Rick Springfield Talks To Strangers
You know him as the 1980s heartthrob and Grammy award-winning rock idol (“Jessie’s Girl,” “Don’t Talk To Strangers,” and 15 other Top 40 hits):
You know him as Dr. Noah Drake on General Hospital:
As it turns out, you don’t really know him at all.
But you will after reading Late, Late At Night, his self-penned biography that spans 60 years of growing up in the rough, deadly terrain of Australia, migrating to the even more sinister turf of Los Angeles, and enduring the most apocalyptic territory of all — his own inner psyche.
Exposing one’s soft underbelly to the world isn’t always flattering, but Springfield’s personality jumps off the pages in this entertaining romp through a rock star’s scattered life. You’ll respect the guy for his honesty, even if you’re unsure whether you embrace him or not.
The high school dropout ain’t no dummy. Springfield spent years traveling the world, exploring other cultures, battling depression, and devouring self-help, philosophy, religious, and spiritual creeds. He’s cerebral and insightful.
Fortunately for the reader, he’s also funny. One-liners, odd colloquialisms, and self-deprecating humor ease the tension during the book’s morose passages (hey, the guy tried to hang himself, for chrissakes).
Some celebrities write autobiographies as if they are publicists selling their golden sheen to a naive god standing at the pearly gates. (Ever read Geraldo Rivera’s Exposing Myself? Do yourself and favor and don’t.)
But Springfield reveals warts and self-absorption freely. “Actors are the neediest bastards,” he writes, and he proves it again and again. But his honesty makes him more human and, ultimately, more likable.
Eschewing a ghostwriter took guts. Still, Springfield could have benefited from a neurotic editor demanding details, details, details! The writing is vague at times. For instance, his description of meeting Elvis Presley on an airplane was boiled down to, basically, Elvis was a sweet guy. Hmmmm. Not a hunka-hunka lot of info there, pal.
Then again, other chapters are soaked in detail, and this is when the book really shines. His portrayal of growing up in Australia, hating how he looked, dropping out of school, desperately scrambling to lose his virginity, hooking up with a bunch of older thugs in a rock band/crime gang, and becoming a regional celebrity is fascinating.
His writing comes to life as well when describing how his strapping, beloved father becomes totally dependent with the mind of a child after health issues.
And young Springfield’s vivid recollections of touring Vietnam army bases in 1968 with a rock ‘n roll band near the front lines could be adapted into a wild-ass screenplay that a director such as Oliver Stone could work magic with.
Springfield writes in the present tense throughout the book, which requires some acclimation. But it’s not a fatal flaw. All in all, the book reads well.
From humble beginnings, Springfield rose to fame as a teen pop star. Then his star fizzled. At 29, Springfield was playing guitar in the house band at a Glendale, California restaurant, singing cover songs, and facing obscurity. Times were so tough he enrolled in a stained-glass window course, hoping to become a master glassmaker and start a new career.
Instead, he went to class and met a guy named Gary and his girlfriend. Springfield was attracted to Gary’s gal and so he wrote a song. But “Gary’s Girl” didn’t sound right. Springfield just happened to be wearing a Los Angeles Rams’ Ron Jessie T-shirt.
Just as Springfield was mounting the “Jessie’s Girl” wave, General Hospital came rolling in and completely swept him out into a sea of adoring women.
The rest is penis-shredding history. Few pretty groupies go untouched in this portrayal of Hollywood and rock ‘n roll excess.
Springfield sampled his share of drugs in the early days, and he reveals a harrowing tale of ingesting too many mushrooms and acid one night. But drugs and booze are minor problems compared to his biggest and most self-defeating vice — paging Dr. Drew! — an inclination to screw most every willing woman.
Even after marrying a gorgeous woman whom he viewed as his soul mate, having two wonderful sons, raising beloved pets, making a comfortable home, and attaining financial security, he still can’t keep his jeans zipped. Illicit affairs put everything he loves in jeopardy.
The dude has baggage. Naturally, this makes for a fascinating read.
Springfield will meet fans and sign books at 7 p.m. Monday at Barnes & Noble, 7700 W. Northwest Highway, in Dallas.
He’ll do the same at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Books-A-Million, 3000 Grapevine Mills Parkway, in Grapevine.
Note to the ladies: Springfield is much better these days at curbing his appetites, so don’t expect much beyond a friendly smile, small talk, and an autograph.
And here’s a heads up — I’m meeting with Springfield next week here at the Fort Worth Weekly office for photos and an interview. I’ll tell you all about it afterward, so stay tuned.
In the meantime, you can watch Springfield play drums on a horse’s ass at Billy Bob’s Texas.