My Road Trip with Kathy Griffin

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

OK, so I didn't take a road trip with the actual Kathy Griffin, but her virtual audiobook counterpart.  Still, I can say without a doubt that she makes a great traveling companion.

I'm not usually a fan of audiobooks.  The act of reading is a sensual act for me (you know, the comfy chair, coffee, soft music thing), and most books I would be interested in listening to are actually books I would prefer to READ.  As I prepared for the five-ish hour drive to my parents' place in Northern Michigan after work on a Friday, I debated with myself the virtues of the audiobook over NPR.  Considering that away from the big city NPR's evening programming tends to lean heavily to smooth jazz rather than insightful, entertaining talk radio, I fired up my iTunes.

As I had feared, every author I clicked on had books I wanted to READ, not listen to.  Then I remembered-Kathy Griffin, beloved (by me and the gays) comedian and reality tv star, had released a book this summer.  "Did she", I wondered, "read it herself?"

The answer, much to my delight, was yes, and I quickly downloaded it and was off.  Her memoir, Official Book Club Selection, is a sometimes funny, sometimes sad, sometimes insightful look into the Hollywood world that is Kathy Griffin's.  As a self-described "D-lister", Kathy has a knack for speaking truth to power when it comes to the misogyny and lookism that are so ingrained in Hollywood culture.  (My spellcheck is telling me that "lookism" is not a word, but then it also tells me that "spellcheck" is not a word, so what does it know?)  In chronicling her long, hard march from Oak Park, IL (where she attended Oak Park River Forest High School) to Los Angeles, she shows wit, intelligence, and a vulnerability that was at times as moving as it was unexpected.

Let me just has that Kathy and I should be besties...BFFs of the first order.  I realize that I have to get behind a long line of gays for the privilege, but I believe it would be worth it.  She and I grew up in the suburbs of Chicago.  We both had gay boys as "boyfriends" in high school.  We share food issues that caused us (hell, still cause us) to obsess about our weight.  And...we both LOVE pop culture.  Sadly, I have yet to turn it into a living the way Kathy has, but no one could do what she does in quite the same way she does it.

Here are what I consider to be the highlights, though I enjoyed the whole thing and was sorry when it was over.  Working at Unity Temple in Oak Park with youth who go to the same high school as Kathy, two of whom live in the same street Kathy lived on, made the chapters on her growing up especially fun.  The chapter on her brother Kenny was pretty much the complete opposite of funny, but it showed me a side to Kathy Griffin that had never much been hinted at before.  The Andy Dick, college-town show story was laugh out loud funny!  And the chapter on her divorce explained so much of the weirdness that was season 2 of "My Life on the D-List".  The best part-listening to Kathy tell it herself.  For most of the book I don't even think she was reading-the words were there for her, but her delivery and tone made me feel like a close friend she was confiding in.  And actually, I think that is the magic of Kathy Griffin.  With her completely out-there, balls to the wall humor, she makes even large audiences feel like she is one of them, celebrity worshipping/bashing like the best of us at the water cooler on Monday morning.

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