Monday, April 19, 2010

Killing Willis: From Diff'rent Strokes to the Mean Streets to the Life I Always Wanted

by Todd Bridges, with Sarah Tomlinson
Simon & Schuster, 2010

Here's another title for those of you who enjoy the no-holds-barred, tell-all, celebrity bio. As for me, I don't need to know every little thing, and there's a lot I could have done without in this book. I didn't need all the sexual detail, I didn't need to know how to make crack, I didn't need to know the twisted details of how suppliers punish the users who owe them. And from a guy who claims that God has had His hand on him and saved him from the brink, I certainly didn't need all the bad language.

I don't know much about Sarah Tomlinson, other than that her only other celebrity bio appears to be on the lovely Tila Tequila, but for someone who's supposed to be the professional writer here, there's way too much repetition in this book for me to say it's well-penned. Also, neither she nor the editor seem to have caught Bridges' contradictions. A couple of examples: Bridges says his dad beat him and was "always" drunk, and in the next breath tells us his dad was on his best behaviour when other kids were around and that the house was full "all of the time." He also talks a lot about racism and how people didn't like him because of the colour of his skin, then goes on to share how his love-crazed fans relentlessly pursued him in Chicago. I don't dispute that his father was abusive or that he experienced racial profiling, but the writing could have been more careful.

Then there's this big editorial gaffe: the sentence "Pretty much everything Billy and I did together was a lesson in some aspect of running a drug business" appears on page 154, then is precisely repeated two paragraphs down on the following page.

Ah, well. People aren't going to buy the book for the quality of the writing. They want the dirt, man, the dirt. And they're going to find it here. Bridges' years playing Willis on Diff'rent Strokes were idyllic in his estimation, but he did an effective job of killing him (hence the title) during his drugged-out decade. It's a true miracle that he didn't wind up dead, with an STD, or doing life in prison. He's blessed to have a mother who loved him so fiercely (as I'd hope most mothers love their children), a lawyer who represented him so well (the famous Johnnie Cochran), and eventually the determination to do what it took to stay sober. I wish him well in this new leg of his journey, and do think his story would translate well to the screen.

1 comment:

Diane Girard said...

Perhaps the fact that the story would translate well to the screen is why it was written in the first place.

Thanks for the review.