Here’s the great news: Sally Field is coming to Wellesley at Dana Hall School on Wednesday, October 10 at 7pm to talk about her memoir, In Pieces, with NPR and WBUR’s Robin Young. Here’s the bad news: it’s a ticketed event and those are long sold-out. To the lucky ones who are going, enjoy. To the rest, I feel your disappointment because I, too, am one of the nameless, faceless many who couldn’t get in. So no, I won’t be able to tell you all about it. But her publicist did send me a copy of her book, and I can tell you all about that.
Pour yourself a cup of coffee, and pull up a chair. Sally wants to ease into things while she ponders exactly how fast and furiously she should spill her secrets about a lifetime filled with work and love. The first chapter starts out slowly as she warms up to you, her reader. It’s all a slow blur of first this happened, and then that happened. Sally introduces you to her extended family members, and takes you on a tour of this one’s little house, and that one’s cottage. It all sounds perfectly normal and maybe a touch dull.
Stick with Sally. There’s a method to her madness. This is a memoir that reads like a conversation. It’s just you and Sally chatting about her life, and as she lays the groundwork she’s letting you know that she came from average beginnings. Sure she had a good-looking mama who was discovered by a Paramount Pictures talent scout and “…immediately put under a 3-year contract. Suddenly, without looking for it, my twenty-three-year-old mother had a career.” But just because Sally grew up in the business, don’t assume she’s to the Hollywood manor born. The princess part of her story doesn’t come until much, much later.
As you two sip your coffee together, Sally is mindful that you’ve only really just met. She doesn’t want to scare you off, her new friend, with too much information. As you two get to know each other, as she can trust you more, the confidences snowball. By chapter two you’re no longer just a casual coffee date. You’ve become Sally’s full-blown confidante. A relationship that started out chatty and light gets deeper and darker.
Be there for Sally as she talks through all this with you, and you wont regret it.
Her mom’s husband, Hollywood stuntman Jocko Mahoney pulled some stunts, all right, causing Sally to get that “fingernails on the blackboard” feeling whenever he approached or summonsed her. Which was often.
At his say-so she took a teenage surfer girl role she didn’t really want, where she hung out on damned cold Malibu beaches as Gidget. Mercifully, that lasted for only one season. In her next television series she flew around as Sister Bertrille in The Flying Nun. Neither gig exactly fulfilled her, but at this point Jocko had left the family so there was her mother to support, and bills to pay, and acting was what she was good at. It was the time she spent at Actor’s Workshop, however, that gave her the space and support to dig deep and learn “…the break-it-down, bit-by-bit, layer-by-layer craft of [acting].”
Being taken seriously at the workshop just may have given her the strength she needed to get through times like when on-set a director “…stopped the whole company — the writers, the crew, the actors, the extras, everyone who was within earshot — to take a vote as to whether they thought I was sexy or not.” And that’s one of her tamer #metoo stories.
Sally drops names and settles scores, she uses her book in part to thank those who helped her and call out those who hindered her or actively tried to pull her down. She’s been married twice and has three beautiful sons, the pure pride of her life, but what people really seem to remember is her smoky-hot relationship with a heart-stealing bandit.
She tells all about about that one, Burt Reynolds, he of the lush ‘stache. Handsome, dashing, fun, shallow, and self-centered, she describes him as a controlling Alpha dog who didn’t go out of his way to encourage Sally. What can be said except that man.
Here’s the princess part of her story. Sally, 71, says it isn’t until “…Norma Rae I was considered to be an honest-to-God movie star.” Her portrayal of a relentless factory worker earned her an Academy Award in 1980, and she followed it up with another one for Places in the Heart in 1985. Some of her other big movies: Steel Magnolias, Mrs. Doubtfire, Forrest Gump, Not Without My Daughter, and Lincoln, for which she was nominated for Best Supporting Actress in 2013. And don’t forget the TV miniseries, Sybil.
Sally, I can’t deny the fact that I like this book, right now, I like this book. And I like you, too, always. It’s the tragedy of my autumn that I won’t be seeing you at Dana Hall. Guess it’ll just be me and you and your new Netflix show Maniac, hanging out on Wednesday night. I could do worse.
Ms. Fields has been brought to town by Wellesley Books.