Thursday, October 31, 2013
Jack Nicholson Deserves a Better Biography Than This
Which is a tad unfair. As a glance through Eliot’s Notes and Sources shows, he’s read (and relied heavily on quotations from) the many biographies of Jack already published, as well as pretty much every lengthy interview Jack has granted journalists down the years. True, Eliot has talked to a few of his subject’s friends and colleagues, too, but few of them have anything ear-popping to relate. Aside from the late Karen Black’s revelation that despite their mutual attraction for one another she and Jack never got it together, the closest the book gets to a scoop is Mickey Dolenz’s recollection of how Jack, turned away from a Bahamian casino for being tie-less and shirtless, didn’t explode in fury but merely showed “patience and reasoning” and went quietly on his way. The nice man cometh.
Not that he hangs around long. No biography of Jack Nicholson could long skirt the issue of his prodigious appetites. The bulk of Eliot’s book is given over to envy-filled accounts of its subject’s down and dirty bad boy antics. Of Nicholson’s early days in Los Angeles, in the mid-Fifties, Harry Dean Stanton says he “always see[s] him with a cheap red wine on his lips”. There was more on them than that, though. Shacked up with a bunch of fellow wannabe stars in what Eliot gleefully relates was “the wildest house in Hollywood”, Nicholson spent his days and nights on “round-the-clock partying, drinks, drugs, sex, lots of tea (the smoking kind), and beautiful, hot, willing girls who loved to get just as high as the boys”. Bliss was it in that dawn to be a-jive. Still, even as wide-eyed an acolyte as Eliot ought perhaps have wondered whether the story of Nicholson’s having smoked 155 joints during the shooting of one scene of Easy Rider might be, like, you know, a little far out, man.