Forget the story of “You’re So Vain” and who it’s about. There’s so much more to Carly Simon’s memoir “Boys in the Trees” that when it arrives on Tuesday (Nov 24) there’s going be a lot of famous people flipping through it looking for their names. Carly names them, by the way.
Never shy about being candid, Carly has written a masterpiece of a literary memoir that details her amazing and messy childhood as daughter of the founder of Simon & Schuster. When she was 8, her 42 year old mother hired a 19 year old boy to be a “big brother” to Carly’s little brother. Mother and college kid became lovers, and their affair went on for years.
Meanwhile, Carly’s parents socialized like crazy, and threw dinner parties for all their friends. One show stopping chapter details such a dinner that featured the likes of big band leader Benny Goodman, baseball great Jackie Robinson, Random House founder Bennett Cerf, tennis legend Don Budge, and Sloan Wilson, author of “The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit.” The ensuing mayhem sounds like a Marx brothers movie for the over privileged.
Carly is keen to remind us that she wasn’t a “rich girl” at all. As I wrote in a 1989 story about her family, her father sold Simon & Schuster for a paltry amount to the Marshall Field company in 1944. When he tried to buy it back years later, his former partners and friends screwed him. He died very much a broken man in 1960 at age 61.
But the real stories that will light up the music and movie bizzes are Carly’s recollections of her climb to the top as a leading chanteuse, the Taylor Swift of her day (only better educated). Before marrying James Taylor in 1972, Carly’s dance card was full: Jack Nicholson, Warren Beatty, Kris Kristofferson, Cat Stevens. Marvin Gaye stuck his tongue down her throat. She had a long dangerous flirtation with Mick Jagger, who sang back up on “You’re So Vain.”
She was wise and in control when it came to sex:
In the wake of Jack, I was gently passed around, as if in a fraternity, not the first woman to experience this and not the last, either. Beginning with Bob Rafelson [The Monkees, Five Easy Pieces], his brother Don, [film producer] Pierre Cottrell, and [bestselling author] Michael Crichton, it felt like a club…where you had to please the man just below in order to graduate to the next. I didn’t feel unappreciated, though I was always aware I was giving myself away too cheaply. In
college I had read Margaret Mead’s Coming of Age in Samoa, which described sex as natural, guilt free, and causing no deep feeling or rivalries. Could sex be casual, or was it reserved exclusively for two people who had dedicated themselves to a lifetime together, as my own mother had spuriously tried to instill in my brain?
More? There’s a LOT more. Just wait. It gets better…