Comedienne/actress Kirstie Alley has had a pretty tumultuous and colorful life: a cocaine addict and former model, who was a struggling actress before becoming one of the most successful sitcom stars of the late 80s, early 90s, before becoming the de facto spokesperson for Scientology and yo-yo dieting. Throughout all these dips and peaks, the only constant was a flamboyant eccentricity. The Alley of today will remind people of Elizabeth Taylor of the 1970s – blowsy, loud, slightly vulgar, humorous.
Alley tried her hand at writing before with her 2005 memoir How to Lose Your Ass and Regain Your Life: Reluctant Confessions of a Big-Butted Star, which coincided with the release of her brilliant, but short-lived faux-reality show, Fat Actress. Riding another career resurgence due to her popular appearance on Dancing with the Stars, Alley’s released her second book The Art of Men (I Prefer Mine al Dente), a collection of essays that detail the different men that have influenced her life and career. And while most of the relationships included are romantic, she also includes platonic friends (including her Cheers costars, her family, and close friends). The essays are written with her trademark humor, frankness and little sentiment.
As mentioned, Alley has led an eventful life. Growing up in an abusive household (her mother resembled Piper Laurie’s frightening mom from Carrie), she struggled through unhappy marriages, dealt with a drug addiction as well as career struggles. She also had affairs with some Hollywood stars including the late Patrick Swayze and Tim Matheson – and nursed a crush on John Travolta, her Look Who’s Talking costar, who eventually became one of her best friends. The showbiz gossip is pretty juicy and it’s fun to read about the other celebrities that orbit Alley’s star; she’s very effusive of her praise, especially when she writes about Ted Danson and the other stars of Cheers.
And though Alley is a talented writer, she does have some faults – the most glaring one being that she often confuses smuttiness for bluntness. She’s only too happy to share the more salacious parts of her love affairs, including how endowed some of her sexual partners were. None of this is terribly interesting and after a while, it becomes monotonous. But this persona fits well into her Wife of Bath image (if anyone ever decides to make a film of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, Alley should be front in line for that part). And judging from Alley’s many talk show appearances, she’s a witty and funny lady – it’s too bad that the charming comic on Jimmy Kimmel’s couch doesn’t totally translate onto the page.
It could be that the focus of the book – chapters on men – seems a bit restricting – if she moved away from that rigid format, it might free her to write about other subjects, including her interesting career, as well as her thoughts on Hollywood and the issue of aging beauties in the film industry – removed from the forced sexual frankness that will sometimes mar her anecdotes.