Torchy Smith’s new book of celebrity essays, SHOOTING THE BREEZE WITH BABY BOOMER STARS, is fun but frustrating. Although subtitled, “Surprising Conversations for the Retro Generation,” it isn’t at all the collection of interviews that seems to imply. In fact, most chapters spend more time discussing HOW the author arranged the interviews he got than they do actually quoting the interviewee. The interviews themselves seem confined to the author’s radio show.
As a sometime celebrity interviewer, myself, though, I really appreciated the behind-the-scenes info. I just wasn’t expecting to find so much of it here. Another problem is that, as a professional proofreader and fact-checker, the many typos and other issues in my PDF review copy that should have been caught in the editing and proofing stages distract from the reading. Hopefully, they’ve been corrected in the actual book.
Note, though, that I wrote “distract,” not “detract.” The bottom line on any kind of book like this is if the reader enjoyed it and if the reader learned something. And nearly every chapter of this one had something in it I didn’t know about people I have “known” my entire life.
Most of the volume is made up of Torchy’s visits with my childhood “imaginary friends,” people I saw so much on television in my formidable years that I couldn’t help but feel I actually knew them; people who, to this day when I see them, or read about them, I automatically smile.
Tommy Kirk, Angela Cartwright, Butch Patrick, Kathryn Leigh Scott, Cindy Williams, Bobby Burgess, Jerry Mathers, Clint Howard, Pat Priest, and a couple dozen more.
These are not formal interviews, just casual conversations. There is no effort to give a complete summary of any one person’s career, just a basic overview. Nor is it a gossipy book as some well-known scandalous behavior is glossed over or completely left out, as are whole parts of some people’s careers.
But what IS there is often choice info, and while some chapters have a perhaps unavoidable air of regret or disappointment, it’s good to know that so many of these memorable folks turned out just fine, even if they didn’t continue on in the public eye.
Another point I particularly liked was that Torchy Smith himself is a character here. In fact, rather than just cold facts, the book isn’t so much about these other people as it is about him and his particular relationships with them, then and now. They were his imaginary friends, too, you see, and now he’s gotten the chance to actually spend some time with them. You know what they say. Any friend of MY imaginary friends is a friend of mine!
There is a quote in here that struck me as playing on how all of us Boomers have so much in common still. “Fortunately, nostalgia-themed channels…help keep the retro baby-booming generation alive and on their toes, including my toes. So I think we’re all grateful for that. I don’t want my toes anywhere but on my feet while I’m standing up and breathing. And unless you have one of those feet in the past, you don’t have the right perspective for the present—or any leg to stand on.” That may sound a bit convoluted but I GET it. I think most reader my age would.
Thank you, sir, for the chance to vicariously renew so many old acquaintances. No matter our differences, and no matter the inevitable changes of time, I still smiled as I finished nearly every single chapter.