Thursday, November 05, 2015

SitcomsOnline Book Club Review - The Facts of My Life by Charlotte Rae and Larry Strauss; Bewitched Back on TV Land, While Jeannie Is Out

The Facts of My Life

SitcomsOnline Book Club Review - The Facts of My Life

by Todd

Charlotte Rae's career spans more than seventy years, from the golden age of television to Shakespeare in the Park, the New York Cabaret scene of the late 1940s and 50s to her hit series, The Facts of Life and well beyond.

Off stage and screen, Charlotte's life has been of joy and challenge, raising an autistic son, coming to terms with alcoholism, the heartache of a broken marriage, the revelation of a gay husband and the sudden challenge of facing middle-age with financial and emotional uncertainties--an crisis she ultimately turned into the determination that brought her stardom.

The Facts of My Life is written by Charlotte Rae and her son, Larry Strauss. It's the first opportunity for Charlotte fans to explore the fascinating story of her extraordinary life; poignant and hilarious, a story of courage and triumph, one that speaks for a generation of women breaking barriers, taking on challenges, overcoming personal tragedy, and paving the way for others.

The early chapters of the book focus on her childhood in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She talks about how her parents, Meyer and Esther, first met. Charlotte Rae Lubotsky was born on April 22, 1926, in Milwaukee. Her father owned a tire store. She has two sisters, the late Beverly and Mimi. Beverly and Charlotte were always very competitive with each other. They didn't always have the best relationship until their later years. She talks about her family often throughout the book.

Rae attended Shorewood High School where she became passionate about theatre. She discusses her time at Northwestern University where she studied acting. Her classmates included her future Facts of Life sister Cloris Leachman and Paul Lynde. Leachman and Rae also shared an apartment in New York City for a time. Rae talks about changing her last name and how it upset her father. She discusses her early work as a saloon and cabaret singer when she was making $60 a week.

Much of the book details her work as a stage actress. She received two Tony nominations for her roles in Pickwick in 1966 and Morning, Noon and Night in 1969. She shares many behind-the-scenes details of her work in various plays and musicals. Rae gives much praise to many people she worked with, but she's also not afraid to talk about a few people she found difficult to work with.

She married composer John Strauss on November 4, 1951. They had two children together, Andy and Larry. She provides many stories about her sons sprinkled throughout the chapters. Her son, Andy, had autism. They struggled to get him help as not much was known about autism back then compared to today. She also discusses her husband coming out as bisexual and their divorce in 1976. Other struggles she discusses in detail include her battle with alcoholism and various health problems. She's had sobriety for over 40 years. She's also a pancreatic cancer survivor.

Rae provides many details about her television work throughout the book. She talks about her guest appearance on The Phil Silvers Show, which her husband worked on in the sound department. She briefly talks about her role as Sylvia Schnauser, the wife of Officer Leo Schnauser (Al Lewis), in Car 54, Where Are You? In 1975, she starred as Mrs. Bellotti in the short-lived Hot L Baltimore. She that this was Norman Lear's favorite series, interestingly enough. She shares a story about her appearance on All in the Family as the tupperware lady, Miss Lillian Henderson.

Her time on Diff'rent Strokes is discussed in a chapter titled Strokes of Good Fortune. She talks about how about she almost didn't play Mrs. Garrett because she was under contract with CBS at at the time. She has some nice things to say about the cast members, but she thought the parents were problematic. It's interesting that she didn't really enjoy her time on the series very much. She was concerned they were phasing her character out by giving her fewer lines.

The Facts of Life is talked about in parts of two chapters. Rae has given many interviews over the years, so there is probably not much new information here for the die-hard fans. Topics she discusses include how she discovered Mindy Cohn, the first season cast, her weight loss after the first season, her favorite guest star and her decision to leave the series. She also talks about her favorite trip to Paris when they filmed The Facts of Life Goes to Paris. I thought it was a little surprising that she didn't mention the 2001 reunion movie at all.

The final two chapters detail her life after The Facts of Life. Despite some health struggles in recent years, she has continued to have roles on television and in films. Most recently she had a small role in Ricki and the Flash.

There's a nice section of over 75 black and white photos in the middle of the book. She provides captions of the many photos of her family and from her show business career. There is one with Gary Coleman and Todd Bridges. Several Facts of Life cast photos and one with Geri Jewell are included. These are fun to see, so it's great that she shared them. Her career highlights and acknowledgments are presented at the end of the book.

If you're a fan of Charlotte Rae, this is a must read. There's only a limited amount of information on her available online, so this book provides her complete life story from her early childhood in Milwaukee up to the present day. They do a nice job of blending in the details of her personal life with her professional career. There's a good mix of comedic and dramatic sections. She also shares some pretty wild stories, such as the first time she smoked pot! It's easy to picture her as Mrs. Garrett, but she has a bit of a mischievous side.

Fans of The Facts of Life may be a little disappointed that only two chapters are devoted to the series, but I think it's a fair amount. This wasn't meant to be a tell-all book on the series. She talks about many of the highlights and has many good things to say about the cast and her time on the show.

The book is well written. It provides all the facts you could ever want to know about Charlotte Rae. It feels like she is almost talking to you as she shares many funny and heartbreaking stories. She has an incredible memory to recall so many names and details. She has overcome many struggles in her 89 years. I don't think you have to be a fan of The Facts of Life or her other work to be inspired by her life story. She seems like a very sweet little woman. She has been blessed to live a long and productive life. Hopefully she has many more healthy years and projects in the future. We have been blessed to have her bring us so many great laughs and memories over her 70 years in show business.



(4/5 stars)

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Bewitched

TV Land has re-added Bewitched to its lineup. The classic '60s sitcom is airing on the network weekdays from 5-6pm replacing an hour of Gilligan's Island. That sitcom will continue to air in the mornings from 10am-12pm following Three's Company which moves to an earlier timeslot replacing I Dream of Jeannie. So essentially, Bewitched is back, and Jeannie is out. The rest of the TV Land line-up will remain the same including The Facts of Life every weeknight from 6-8pm. Both Bewitched and Jeannie will also continue to air on sister Viacom network Logo. Keep it right here for continued updates.


New on DVD/Blu-ray (April/May/June)

Diff'rent Strokes - The Complete Fifth Season Father Knows Best - Season Five The Wayans Bros. - The Complete Second Season ALF - The Complete DVD Collection The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air - The Complete Series

04/04 - Diff'rent Strokes - The Complete Fifth Season
04/11 - Father Knows Best - Season Five
04/11 - Schitt's Creek - The Complete Third Season
04/11 - Silicon Valley - The Complete Third Season (Blu-ray)
04/11 - Veep - The Complete Fifth Season
05/02 - Red, White and Blue Collar Sitcoms - Make TV Great Again
05/09 - ALF - The Complete DVD Collection
05/09 - Divorce - The Complete First Season (Blu-ray)
05/09 - The Wayans Bros. - The Complete Second Season
05/16 - The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air - The Complete Series
06/13 - The Andy Griffith Show - Return to Mayberry
06/13 - That's My Mama - The Complete Series
06/20 - Workaholics - The Final (Seventh) Season
06/20 - Workaholics - The Complete Series
06/27 - The Jamie Foxx Show - The Complete Third Season
More TV DVD Releases / DVD Reviews Archive / SitcomsOnline Digest


Sitcoms Airing Tonight

Tuesday, July 25

The Middle - "Clear and Present Danger" (ABC, 8:00PM ET/PT) (Repeat)
Frankie frantically searches the house for Axl’s graduation gift, which she bought months before and hid; Sue decides that she wants to make a sweet video for Mike’s upcoming birthday – even though the family warns her that he probably won’t like it; and after Cindy embarrasses Brick by strong-arming and chasing away a boy who was bullying him, Brick turns to Axl to help get him into shape so that he can stick up for himself.

Fresh Off the Boat - "The Flush" (ABC, 8:30PM ET/PT) (Repeat)
Louis excitedly plans a guys’ weekend for he and Eddie, but is disappointed when he invites his buddies over for a sleepover instead. Unbeknownst to Louis, Eddie and his friends were hiding out in his room, trying beer for the first time. So when Eddie has an adverse reaction to alcohol, also known as the Asian Flush, Louis reassures his eldest son that the discomfort will pass and reminisces about his college drinking days. Meanwhile, Jessica, Emery, Evan and Honey go on a road trip to Georgia in search of “The Big Peanut” and to save a few dollars on a piece of furniture.

black-ish - "Their Eyes Were Watching Screens" (ABC, 9:00PM ET/PT) (Repeat)
When Diane stumbles onto some websites that give her more than she bargained for, Dre and Bow must take action. Concerned that the internet is corrupting their children, Dre and Bow decide to make their home an internet free-zone and deal with the backlash.

black-ish - "VIP" (ABC, 9:30PM ET/PT) (Repeat)
Dre decides to take his family to Walt Disney World on the magical, first-class vacation experience he was never able to have as a kid. With the help of a VIP tour guide, Dre and the kids take full advantage of their VIP status. Meanwhile, Bow, Pops and Ruby set off on their own adventure at Walt Disney World.

The Mick - "The Heater" (Fox, 9:00PM ET/PT) (Repeat)
Mickey and Alba go on a gambling binge. In Mickey’s absence, Jimmy, Sabrina and Chip fight for control of the house, while one of them must watch over Ben.

Brooklyn Nine-Nine - "Mr. Santiago" (Fox, 9:30PM ET/PT) (Repeat)
At Amy’s intricately planned Thanksgiving dinner, Jake goes “full Santiago” (binder and all) in order to impress her father (guest star Jimmy Smits), a former cop. With Jake and Amy’s focus elsewhere, Charles is left on turkey duty and Holt helps Pimento cope after learning he can no longer work for the NYPD.

Wrecked - "Sister Mercy" (TBS, 10:30PM ET/PT)
After discovering the pirate's plan to harvest their organs, the survivors try to escape the island; Karen makes a difficult decision that echoes a moment from her past.

Still the King - "Flatbushes" (CMT, 10:00PM ET/PT)
Vernon's hometown honors him with a statue of his likeness and Vernon doesn't approve how it looks; Vernon recruits Walt, Charlotte and Doily to ``fix'' the statue.

Still the King - "Showcase Showdown" (CMT, 10:30PM ET/PT)
Vernon readies his band for a big gig he doesn't have booked yet.

In The Cut - "Blast From the Past" (Bounce TV, 9:00PM ET/PT)
Jay hires an efficiency expert to improve the business; Smitty sees fire when Mable's old flame, Charles, reappears.

Complete TV Listings


Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows (Week of July 24)

Tuesday, July 25

  • Tiffany Haddish (The Carmichael Show) - Catch Tiffany on a repeat of Jimmy Kimmel Live! at 11:35pm on ABC.
  • Kelly Ripa (Hope & Faith) - Kelly is a guest on Late Night with Seth Meyers at 12:36am on NBC.
  • Fred Savage (The Grinder/Working/The Wonder Years) - Fred appears on Late Night with Seth Meyers at 12:36am on NBC.
  • Edie Falco (Nurse Jackie) - Edie visits The Late Late Show with James Corden at 12:37am on CBS.
  • Tom Lennon (The Odd Couple/Sean Saves the World/Reno 911!) - Tom is a guest on @midnight on Comedy Central at midnight.
  • Alec Baldwin (30 Rock) - Alec appears on a repeat of Conan at 11pm on TBS.
  • Al Madrigal (About a Boy/Welcome to The Captain/Gary Unmarried) - Al is a guest on a repeat of Conan at 11pm on TBS.
  • Kelsey Grammer (Frasier/Cheers) - Kelsey talks about The Last Tycoon on NBC's Today in the 10am hour and on LIVE! with Kelly and Ryan, so check your listings.
  • Debi Mazar (Younger/Entourage/Working) - Debi appears on LIVE! with Kelly and Ryan, so check your listings.
  • Zach Braff (Scrubs) - Zach is a guest on a repeat of The Ellen DeGeneres Show, so check your local listings.
  • Demi Lovato (Sonny with a Chance) - Demi appears on a repeat of The Ellen DeGeneres Show, so check your local listings.
  • Nick Offerman (Parks and Recreation) - Nick is a guest on a repeat of Harry, so check your local listings.
  • Bella Thorne (Shake It Up) - Bella explains her obsession with Disney star Dove Cameron on People Now at 8:30am.
  • Andrea Savage (I'm Sorry/The Hotwives/Significant Others) - Andrea talks about truTV's I'm Sorry on Home & Family on Hallmark Channel at 10am ET/PT.
  • Alisan Porter (Chicken Soup) - Alisan appears on NBC's Today in the 10am hour.
  • Nico Tortorella (Younger) - Nico and Sara Haines discuss sexuality with young adults, including what it means to be bisexual and the stereotypes and myths surrounding it, on The View on ABC at 11am ET/10am CT-PT.