Never underestimate the power of the impulse buy. There I was yesterday in Warwick's in beautiful La Jolla, buying a couple of books--one for me, the other as a gift for a friend--when I saw it. A lovely little book laying on the cash register counter. Coffee with Groucho was its title, and it beckoned to me. "Introduction by Frank Ferrante," it said. Frank Ferrante?! I'm in.
So I added it to my stack of "now we are three" books and went on my merry way. But once I got home? Not so merry. I noticed the book was written by Simon Louvish. Nothing against Mr. Louvish, I'm sure his work is just fine, thank you very much, but I have steadfastly resisted reading any of his Hollywood history books, including his Marx Bros. one, Monkey Business. I leafed through it when it first came out, and found absolutely nothing there that made me want to read it (and of the twenty books listed in the bibliography Louvish includes in this book, I've read nineteen of them--all except his--so I certainly have a predilection to read every Marx Bros. book I can find). He's also written tomes on Laurel and Hardy, W.C. Fields, Mae West and the Keystone Studios. Every book I've looked at by him turned me off. There's something about Louvish's writing style that just doesn't set well with me.
And that, sadly, really carries through here. The conceit of this book--and it's part of a new series of "Coffee with..." books--is what if Groucho came back from the dead for a couple of hours and the author interviewed him. What we have here is Louvish not only writing ABOUT Groucho, but pretending to be him. Yes, I know...click on the Groucho link to the right and you'll find me guilty of the same sin. Hopefully, at least SOMETIMES, I'm funny. But what Louvish does here is use some famous Groucho lines and incorporates them into his "interview." The whole thing is canned and unfunny, and if there's anything left of Groucho at this point, it's most certainly trying to come back for those two hours, if only to beat the living daylights out of Louvish. (Why they didn't just have Ferrante write the whole thing is beyond me. He's been doing Groucho for over twenty years now.)
Other books in the series include "Coffee with..." The Buddha, Hemingway, Marilyn Monroe, Michelangelo, Mozart, Plato and Oscar Wilde. It must have been a crowded coffee shop. Even with all those dead personages staying dead, I doubt there would be enough space to fit all those authors pretending to be the people they're interviewing, and the undoubtedly over-inflated egos each and every one brought to the table.