Jennifer Gray’s ‘Out of the Corner’ book review

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As the daughter of Broadway star Joel Grey, Jennifer Gray caught the acting bug early, at age 6. This was when his father introduced the role of the cunning, menacing Master of Ceremony on the “Cabaret” stage in 1966. As Jennifer Gray writes in her memoir, “Out of the Corner,” her Saturday treat was to sit in her dressing room while she disguised herself with false eyelashes, lip pencil, and dippy-do gel. .

“Every single one of his features was rebuilt from scratch,” she writes. “This self-made mask erased any trace of my dad as I knew him.”

Those laudatory words haunt the rest of her story, as Grey’s own is famously complicated by the reinstatement of the personality’s own characteristics.

Gray rose to fame in his mid-20s with a pair of films that became touchstones of the 1980s. She was the totally naughty sister in “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” in 1986, and a year later she was the adorable, sweet, sexy baby, mambo queen of the Catskills, in “Dirty Dancing.” That surprise hit changed that by pairing her with heartthrob Patrick Swayze.

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“I was America’s darling, which would you think would be the key to opening all my hopes and dreams,” she writes. “But it didn’t go down that way.”

Gray chronicles the flatlining of his career with brutal and charming wit. But the pain is clear, and it’s tied to how much of Hollywood’s worth rests on her features, and the price she paid for turning her face.

“For one thing,” she writes, “there were no spare parts for actresses who looked like me.” That is, Jews. or rather, a little very Jewish. So he did what many Jews have done for centuries—which both of his parents did, in fact: Gray got a nose job. He’s around 30. had, A celebrity, yet out of work. He She told her doctor not to radically change her appearance, and she didn’t. success! Gray started hiring again. When a medical problem arose about a year later, another surgery was necessary—and doctors weren’t so careful this time. Now her life really sank, because she was unrecognizable.

Even Grey’s father told her (with what felt like brutal coldness), “I think it would probably be best if you didn’t go out in public for a while.”

“Out of the Corner” is meant to be a story of triumph, and that is, once Gray gets out of the career-crash hell. Swayze’s character, Johnny, famously declared in “Dirty Dancing” that “no one puts a kid in a corner”, but that’s where Gray ended up in real life. alone. Rejected, as she tells us, by a hyper-conformist industry, and not helped by its tendency to self-destruct. She takes us on a wild ride through her star-studded youth (belt show tunes with Stephen Sondheim), her star-studded coke binges, and her many bad romances, including Johnny Depp, Matthew Broderick, and a creepy billionaire. Including, who had flown Teenage Gray to Rio, where she got caught in a bizarre situation involving her comic idol, Gilda Radner.

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However, nothing comes close to the suffering she calls “Schnozageden.” The irony of this is this: “I would have had a certain pride in being an original, not looking like every other actress.” So were his fans. Was his “physical imperfection” the key to the public’s relationship with him? Perhaps. She avoids Googling herself, but even so, she says, the outrage at her appearance has gone awry.

“There’s no restriction on what people think they are entitled to own my face? … Overnight, I was basically reduced to a punchline.”

Gray only wanted to be an actor. But barely in her 20s, she had no work, no backup plan. What followed was a long period of self-reflection. She calmed down, and found an acting coach and a husband. (The marriage lasted 20 steady years.) She discovered happiness and meaning in later adulthood, No Not as an actor, but also as a mother – and as a dancer. At the age of 41, she gave birth to a daughter and At the age of 50 she won season 11 of “Dancing with the Stars”. Despite his lumbar disc rupture near the end. America’s sweetheart, again. She writes that in 20 years she had not danced seriously. But he did what dancers do: he wagged his tail. He nurtured his innate talent. She became deeply lost in physical expression and a passion for music.

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She also survived the pain of being shot. That hurt seems like a metaphor for a difficult life. Grey’s memoir is interesting not only for her journey out of the dark, but her storytelling about what women face in the entertainment business, and the perseverance needed to make it happen. double standards. Looks so good. Those sex scenes had to be shot off set, without warning to Gray.

The agent sets up with a former well-known Depp over Grey’s objections in hopes of catching him as a client. Gray doesn’t come out right and connect the dots that way, but you can’t come away from her book without being amazed at how Hollywood operates.

But the message of hope in this book is that the 62-year-old Grey, who went from good things to bad things, is now working on a sequel to “Dirty Dancing.” The nose was nothing. His real transformation came from within.

Sarah L. Kaufman is a dance critic for The Washington Post and author of “The Art of Grace”.

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