Dancing at Ciro's: A Family's Love, Loss, and Scandal on the Sunset Strip

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9780312241766: Dancing at Ciro's: A Family's Love, Loss, and Scandal on the Sunset Strip
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In 1958, young Sheila Weller was living a charmed life with her family in Beverly Hills. Her father was a brilliant and charismatic brain surgeon. Her mother was a movie-magazine writer whose brother owned Hollywood’s most dazzling nightclub, Ciro’s. Then Sheila Weller’s world exploded. After she witnessed her uncle’s frenzied physical assault on her father, a whole store of family secrets and dramas unfolded, rivaling those that transpired in the nightclub’s dressing room and banquettes every night.

Weller has written a deeply felt memoir of her family’s richly accomplished but ultimately tragic life, contrasted with those most glamorous days of Hollywood’s golden era. While vividly describing Lana Turner’s, Frank Sinatra’s, and Sammy Davis Jr.’s evenings---and breakdowns---at Ciro’s, she captures a whole subgroup of American dreamers: the New York Jews who bounded from Brooklyn to Broadway and finally to Hollywood. They expected that success and proximity to glamour would erase centuries of anxiety and melancholy---but often discovered they’d only found a higher ledge from which to fall.

Weller seamlessly weaves a history of the American nightclub into the saga of an unforgettable family that, while fatally flawed, is never whiny or “dysfunctional.” The dreamy grandeur of Hollywood in the forties and the dark tensions of the fifties come alive through the pages and through the characters, for whom love---and the very idea of family---is almost biblically tested, but never quite extinguished.

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Review:

Veteran journalist Sheila Weller's childhood memoir is as starkly compelling as it is emotionally and historically complex, lifting the veil on a life of rarified privilege. Weller's father was a pioneering Los Angeles neurosurgeon, her mother the acclaimed Hollywood gossip columnist Helen Hover, and uncle Herman Hover owned Tinseltown's most famous nightspot, Ciro's. Nonetheless, Weller reveals a childhood haunted by dysfunction and denial, a hidden familial drama played out in the idyllic village that was Beverly Hills in the '40s and '50s, and one that segues to dark tragedy as it wends inexorably toward a final act scarred by scandal and life-shattering violence. Weller's richly detailed, emphatic prose skillfully interweaves ruminations on the phenomenon of American Jewish reinvention that drove her family of overachievers, with observations on the Old Hollywood movers and shakers who were her neighbors, friends, and casual acquaintances--reminiscences that are all the more poignant filtered through the wondrous eyes of a child. No mere star-studded autobiography, Weller's work here is framed by an almost palpable sense of personal exorcism and, crucially, a quest for ultimate familial redemption. It's an enlightening personal journey, one whose troubling tales of domestic disconnection may seem all-too-empathetic to many, yet one that ultimately finds a place of warm, if bittersweet, understanding. --Jerry McCulley

From the Back Cover:

“Dancing at Ciro’s is wonderful: honest, compelling, powerful, often funny and very moving. It reanimates a special American time and place by connecting them to a wholly new story---that of Sheila Weller’s family---that is also classically American.” ---Richard Rhodes, author of the Pulitzer Prize--winning The Making of the Atomic Bomb and A Hole in the World: An American Boyhood

“Sheila Weller has written a splendid memoir of upward mobility, Hollywood-style. Dancing at Ciro’s is as compelling as a fine novel.”---Susan Isaacs, author of Compromising Positions and Long Time No See

“This is the book Sheila Weller was born to write. Her memoir of growing up in the glittering crazy darkness of Hollywood circa the forties and fifties is terrific. There is much gossip and movie stars galore since her uncle owned Ciro’s---the most popular and glamorous nightclub of the time---but there is also the real life story of her parents’ marriage and what happened to it, which is both shocking and fascinating. Throughout Weller faces down her demons---and her dreams--- and makes them come vividly alive.” ---Patricia Bosworth, author of Everything Your Little Heart Desires: An American Family Story and Montgomery Clift: A Biography

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9780312283018: Dancing at Ciro's: A Family's Love, Loss, and Scandal on the Sunset Strip

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ISBN 10:  0312283016 ISBN 13:  9780312283018
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin, 2004
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