Actress Olympia Dukakis, probably best known for her roles as Rose Castorini in Moonstruck and Mrs. Madrigal in Tales of the City, is not afraid to admit when she has messed up- as an actress, daughter or mother. But she is also not afraid to brag when she gels it right- as an actress, daughter or mother. For she knows that "having it all" means having the good with the bad. Dukakis maintains a friendly, conversational tone throughout this book. She gives the reader a taste of what it's like to find yourself at the Academy Awards winning an Oscar (for her supporting role in Moonstruck), clearly surprised with what the media then refers as her "overnight .success." Excuse me? She's worked very hard for 30 years prior to that, thank you very much!
The Academy Award memories are wonderful for a bit of vicarious living, but 1 found myself most drawn to her exploits as a young actress in New York City in the late "5()s to early '60s. When she meets the man who becomes her husband (and still is her husband 40+ years later), she writes "Louie lived in a brownstone on Horatio Street in the West Village that looked like it was plucked from the pages of a Henry James novel. It was a beautiful brownstone on one of those shaded, quiet streets i you occasionally come across in the Village when you stop and wonder if you haven't somehow traveled back in time to some European city. . . . Every other actor I knew lived in a tenement." We even get to imagine the young Dukakis wooing her future husband dressed only in a black slip, chain-smoking cigarettes, "like something out of a bad French movie."
Dukakis also writes about her complex family relationships (particularly with her mother), and her Greek heritage. She rails against the constant typecasting her ancestry- and refusal to change her name- leads to: "Most of the parts I was offered were either 'ethnic* women or prostitutes. Once in a while I got to play an ethnic prostitute." She learns her father's side of the family comes from what was once known as the Isle of Lesbos, and eventually, she learns more about The Great Mother, through a series of synchronistic experiences where she comes across certain books at the right time. She is directed by the family therapist to spend some time just for herself and finds herself at the Spirituality Week at a retreat which whets her appetite to learn more about the Goddess.
Never lacking in chutzpah, she even manages to meet Marija Gimhutas, whose picture is featured in the photograph section of the book. Dukakis also works with her theater company to create plays focusing on the Maiden, Mother and Crone aspects of a woman's life. The "Selected Reading" list includes books by Barbara Walker, Riane Eisler and Carol Christ. Definitely an interesting lady, and an entertaining, interesting read. Highly recommended.
~review by Diane Saarinen
Author: Olympia Dukakis
Harper Collins Books 2003
Large Print Edition, 302 pages, $25.95