Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Book Review: True Stories – Portraits from My Past by Felice Picano

Reviewer: Alan Chin
Publisher: Chelsea Station Editions
Pages: 220

This charming collection of memoirs by author Felice Picano is written in fifteen vignettes. The author recounts tales of his childhood, his experiences as a GLBT publisher, his co-founding the now-famous Violet Quill Club, his early years as a journalist, and his encounters with the rich and famous—including Bette Midler, Tennessee Williams, W.H. Auden, Charles Henri Ford, and the queen of Twentieth-Century fashion, Diana Vreeland. For the most part, the author tells his story via his relationships with an array of fascinating people that helped guide his destiny.

I found this read to be compelling and deliciously entertaining. Many of these stories span the gulf between the post-stonewall flowering of gay culture to the harsh years of AIDS. Picano writes with wit, sensitivity and vivid detail. It is still hard for me to imagine that one person could cross paths with so many interesting people in only one lifetime, but the truly remarkable aspect is that he was able to capture those experiences in such a delightful collection of anecdotes and portraits.

Each vignette is equally entertaining as the others. Whether he’s talking about partying down with Bette Midler at the Continental Baths, or a not-so-simple road trip with his father, or caring for a dying business partner, or lunching with the dragon-lady of New York high fashion, I could not put it down. This is a book I will read over and over.

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