I’m not someone who would ever think to buy and read an autobiography by an actor; it’s usually not in my crosshairs of interest for reading when it comes to non-fiction. Even reading autobiogs by rock musicians is a difficult and daunting task – I think I only ever liked one. But every now and then, you stumble across something that just looks and sounds interesting and intriguing, so you move out of your comfort zone.
Such is the case with I Think I’m On The Guest List, written by British actor Gary Shail. I’ve known about Mr. Shail as he is one of the stars of (conceivably) my all-time favorite movie, Quadrophenia. Because I hold that film so personally and by happenstance, finding out that he’d written his own story, I thought “this could be interesting.” I bought a copy and I have to say, with no other criteria to go on, I’m glad I did.
More often than not, celebrity autobiographies are filled with the kind of bluster that makes me inevitably hate whoever wrote their own story. I know that may sound biased but those damned books always seems to be filled with those bombastic platitudes, self-praise and exhortions to their audience of either “look how wonderful I am” or “see, I’m not so bad”. Happily, Mr. Shail’s book doesn’t veer into that kind of territory. Because his career has been lengthy, broad and pretty much restricted to the U.K., his adventures/experiences/mis-steps have that very particular British flavor, which for me, helps keep the Hollywood bullshit factor off. Most importantly, it isn’t self-serving or preciously pompous – it’s more of a combined confessional and a travelogue of his memories as best as he can recollect, as very often, things were seen through a chemically-altered haze. These snapshots are a well-written, conversational series of heartfelt apologies, genuine regrets (as opposed to the usual smug kind played up for the audience and book sales) and perspective on how, in several instances, he’s still here to have a tale to tell. The most harrowing piece is the night he nearly drank himself to death.
Nontheless, Mr. Shail isn’t someone who’s sat around saying to people “do you know who I am?” – he’s reinvented himself many times. From his acting in film to being a regular on a successful T.V. show (Metal Mickey, which was directed by Micky Dolenz) to making records to theatre acting to becoming a successful jingle writer – Gary Shail has definitely done a lot, seen a lot, met a lot of incredible people on the way and seemingly, for all the mistakes, hasn’t burned many bridges behind him. He’s written this book with humor, unself-consciousness and made the ride a lot of fun. I hope his newest role as author continues because this was a joy to read.
I Think I’m On The Guest List is available now