Michael Starr has authored nine books encompassing pop-culture figures, from Peter Sellers (1991) to Don Rickles (2022).
Considered the world’s greatest insult comic, Don Rickles was a legendary comedy giant, honorary Rat Pack member, and “equal opportunity offender” who defied political correctness, transcended every medium, entertained, influenced and insulted generations of comedians and fans over his six-decade career. Now in the first-ever biography and in-depth portrait of Don Rickles, New York Post television editor and celebrity biographer Michael Seth Starr delivers a hilarious, moving, and long-overdue look at the real man behind the sting.
Riding a wave of success that lasted more than sixty years, Don Rickles is best known as the “insult” comic who skewered presidents, royalty, celebrities, and friends and fans alike. But there was more to “Mr. Warmth” than a devilish ear-to-ear grin and lightning-fast put-downs. Rickles was a loving husband, an adoring father who suffered a devastating loss, and a loyal friend to the likes of Bob Newhart and Frank Sinatra. Don was also a young student at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts with future stars Jason Robards, Jr., Don Murray, and Grace Kelly, and intended to become a seriously committed actor. But it was in small nightclubs where Rickles found success, steamrolling hecklers, honing his acerbic put-downs, and teaching the world to love being insulted. Sex, race, religion, nationality, physical appearance, political leanings—nothing and no one was safe from the “Planned Parenthood Poster Boy,” as Johnny Carson referred to him.
The Merchant of Venom traces Don Rickles’ career from his rise in the 1950s to a late-in-life resurgence thanks to the Toy Story franchise, his role in Martin Scorsese’s Casino, and scores of TV appearances from Carson to Seth Meyers. In the intervening decades, Rickles conquered every medium he worked in, including film, television, and on stage, where the Vegas legend was still performing at the age of eighty-five. In his highly memorable career, he was idolized by a generation of younger comedians including Jerry Seinfeld, Chris Rock, and Jay Leno, and performed in the shadow of a shocking open secret: he was the nicest man in town.
An in-depth portrait of the personal and singular professional life of Don Rickles, The Merchant of Venom delivers a hilarious, moving, and long-overdue look at the real man behind the sting.
In the early months of 1966, a handsome, hardworking thirty-five-year-old Canadian-born actor named William Shatner was cast as Captain Kirk in Star Trek, a troubled, low-budget science-fiction television series set to premiere that fall on NBC. Star Trek struggled for viewers and lasted only three seasons, but it found a huge, rabidly dedicated audience when it premiered in syndication following its cancellation—turning Shatner into a pop-culture icon and launching him on a career path he never could have imagined after graduating from McGill University with an economics degree twenty years earlier. As he approaches his ninetieth year, he’s still working at a furious pace as a man of boundless contradictions: by turns one of the most dissected, disliked, revered, respected, mocked, imitated, and beloved stars in the show business firmament.
Shatner takes a comprehensive look at this singular performer, using archival sources and information culled from interviews with friends and colleagues to transport readers through William Shatner’s remarkably bumpy career: his spectacular failures and triumphs; tragedies, including the shocking death of his third wife, Nerine; and, ultimately, the resilience Shatner has shown, time and again, in the face of overwhelming odds. Author Michael Seth Starr unravels the mystery of William Shatner, stripping away the many myths associated with his personal life and his relationships with fellow actors, presenting a no-holds-barred, unvarnished look at the unique career of an inimitable performer.
Ringo: With a Little Help, is the first in-depth biography of Beatles drummer Ringo Starr, who kept the beat for an entire generation and who remains a rock icon over fifty years since the Beatles took the world by storm. With a Little Help traces the entire arc of Ringos remarkable life and career, from his sickly childhood to his life as The Worlds Most Famous drummer to his triumphs, addictions, and emotional battles following the breakup of the Beatles as he comes to terms with his legacy. Born in 1940 as Richard Starkey in The Dingle, one of Liverpools most gritty, rough-and-tumble neighborhoods, he rose from a hardscrabble childhoodmarked by serious illnesses, long hospital stays, and little schoolingto emerge, against all odds, as a locally renowned drummer. Taking the stage name Ringo Starr, his big break with the Beatles rocketed him to the pinnacle of worldwide acclaim in a remarkably short time. He was the last member of the Beatles to join the group but also the most vulnerable, and his post-Beatles career was marked by chart-topping successes, a jet-setting life of excess and alcohol abuse, and, ultimately, his rebirth as one of rock's revered elder statesmen.
He was one of the most beloved stars of television's golden age. Together with his legendary partner Jackie Gleason, Art Carney helped create some of the most dazzling and unforgettable comedy ever presented on the small screen. Carney was an agile, rubber-limbed dancer and comedian whose sweetness and unassuming nature concealed the passion and power of a brilliant, often under appreciated, actor. The partnership formed by Carney and Gleason, as Brooklyn bus driver Ralph Kramden and his dim-witted pal, sewer worker Norton, remains to this day the most powerful and memorable comedic union ever conceived for television. How this song-and-dance man and show business recluse began his career, as well as the detours, lucky breaks, triumphs and heartbreaks Carney encountered along the way, is the subject of this fascinating, in-depth biography by author and New York Post editor Michael Seth Starr. ART CARNEY tells the story of a complex man and an enduring television legend who gave the world the most extraordinary gift of all: the gift of laughter.
Hiding in Plain Sight: The Secret Life of Raymond Burr is the complete story of the actor's career, including his secret gay life. Raymond Burr (1917-1993) was an enigma. A film noir star regularly known for his villainous roles in movies like Rear Window, he delighted millions of viewers each week with the top-rated shows Perry Mason and Ironside, which ran virtually uninterrupted for 20 years. But Burr was leading a secret gay life at a time in Hollywood when such a lifestyle was akin to career suicide. He invented a tragic biography for himself in which he was mythologized as a heartbroken husband and father. There was even an invented affair with a teenage Natalie Wood, 21 years his junior. He fought for truth as Perry Mason and Robert T. Ironside, yet he couldn't admit his own deception. Burr met his partner, struggling actor Robert Benevides, on the set of Perry Mason, and they remained together for over 35 years until Burr's death. Together, they built a business empire, traveled the world, and shared their passion for orchids and fine wine - keeping the true nature of their relationship a secret from all but their closest friends - a secret revealed here for the first time in depth.
Peter Sellers: A Film History. Peter Sellers left behind a rich legacy of film work, some of which is only belatedly recognized for its genius. Especially notable were his numerous crazy accents. Though he generally is identified as the slapstick Inspector Clouseau of the "Pink Panther" series (from 1964 on), he is recalled by many for such earlier efforts as his triple role in The Mouse That Roared (1959), and his masterly breakthrough to the mainstream American market in I'm All Right, Jack (1959). This book analyzes each Sellers film from 1951, not least his Oscar-nominated tripe-role stint in Dr. Strangelove. He also turned in a brilliant performance as the slyly sinister Clare Quilty in Lolita. Interesting anecdotes, behind-the-scenes information, a detailed plot summary, contemporary criticism and the author's own analysis are given for each film. Complete filmographies and index.
Bobby Darin: a Life. Bobby Darin fit a lot into his 37 years. By the age of 22, Darin topped the charts, but soon reinvented himself as a Sinatra-style crooner, winning a Grammy Award, the adulation of millions, a Hollywood contract, and a starlet wife. Bobby Darin examines the entertainer's entire life, from his boyhood in the Bronx to his rise as a musical sensation, his rocky marriage to Sandra Dee, the evolution of his career, and the shocking secret Darin learned later in life.
Black and Blue: The Redd Foxx Story tells the remarkable story of Foxx, a veteran comedian and "overnight sensation" at the age of 49 whose early life was defined by adversity and his post- Sanford and Son years by a blur of women, cocaine, endless lawsuits, financial chaos, and a losing battle with the IRS. Foxx's frank, trailblazing style as the "King of the Party Records" opened the door for a generation of African-American comedians including Dick Gregory, Bill Cosby, Richard Pryor, Eddie Murphy, and Chris Rock. Foxx took the country by storm in January 1972 as crotchety, bow-legged Watts junk dealer Fred Sanford in Sanford and Son , one of the most beloved sitcoms in television history. Fred's histrionic "heart attacks" ("It's the big one, Elizabeth! I'm comin' to join ya, honey!") and catchphrases ("You big dummy!") turned Fred Sanford into a cultural icon and Redd Foxx into a millionaire. Sanford and Son took Foxx to the pinnacle of television success but would also prove to be his downfall. Interviews with friends, confidantes, and colleagues provide a unique insight into this generous, brash, vulnerable performer a man who Norman Lear described as "inherently, innately funny in every part of his being."
Mouse in the Rat Pack is the first biography of the last surviving member of Hollywood's illustrious Rat Pack. Guided by close friend Frank Sinatra, the sad-faced Bishop (once dubbed "The Frown Prince of Comedy") rose at lightning speed from a struggling South Philadelphia nightclub comic to the pinnacle of show-biz preeminence.
Throughout the 1960s, Bishop was the most popular comedian in America. He performed for presidents, emceeing John F. Kennedy's gala 1961 inaugural. With Regis Philbin as his sidekick, Bishop headlined his own network sitcom, The Joey Bishop Show, which ran for five successful seasons. He starred with his Rat Pack pals in a succession of blockbuster buddy movies. He headlined Vegas, with the Rat Pack and on his own, earning millions and keeping America laughing with his self-effacing humor. His sardonic wit propelled his "smart" comedy act into the epitome of show-biz cool.
Through extensive use of personal interviews with friends, foes, and show-biz colleagues and based on primary source materials, Mouse in the Rat Pack reveals Joey Bishop, the man and the entertainer.