Sunday, December 14, 2014

I Am Sophie Tucker by Susan and Lloyd Ecker

What a kick. This book is a riot. The authors make sure we understand it is fiction, but they call it a fictional memoir. It is a captivating retelling of Tucker's life up to her successful show back in her hometown of Hartford at Poli's Theater in 1913. (It sounds like there may be more volumes of her life story in the works.)

How she rose to become a star in Vaudeville is quite a story. The people she knew and the buttons she pushed are almost unbelievable. You'll meet Irving Berlin, Al Capone, W. C. Fields, Jimmy Durante, and more. Sophie seemed to get to know just about all of the people in the entertainment business.

There had been an autobiography of Tucker printed during her lifetime. While Tucker had given the publisher lots of juicy show business dirt, intrigue, romance, and murder, much of it was edited out. The Eckers have tried to piece together all of the parts of her life and created a fascinating (fictional) account. Anyone interested in Vaudeville, entertainment, or the theater, would enjoy reading this book. "This volume is 85% fact," Ecker explains. "The other 15% who knows?"

Back in 1973, Ithaca College students Susan Denner and Lloyd Ecker went on their first date to see a new singer named Bette Midler. They heard Bette Midler make reference to using Sophie Tucker's bawdy jokes. Over thirty years later they had seen dozens of Midler's shows and they decided to find out about the woman who had inspired her. In 2006 they tracked down a copy of Tucker's autobiography. They also read two obscure biographies. One of them mentioned that the New York Public Library housed a collection of Sophie's scrapbooks and listed other archives. The Eckers spent eight years reading, investigating, interviewing and traveling, pursuing the story of Sophie Tucker. They produced a documentary film and then this fictional memoir. More is in process. Since that fateful first date in 1973, the Eckers have had three children and developed Babytobee.com. Selling that business in 2006 allowed them to pursue the story of Sophie Tucker. You can find out more about what the Eckers have planned at www.sophietucker.com.

Watch an interview with the authors here.

Prospecta Press, 416 pages.

I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the publisher for the purpose of an independent and honest review.
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