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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To purchase the hardcover version, click below and help support SitcomsOnline.com:
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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.


Sitcoms Airing Tonight

Tuesday, June 25

The Conners - "There Won't Be Blood" (ABC, 8:00PM ET/PT) (Repeat)
It’s Halloween, the favorite time of year for the Conners, but an email from the school banning certain costumes, including Mark’s, sets off an argument between Dan and Darlene. Jackie introduces someone new to the family at the Halloween party and insists that Dan vet him, only to immediately wish that she hadn’t.

American Housewife - "Highs and Lows" (ABC, 8:30PM ET/PT) (Repeat)
As Oliver and Taylor stumble through their love lives, Katie begins to miss the spontaneity and unpredictability of being young and in love. Meanwhile, Kathryn’s (Wendie Malick) plan to soothe Oliver’s heartbreak backfires when she tracks down an old boyfriend, Dan (Gregory Harrison), and he is not as she remembers. At the same time, Anna-Kat makes strides at school when Franklin is stuck at home with the chickenpox, forcing her to make a new friend.

Modern Family - "A Sketchy Area" (ABC, 9:00PM ET/PT) (Repeat)
Phil stumbles into an exciting new career after dropping by Luke’s college; while Claire deals with her dad, Jay, and the merger of Pritchett’s Closets with a tech-savvy, hipper company. Meanwhile, Mitch’s new high-profile case as an assistant district attorney is marred by an unflattering courtroom sketch by the resident artist (Dan Levy).

The Goldbergs - "My Valentine Boy" (ABC, 9:30PM ET/PT) (Repeat)
With Geoff’s help, Erica and Valley Erica find a new band member to replace Lainey, but Barry convinces Geoff the new band member is trying to steal Erica from him. Meanwhile, Adam and Murray try to out-gift each other so that neither of them has to go to Valentine’s Day dinner with Beverly.

Modern Family - "Torn Between Two Lovers" (ABC, 10:00PM ET/PT) (Repeat)
Haley can’t seem to choose between her past and present relationships and is forced to make a decision. Meanwhile, Manny returns to college and dorm life while his girlfriend, Sherry, continues to stay at Jay and Gloria’s, and might be overstaying her welcome.

black-ish - "Son of a Pitch" (ABC, 10:30PM ET/PT) (Repeat)
Junior is working at Stevens & Lido as an intern and takes some time to find his footing; but when he offers an idea during a pitch meeting, Dre immediately puts him in his place. Meanwhile, Bow has a meeting with one of Kyra’s teachers and learns that she has an aptitude for chemistry, but Kyra doesn’t want to transfer to a magnet school.

The Detour - "The Return" (TBS, 10:30PM ET/PT)
Following a breakthrough, the Parkers return to their hometown to find their daughter.

Complete TV Listings


Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows (Week of June 24)

Tuesday, June 25

  • Kumail Nanjiani (Silicon Valley) - Catch Kumail on a repeat of Jimmy Kimmel Live! at 11:35pm on ABC.
  • Zendaya (K.C. Undercover/Shake It Up) - Zendaya stops by The Late Show with Stephen Colbert at 11:35pm on CBS.
  • Jenny Slate (Married/Parks and Recreation/Bob's Burgers) - Jenny visits Late Night with Seth Meyers at 12:36am on NBC.
  • Bill Hader (Barry) - Bill appears on a repeat of The Late Late Show with James Corden at 12:37am on CBS.
  • Anna Chlumsky (Veep) - Anna is a guest on a repeat of The Late Late Show with James Corden at 12:37am on CBS.
  • Stephanie Beatriz (Brooklyn Nine-Nine) - Stephanie appears on a repeat of Last Call with Carson Daly at 1:35am on NBC.
  • Ben Sinclair and Katja Blichfeld (High Maintenance) - Ben and Katja are guests on a repeat of Last Call with Carson Daly at 1:35am on NBC.
  • Olivia Munn (Perfect Couples) - Olivia drops by Comedy Central's The Daily Show with Trevor Noah at 11pm.
  • Kathy Bates (Disjointed) - Kathy appears on a repeat of Conan at 11pm on TBS.
  • Michael Rapaport (Atypical/White Famous/The War at Home) - Michael visits Watch What Happens: Live at 11pm on Bravo.
  • Seth MacFarlane (Family Guy/American Dad!/The Cleveland Show) - Seth chats with the ladies of The View on ABC at 11am ET/10am CT-PT.
  • Sherri Shepherd (Mr. Iglesias/Trial & Error/Sherri/Less Than Pefect) and Gabriel Iglesias (Mr. Iglesias/Cristela) - Sherri and Gabriel talk about Mr. Iglesias on The Talk on CBS at 2pm ET/1pm CT-PT.
  • Brie Larson (United States of Tara/Raising Dad) - Brie stops by LIVE! with Kelly and Ryan, so check your listings.
  • Robin Givens (Head of the Class) - Robin is a guest on LIVE! with Kelly and Ryan, so check your listings.
  • Nina Dobrev (Fam) - Nina drops by LIVE! with Kelly and Ryan, so check your listings.
  • Ariana Grande (Sam & Cat/Victorious) - The Ellen DeGeneres Show has the biggest music stars from Season 16, including Ariana, so check your local listings.
  • Kate Walsh (Bad Judge/The Drew Carey Show) - Kate cooks up a meat sauce made with bacon on a repeat of Rachael Ray, so check your local listings.
  • Justina Machado (One Day at a Time) - Justina talks about Family Pictures on NBC's Today in the 9am hour and on New York Live on WNBC in New York at 11:30am ET.
  • Terry Crews (Brooklyn Nine-Nine/Are We There Yet?/Everybody Hates Chris) - Terry talks about America's Got Talent on NBC's Today in the 10am hour.


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

Evening Shade - The Complete Collection Perfect Strangers - The Complete Seventh and Eighth Seasons My Three Sons - The Third Season - Volume One The Brady Bunch - 50th Anniversary The Brady-est TV & Movie Collection Will & Grace (The Revival) - Season Two

04/02 - Archer: Danger Island - The Complete Season Nine
04/09 - You're the Worst - The Complete Fifth Season
04/12 - Evening Shade - The Complete Collection
04/16 - The Big C - The Complete Series (Blu-ray)
05/07 - Baskets - The Complete Season Three
05/13 - I'm Dying Up Here - Season 2
05/13 - My Three Sons - The Third Season - Volume One
05/13 - My Three Sons - The Third Season - Volume Two
05/14 - The Donna Reed Show - Seasons 1-5
05/14 - Petticoat Junction - Seasons 1-3
05/28 - Perfect Strangers - The Complete Seventh and Eighth Seasons (WBShop.com)
05/28 - South Park - The Complete Twenty-Second Season (Blu-ray)
06/04 - The Brady Bunch - 50th Anniversary The Brady-est Brady Bunch TV & Movie Collection
06/18 - Will & Grace (The Revival) - Season Two (Blu-ray)
More TV DVD Releases / DVD Reviews Archive / SitcomsOnline Digest


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