Kathleen Turner doesn’t tell, jus most in autobiography | NevadaAppeal.com
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Kathleen Turner doesn’t tell, jus most in autobiography

Charles Taylor
Special to Newsday

“Send Yourself Roses: Thoughts on My Life, Love, and Leading Roles,”

by Kathleen Turner, in collaboration with Gloria Feldt (Springboard, $24.99, 264 pp.)

Alternately overbearing and striking for its bluntness ” which is a different thing than honesty “- Kathleen Turner’s memoir, “Send Yourself Roses,” suggests that the actress’ most consuming role may be as a show-biz broad.

It’s a role almost always assumed by actresses who go from lithe, young sexpot to the not-so flattering realities of middle age (a transition men are just as prone to). It’s certainly admirable not to mutilate yourself in the service of maintaining a grotesque version of your younger self. It makes people believe you’re “real” and unafraid to appear without the benefits of star glamour.

Turner cites her London and New York appearances in “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” as proof that her acting chops survived her demise as movie sex goddess. Frankly, the woman who was so good in “Romancing the Stone” or so willing to parody her hottie-vamp image in the silly-comedy classic “The Man With Two Brains” or later was so convincing as the washed-out Catholic mother in “The Virgin Suicides,” should have been recognized as a smart, versatile actress a lot sooner. And God knows, when Turner points angrily to the fact that her European peers are allowed longer careers without having to hide their aging, she’s got a right to be mad. (You only have to look at Catherine Deneuve in “Changing Times” or Anouk Aimee in “Happily Ever After” or Stefania Sandrelli in the original version of “The Last Kiss” to see, by contrast, how shabbily American movies treat their leading ladies.)

I enjoyed it, toward the end of “Send Yourself Roses,” when Turner, in the midst of getting a divorce from her husband of 21 years, real-estate magnate Jay Weiss, admits to longing for good sex again. When she dishes the bad behavior of some of her co-stars, it’s not excessively nasty. She’s believable when she attributes her much-remarked-upon bloat not to booze but to the drugs she was prescribed for rheumatoid arthritis ” especially since she freely admits the pain of the disease drove her to become “a nasty drunk.” And when Turner talks about standing up to Disney exec Jeffrey Katzenberg, who wanted her to accept an idiot rewrite to the ending of “V.I. Warshawski,” you think American movies would be better off if more stars booted the know-nothing Katzenbergs of the industry in their salaried, Armani-clad rear ends.

But the “realness” that comes with peeling off the glamour often entails another performance ” that of the intemperate truth teller. When Turner boasts of her activism (her ghostwriter here is Gloria Feldt, former head of Planned Parenthood) or says she believes people associate her with New York because of the work she did after Sept. 11, she sounds like any other self-righteous celeb. (Not, however, when she talks about Off-Broadway impresario Joseph Papp preventing her from slugging Sen. Strom Thurmond. She’d have gone to jail, but think of the benefit to American politics if we’d been spared even a decade of that gibbering racist old coot.) Turner is full of bull when she says she chooses her roles for their strength, including the demented killer in John Waters’ “Serial Mom.” She’s appalling and uncollegial when she talks about hiding in the wings and snickering over Raquel Welch’s audition to take over for her in “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.”

And she’s dissembling when she minimizes Weiss’ moral culpability in the 1990 fire that killed 87 people at the illegal Bronx nightclub Happy Land, situated in a building he leased. (The courts found he had no legal culpability.) “Maybe he should have done more,” she writes, “maybe he should have checked on the business more often.” Maybe he should have taken steps to comply with fire codes when he knew the club was operating illegally and had been cited for violations. And maybe Turner shouldn’t have told reporters at the time that the fire was “unfortunate” but could have happened at McDonald’s. I don’t mind if Turner wants to send herself roses. Just spare us the stuff used to grow them.