Monday, February 22, 2010

February 21, 2010
Love Affair by Leslie Kenton

Left - Leslie Kenton, author. Stanley and I at Hollyridge, 1951

The Sunday Times review by Lynn Barber

According to the LA Times, Leslie Kenton is “the Dalai Lama of the beauty business”, though I doubt the Dalai Lama would relish the comparison. A beauty journalist, she was hitherto best known for always wearing white and having four children by four ­different fathers, but Love Affair gives her a whole new claim to fame. She describes, in purplest prose, having an incestuous affair with her father, the bandleader Stan Kenton, from the age of 10 to 13. The book is dedicated to his memory “with all my love”.

An only child, Kenton was born in Los Angeles in 1941 when her father’s career was just taking off. Her mother, Violet, was a stunning blonde who “worshipped beauty and served it the whole of her life”. She believed that you should “smoke much, eat little and look as thin as possible” and she managed to look thin right through her pregnancy. She immediately handed the baby to her mother to look after while she set out on the road with Stan. (Confusingly, Leslie refers to her grandmother as “Mom”, and her mother as “Violet”.) Mom was a strict ­disciplinarian who got Leslie potty-trained by six months and hit her if she failed to sit up straight. From her, Kenton claims, “I learned that the appropriate relationship to my body was to punish it.”

She stayed with Mom until she was three and a half, then went to live with her parents in the Hollywood Hills, or more often on the road touring. She never met other children, but hung out with the band, sitting around in nightclubs while the adults got plastered.
One of her best friends was Nat King Cole. She remembers, at six, going to the circus with her mother and Ronald Reagan. “Uncle Ronnie” for some reason was deputed to take her to the loo but she kept inspecting different loos and pronouncing them dirty, so “I ended up behind the large tent peeing in a pile of rubbish while Ronald Reagan stood by looking embarrassed.”
The full review at The Times.

Love Affair, Leslie Kenton.
Publisher - Vermillion, (Random House).


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