Richard Koper released another one of his blonde bios last year. I have to say, I was never a fan of Barbara until reading this book. I always found her to be too brassy for my liking but Koper has assuredly swung my opinion and I am proud to say that I adore her after reading this book.
Like all of Koper’s bios, this one is thoroughly illustrated throughout. There are probably close to 100 pictures, give or take. You see the evolution of Barbara, from her roots, her rise, and her (sad) decline. Every moment you think “This is where she is going to make it,” even though you know she is never going to be at the pentacle of fame. You can’t help cheering for the girl with spunk. You also can’t overlook how Barbara was usually cast as herself, outspoken, fun, a good time girl, rough around the edges, etc..
One of the main things I like about Koper’s books is that he tries to show these women as being outside of the Marilyn circle. A lot of these women were not trying to compete with Marilyn, Barbara being a perfect example, but were blonde and curvy during the same time. Marilyn comparisons were flown around like they had been about Jayne but Barbara was in a completely different vein. She could be mean and brash in public but you also can’t help but to like her because of it. She didn’t tip-toe and that is refreshing.
I do have two complaints about this book. The biggest one is that Koper quotes a story by Nichols’ psychic, John Cohan, where Cohan states that Marilyn Monroe and Barbara had an affair while Barbara was making Where The Boys Are. That movie was filmed in mid-1960. Marilyn was working on The Misfits when this movie was made, in Reno, before returning to NYC to work on her marriage with Arthur Miller. It is highly doubtful that they were having secret rendezvous during her brief stints in Los Angeles hospitals and during the filming of scenes on Paramount’s lot. Marilyn was also still pining for Yves at this point. I can’t see herself getting into an affair with anyone during this rough emotional time for her. My second complaint is within this same quote, where Cohan alleges that “Marilyn definitely burned the candle on both ends. She bedded Jeanne Carmen, Shelley Winters, Lili St. Cyr, to name a few.” Carmen herself says that she never slept with Marilyn. She was supposedly propositioned by Marilyn for a threesome with Bobby. Lili St. Cyr also denied all claims of an affair that stemmed from her ex-husband Ted Jordan’s biography on Marilyn. This is the first I am hearing about Shelley but I know Shelley didn’t claim an affair in her books. I cannot comment on Marilyn’s sexuality definitively just like I cannot say anything about anyone else besides myself but I highly, highly, highly doubt that she was having lesbian relationships, and, if she was, it seems that the Natasha Lytess rumors would be the only thing that is remotely possible, but until we have a smoking gun, I just can’t get behind them. It appears that Cohan pulled from a few (trashy) Marilyn bios and relayed them as fact.
Now, putting that aside, I do think the book is worth having. You’re going to learn a ton about Barbara and really get a feel for her personality. You can’t help but to fall in love with her. The book is beautifully illustrated and besides the quotes about the sexuality of other stars, it is very much worth the read. Koper has done a wonderful job presenting Barbara as much more than her characters, she becomes flesh and blood.
Overall rating: 8/10. This would have been a 10/10 if Koper had left out Cohan’s claims about a relationship with Marilyn.