dog food at dinner to save money) to his divorce from his first wife, the beautiful Claudine Longet.

Williams' book is filled with all the celebrities who touched his life, including the Osmonds (who got their first big break on The Andy Williams Show), Judy Garland (Williams saw her struggles with prescription drug addiction firsthand when she was a guest on his show) and Bobby Kennedy (a good friend; Williams was actually with him when Kennedy was shot).

Not afraid to touch upon scandal, Williams also touches on his "brush" with the mob (the Williams Brothers performed at a casino owned by the mob); his romantic relationship with Thompson, 20 years his senior; and the murder trial of his ex-wife.

In "Moon River," Williams sings: "Two drifters/Off to see the world/There's such a lot of world to see." Williams certainly saw a lot of the world from his career as a performer, and his memoir is a gift to readers -- a delightful and entertaining glimpse into that world.

From the Penguin Group, Moon River and Me is on sale on Oct. 13.

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