(3/13/12 - 10:15pm updated to change information provided to me by Kristen herself in the comments section regarding the genesis of the title of the book)
Last night, my friends at Spin Cycle hosted a book launch party for TV (I know I'm supposed to love her for THIRD ROCK FROM THE SUN, but my favorite appearance of hers is her role on SEX IN THE CITY where she has had it and falls out the window) and theatre star Kristen Johnston's memoir, GUTS at the swanky midtown event space, 230 Fifth, a terrific place with a rooftop that has the
best view of the Empire State Building in New York City (the rooftop is open to the public so check it out if you want to see what I mean).
She had originally wanted the book to be called LOST IN SPACE (alluding to those years on 3RD ROCK) but decided on GUTS (which, when you read the book, you'll see has more than one meaning.. and it isn't pretty, but it sure is funny!)
While a drunken celebrity tell-all isn't new (author Kristen Johnston admits this immediately in the book in a sort of self deprecating way that signals just what kind of book this is going to be), the story of picked-on Milwaukee girl turned TV and theatre star, is made new with a refreshing candor - and a lot of swearing (and a deft and direct writing style that makes this a quick, easy read - as though you're sitting down with Ms. Johnston for cocktails. Ok maybe not cocktails, but maybe a platter of chicken fingers and a coffee).
As someone who's also originally from Wisconsin (she from Milwaukee and I from a tiny mill town about three hours north) I really can relate to just about everything she talks about in her book about growing up and being different.
As I later read the book on the subway home, I flashed to my only interaction with her - it was the end of the night and I was (blush) one of the last ones to leave. Look, I usually know when to go, but I was having such a great time with my pals - Bianca Leigh who has a new show on Thursdays in March at the Laurie Beechman, singer Dorothy Bishop - such a lovely woman who joined us at Bingo a couple weeks ago, Sirius Radio host Frank DeCaro (who has three new iterations of the DEAD CELEBRITY BOOK coming out over the next few months), Flotilla DeBarge and MargOH Channing (who has a show coming up at Dixon Place on March 30th) both in boy drag, socialite Mark Raymond Schulte, blogger Jed Ryan and the
always delightful Ken Kleiber from THAT'S KENTERTAINMENT - how does Ken remain eternally youthful? It helps to be a redhead apparently. :) Along the way I met B52 singer Fred Schneider and cable performer Margarita Pritican (who has a new show coming up on February 23rd also at the Laurie Beechman).
But it wasn't until I left that I got to chat - at least for a second- with honored guest herself. She was outside with theatre students she's taught and directed at NYU (whom all adore her, and how could they not?) and someone said "will you sign my book?" I happened to be passing by and so I piped up and asked if she'd sign mine too - but in the internet age, no one had a pen. While we looked, I asked Ms. Johnston if I could take a picture. She looked at me, knowingly, and said, "You either get a picture or a book signed and frankly it's the end of the evening and I'd rather just sign the book. You know what I mean?" and boy, did I.
She looked flawless, though, and needn't have worried.
But I'm all too familiar with that little voice that sends up waves of doubt streaming northward into the brain. And so I replied "Yeah, I get it". Had I known that in that exchange that I was talking to a fellow Wisconsinite, I would have said "Oh I was raised in Wisconsin too, BOY, do I get it!" I'm not sure what it is about being raised in that particular corner of the Midwest but it sure does seem to have produced a bunch of people who are successful but full of doubt.
In Kristen's case that doubt led to a lot of self deprecating jokes and a life of addictive behavior that she illustrates to great extent but, thankfully, with great honesty and even greater humor. You know, it does take GUTS to come clean about one's life and Ms. Johnston has that quality in spades.
The above pic of Kristen is the only one I had, taken while she was thanking everyone. You know, just anyone can get a picture of a celebrity from the back - but how many times do you see a celebrity from the side and they still look great? OK, I'm trying to justify not being able to catch up with her. It's that Wisconsin thing, you know? :) Anyway, I was standing to her right for quite awhile and there may be You Tube footage of her acknowledgement speech on someone's blog where you might be able see me standing in the corner. Anyway, you can find her book by clicking here. Enjoy!