This may seem an unlikely place for a book review, being that this site is all about gluttonous consumption of television, but when we say “television,” what we really mean is “all things television” which includes “auto”biographies of our favorite TV stars. What I just read (in three hours or less) was Cybill Disobedience by Cybill Shepherd (with Aimee Lee Ball).
Now, I don’t know how many books you’ve read detailing the lives of celebrities (honestly, I have read but few), but essentially, all they are, are a bound edition of an E! True Hollywood Story. This fine piece of literature is no different. However, the amount of names dropped in this book make it nothing if not a pop-culture junkie’s dream come true.
The book begins with Cybill’s modest but privileged upbringing in Memphis, Tennessee. Her grandparent’s owned some kind of relatively lucrative business (look, I didn’t really care about that detail) that allowed her some luxuries but nothing I’d consider spoiling. Her parents were in a bad marriage and her grandfather seemed creepy (not toucher creepy, but admired his beautiful granddaughter a little too much, creepy). Always gorgeous, Cybill could get whatever she wanted based on looks alone. Eventually she became Miss Teen Memphis, which forayed into a modeling career and then acting, which is when her story picks up. (Oh, also she discusses how she was sort of slutty in high school, which I found interesting yet not surprising).
In 1971, she starred in her first film (acting gig) the Oscar-winning The Last Picture Show directed by Peter Bogdanavich. Ten years later Cybill would be guest starring (and not even as the headline guest star) in Fantasy Island. In the interim, she made several great movies (ever heard of Taxi Driver?) and slept with some really famous individuals.
Her most enduring relationship was with Bogdanavich, who was married when they began their affair (yes, it was the beginning of a pattern). The two lived in Bel-Air, she a beautiful blonde actress, he a great director, a perfect match made in Hollywood. They were friends with Orson Welles and he even briefly lived in their home–in which Bogdanovich and Cybill maintained separate bedrooms, an odd but respectable arrangement. Oh and also, they seemed to cheat on each other a lot.
Now, I’m not exactly sure of when these sexual encounters took place and I’m not going to re-read the book in order to find out. What I will say is that at some juncture, Cybill had sex with Elvis Presley and Don Johnson (among many others who I didn’t really care about). And came close with Bruce Willis but at the last second they decided it might be bad for their work relationship (Moonlighting). She turned down Ryan O’Neal on more than one occasion, Robert De Niro and once canceled a date with Jack Nicholson (who hasn’t spoken to her since). She also had a threesome with her stuntman boyfriend and one of his stuntman friends. And at one point had an abortion.
Now onto the actual important stuff. It’s no surprise that Cybill and Bruce Willis would have difficulty getting along. Moonlighting was like his first big break and Cybill had been in the business for more than a decade, getting first a huge taste of success and then back-tracking to pay her dues. It was a major hit for the network, but, for whatever reason, nobody liked Cybill and they treated her like shit–the whole book is rife with classic “don’t hate me because I’m beautiful” kind of scenarios and honestly, it seems like she did get the shit end of the stick- more often than not because people believed that because of her looks, she never had to work for anything in her life. On the contrary, bitch was working at a constant, and usually for less pay than her peers, which leads me right into Judi and my favorite Lifetime sitcom revival: Cybill. I learned the following amazing tidbits about the production on that show:
- Christine Baranski WALKED OUT during the taping of the final show. She was to be waiting in the eaves of a live sho the characters were appearing on, while Cybill sang a final number for the last scene of the last episode of the series. In the final cut, a “to be continued” board appeared instead of the song.
- The flashback episode where Cybill tries to sing at a club in NYC, only for some drunk bitch to ask her loudly, while on stage, “Where’s the bathroom?” is a true story.
- Her acting career on the show was (no surprise) based loosely on her experiences. And she did lose roles to Morgan Fairchild (who appeared in the wedding episode, as such a character), but more often to Ali MacGraw (who once convinced me to purchase a pair of jeans).
- The reason we never get to see Dr. Dick, is because they wanted to hire a well known celebrity to cameo the part, but no one great was ever cast.
- Baranski and Cybill were not real life friends, because Baranski didn’t want to be, not because Cybill was jealous of Baranski’s Emmys/stardom. ( History repeats itself see: Bruce Willis in Moonlighting).
- As for Alicia Witt (who was apparently dating Kevin, her sister’s husband on the show, in real life), Cybill had this to say:
For the past year or so Alicia Witt had been acting like a spoiled brat, so pouty and truculent that when she wanted time off to have a bump removed from her nose, Bob Myer said, “Get rid of her,” and some writers asked if they couldn’t write her out of the show. . . In April Carsey-Werner received a letter from Alicia’s representatives, detailing her “creative concerns” about “character development and participation” and calling me tyrannical, abusive, and demeaning.
Well, if that wasn’t all that you needed to know and more about the life of Cybill Shepherd, then I recommend you rush to your local bookstore (cough, half.com- it’s like 75 cents) and pick up Cybill Disobedience. Honestly, it was an interesting read. And apart from knowing Cybill had banged Elvis, I knew little about the actually successful part of her career (it was sort of like learning that prior to Friends, Courtney Cox had not only been in a Springsteen video, but had a brief and sordid affair with him, and also had an ongoing private/professional partnership with like, Sydney Pollack, for the better part of a decade.)
I’ll leave you with this: