Six Super Hollywood Historians
As I near completion on my Hollywood memoirs (So L.A.) and my mom Nancy Bacon’s scandalously fun tell-all (Legends and Lipstick) about her own experiences in the previous decades (fab fifties and swinging sixties), I find myself immersed in the tinsel of bygone eras more than ever before.
I’ve always loved Hollywood and its enclaves; I’m not your typical blasé L.A. native. I see the magic in my home every day. Long before I started writing my book (and editing my mom’s), I’ve been a fan of the following Hollywood historians. These folks live, breathe, and love everything the City of Angels is about.
Shawn wrote the definite book on Paul Newman (Paul Newman: A Life) a few years back, and he interviewed my mom about her torrid affair with “Butch Cassidy” during the making of the eponymous western. I loved the book – not just the bits about my mom – and have read everything he’s written, since. Rat Pack Confidential is one of my faves, and his latest – even though it’s not “Old Hollywood” – is still an absolute must-devour for fans of New Wave cinema. It’s called Dolce Vita Confidential: Fellini, Loren, Pucci, Paparazzi, and the Swinging High Life of 1950s Rome.
I first discovered Laurie through her book, Hollywood Heartbreak. It’s a superb seventy-five-year history of Hollywood seen through the fascinating lives and deaths of thirty-one people. And when I say deaths, there’s the hook – Laurie is the reigning expert on Tinseltown’s ghosts, scandals, and mysteries! I eat that stuff up with a spoon. If you do too, then I’m sure you’ve seen her on E!, CNN, AMC, and the like. She also had a hand in Suzanne Somer’s groundbreaking nonfiction, Wednesday’s Children, which is one of my mom’s faves… after Mom beat alcoholism and was making her amends, that’s the one and only book she told me to read.
Full disclosure: I’ve known and loved “Rusty” since I was a baby! But that doesn’t mean I’m not a legit fan of his work. He’s the author of countless books on vintage Hollywood, often peeking into its seamy underbelly. As a personal assistant and press secretary to Jayne Mansfield for years, Ray was right there during her entire rise and fall. His book, The Tragic Secret Life of Jayne Mansfield, is sad and shocking, but it’s also a tribute to a woman he adored and admired.
Alison Martino is one of the most dynamic cheerleaders of Hollywood and L.A. today. I discovered her through her Instagram, which is a true treasure trove of imagery, memories, and revelations. Her knowledge of lost and endangered architecture and historical landmarks is unsurpassed. Alison is the go-to gal for all things nostalgia: she’s been on ABC’s Eye on L.A., and The Travel Channel talking about everything from the demolished Brown Derby to the still-thriving Musso and Frank Grill.
Whereas Alison is more about Hollywood places, Kim is more about the people. She’s spellbound by the stars who made Old Hollywood’s mystique so lasting. Not only does Kim look exactly like Brigitte Bardot, she knows more about the stunning sex symbol than anyone out there. But Kim isn’t just about the celebs of yore… she’s an advocate of serious pop culture as it’s being made (she had some great insights on the film adaptation of Inherent Vice). AKA “Sunset Gun” she has written for Sight & Sound, Criterion, GQ, LA Weekly, Vulture, Playboy and more.
David del Valle
David del Valle is a longtime Hollywood historian, and if you stick around Los Angeles long enough you’re bound to see him moderating a lively Q&A at a revival screening inside one of the old movie palaces. His book, Six Reels Under, is a must-have for fans of old-school horror and sci-fi!
Look for So L.A. and Legends and Lipstick soon on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and iBooks. (Paperback and electronic versions.)