Justin Lee Collins was a television personality for a small window of time in a small corner of the world, and as such there will only be a small cross-section who are familiar with much of his work. If you were asleep between 2005 and 2010, and you didn’t live in the UK, you probably don’t know who the hell he is.
I really enjoyed the stuff that he produced – whether it was his on-screen rapport with Alan Carr, or his infectious excitement at meeting the heroes of his youth. He seemed to be a genuinely likeable guy. Of course, he has completely fallen off the radar in the last few years, but a lot of that is of his own making…
This is not a particularly well written autobiography (and you can certainly tell that he wrote it), but Collins does tell a few interesting and moderately amusing anecdotes in between detailing his rise to some kind of C-list fame in the early 2000s.
I don’t know if we’ll ever see Collins on our screens again, and – domestic problems aside – it would be a shame if he is gone for good, because as a face on our televisions, he was one of the best in recent memory.
Kelsey Grammer starred in two of the most successful sitcoms of all time, in Cheers and then its spin-off Frasier. He played the same character on TV for over two decades, and that is how the vast majority of us know the actor.
But this autobiography – which is fairly short and for context, was published not long after Frasier began – focuses mostly on his work prior to becoming the household name that he is today, and the relationships that he had along the way.
He details many of the hardships that he had to endure during the early part of his life, before anyone really knew who he was. When Kelsey was twelve years old his estranged father was murdered during a home invasion. When he was twenty, his younger sister (whom he was extremely close to) was abducted, raped, and murdered after being stabbed forty-two times. Five years after that, his two half-brothers died in a scuba-diving accident.
A lot of this is heartbreaking stuff, and it is no wonder that he suffered from substance abuse problems later in his life. But to his credit Kelsey makes no excuses for his much-publicised drug and alcohol addictions. Instead, he has used all of these touchpoints and tragedies in his life to become a better person.
If you pick this up hoping for some insight into the character of Dr. Frasier Crane, you may come away a little disappointed. There is some of that, with some backstage anecdotes, but that isn’t what this is about. Like Crane, Kelsey comes across as an intelligent, eloquent man, and this is an interesting read you can quickly tick off your list.
I like Keith Lemon. I know he is extremely crude, and a lot of his humour (most of it, in fact) is not very sophisticated and therefore not to everyone’s taste, but there’s something about his innocence and infectious nature that appeals to me.
And yes, I know he is a character.
Being Keith is a fictional account (told in his distinctive patois) of his success leading up to the production of his movie, Keith Lemon: The Film. He details how he rose to prominence as an entrepreneur, quickly winning Businessman of the Year 1993, and his subsequent rise to fame on television… as well as documenting anecdotes about all the women he has banged along the way. And I do mean all the women.
Keith Lemon is a funny guy, but it has to be under the right circumstances. Off the cuff and unscripted. He’s great on Celebrity Juice, where he is allowed off the leash, and he even works on segments of This Morning when he is giving out advice, because you can see him trying to push the boundaries of the restrictions of daytime television.
But unfortunately, a 250 page book is not the way to experience Keith Lemon, because what makes his personality work doesn’t translate very well to the page. Sure, I chuckled on a few occasions, but there’s only so many times you can read about him smashing in the back doors or finger-banging a Z-List celebrity before you switch off and start skim reading.
This is maybe worth looking at if you’re a die-hard fan of Keith, or if you just have to consume everything he does (and they are likely to be the only ones reading this anyway), but it is certainly not essential, and definitely not his finest hour.
Michael Caine is one of my favourite actors. My earliest memories of his work are from my childhood and centre around Sleuth and Deathtrap – both of which, coincidentally, began on the stage.
Since those days I have grown to love a lot more of his output. In fact, Alfie (his best film), inspired one of my earliest email addresses, which would probably still be accessible if I could remember the password.
Reading this biography, I quickly realised that although I have seen a lot of his movies, I’ve definitely missed many others – a lot of which are, by his own admission, complete stinkers. But even if the production is bad, Caine never is. He’s a dependable performer and always a believable presence on screen.
This autobiography came out in 2010, and although he has made a handful of movies since, this covers the vast majority of his output, from his breakout performance in Zulu, right through to his supporting role in the Batman trilogy.
But it’s not just the movies he talks about. There are plenty of pages devoted to his wife Shakira, and how they met; his love of cooking; and his life growing up in the Elephant and Castle. And in typical Cockney fashion, he’s a good storyteller, so I was happy to go on all the journeys with him.
If you like Sir Michael (although he doesn’t want you to call him that) this is a good look behind the curtain into one of Britain’s most celebrated actors.