Author Revealed

About James Gavin

Q. What is your birthdate?

A. 2/6

Q. Previous occupations

A. Book- and record-store clerk, (bad) secretary.

Q. Favorite job

A. Writer

Q. High school and/or college

A. Sacred heart High School (Yonkers), Fordham University (Bronx)

Q. Name of your favorite composer or music artist?

A. Elis Regina

Q. Favorite movie

A. "The Umbrellas of Cherbourg"

Q. Favorite television show

A. "The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd"

Revealing Questions

Q. How would you describe your life in only 8 words?

A. I live to pursue voices, words, and stories.

Q. What is your motto or maxim?

A. An honest story is the only story worth telling.

On Books and Writing

Q. Who are your favorite authors?

A. Joan Didion, Truman Capote, Frank Rich, Derek Jarman, Patricia Morrisroe.

Q. What are your 5 favorite books of all time?

A. 1. "One Christmas" (Capote) 2. "Mapplethorpe: A Biography" (Morrisroe) 3. "Modern Nature" (Jarman) 4. "The White Album" (Didion) 5. "Ghost Light: A Memoir" (Rich)

Q. Is there a book you love to reread?

A. "Mapplethorpe: A Biography"

Q. Do you have one sentence of advice for new writers?

A. Write.

Q. What comment do you hear most often from your readers?

A. Oh, come on -- modesty forbids!

Q. How did you come to write Stormy Weather?

A. Lena Horne has been a fascination of mine for almost as long as I've loved singers. Before I'd reached my teens I discovered two albums she made in the mid-'70s, "Lena & Michel [Legrand]" and "Lena, A New Album." The sadness, anger, and disappointment I heard in her singing -- the raw passion -- touched me deeply, and led me on a search for all the Lena Horne recordings and movies I could find. I discovered a woman who had worn many masks, and who seemed to have many secrets. The candor of those two albums I loved was often hidden behind a beaming smile (in her early days at M-G-M), a veneer of brittle glamour and "sexy" ferocity (on her famous album from the Waldorf), an offputting iciness (on a 1966 TV appearance with Andy Williams), or a git-down, "liberated" raunchiness that didn't quite ring true for me (in her 1981-1982 Broadway one-woman show). I wondered why she so often kept the vulnerable Lena I loved in hiding. But even after she revealed that side of herself to me for two hours in 1994, when I interviewed her for the New York Times, I didn't think I would ever undertake to write a book about her. That happened ten years later, just after Janet Jackson nearly got to play her in an ABC-TV biopic. (Janet's Super Bowl blunder put an end to that possibility.) The resultant publicity made me realize that a lot of people still cared about Lena Horne, and that her story -- her true story, that is -- had never really been told. It was mired in stale mythology, a lot of it created by Lena and those around her to buttress her position as an icon. I felt the time had come for an honest look at the human being underneath the inspirational figure. Five years later, I admire her even more.



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