My Life is a Four Letter Word: Dolores De Luce
Creating a world for herself that she felt comfortable in might not have been her original goal but in actuality it was. From the start of the book we learn that Dolores had a talent that could not be bought, imitated or recreated. What she could do on a stage was priceless and unique to her. What happens in the Introduction as she falls in such a way creating a frenzy of humor while trying to right herself would spark a new career, lead her to working with Divine and sets the stage for what we learn about her as a youth. For Dolores’s talents revert back to her desire to become an actress and her comedic skills, ability to create her own private scenes allowed her to overcome many difficult situations and of yeah! Get out of school when she felt the need. Dolores knew how to trick her mother, fool her grandmother and even create her own fever when necessary. Coming from a strict Italian and religious family the rules were set and the consequences stiff if not followed. Her voice is heard loud and clear and her experiences related first hand as if she were reliving them at the moment the computer or typewriter printed the words for each chapter. Adding in her own flare, her humor we learn about her childhood growing up, how she felt about her sister Ginny, her mother’s outlook towards her and her need to prove to herself and others who she was, Dolores had an independent streak and will of her own. Her first date, her boyfriend Tom, and her desire to have her first female experience at all costs are shared with readers. Her entrepreneurial skills at surviving many menial jobs as her parents, like mine explained that no handouts, no free rides and her road to employment began at age 14. The jobs she was forced to take sounded familiar her ability to profit quite unique. Her road to survival and her love for her daughter Viva shine through. The era described is the 60’s and 70’s and the time period is filled with wild experiences. Funny, humorous and yet at times sad, you can feel her struggles, her joys, sorrows and want to be accepted for whom she is trying to find her own place or niche in a complicated world.
Her world was filled with an eclectic group of people that became her family. With a young child named Viva Marie and her family’s disapproval of her lifestyle, she set off on her own path and some might say part destruction and others salvation. Single mother born into an Italian Catholic Family she found her way into many different worlds. Dealing with men and abusive relationships we learn more about what some women endured and could not counteract. Becoming involved with drag queens, the Cockettes, their lifestyle suited her and the friends she met seemed closer to her than her own family. Marijuana, Quaaludes, PCP and other hardcore drugs filled the rooms of her many different homes, theaters where she played many different characters and part of her everyday life. Straight, bi-sexual or gay she found her way into many different beds, relationships but all the while making sure that her daughter was cared for and close by. But, Dolores seemed to be floundering at times, needing approval as others did from those within her group and locations changed, friends came and went and all too often you begin to wonder if she was really happy or just pretending. Love is a powerful word and finding it was her goal but did she you will have to decide.
Finding her way to San Francisco and living in the gay community she learned what she thought was love from those that surrounded her. The decades were highly volatile the drug scene changing from mild to hardcore that did not seem to affect her. Living on the edge, getting arrested and finding her own private way of dealing with the world, Dolores’s story is quite compelling, heartfelt and sad at times. Her sense of humor shines through and her comedic ways as she rises to the top of many stages, dances her way into the hearts of many and proves if nothing else that whatever life hands her she can handle and will survive.
Creating her own images, her own characters, facing up to the choices that she made and the feelings of rejection, hopelessness and more this honest and bold account of her life’s journey will keep you glued to the printed page. Would you say unrequited love or just trying to find one person to complete her life was what Reg the father of her daughter was or was it someone else?
A strong chapter dealing with Drug Cure, John Lennon and dealing with the gay community some friendly others hostile she presents a wide spectrum of issues and situations. Lesbian/feminist film crews became her closest friends, men she became close with and some taking on the role of daddy to Viva, her relationship with Divine and their forever bond, shows the many ways Dolores created her own style of living, her own characters that she would become but who is the real Dolores?
Estranged from her parents and then having them come to finally meet Viva provided another way Dolores wanted to cement the past in her present but not everything or everyone can change as you hear her father’s voice coming from many different directions. The friendships she made, the drag queens she befriends, one especially named Marvin played a valuable role in her career and much more she learned to live life on the edge you might say. Broken Dishes, Odd Numbers and many other plays are in her repertoire but the most priceless moment was when her daughter takes the stage with her.
I think the most priceless thing she relates is when she created her own ice skating rink from hot water and she tells about her life in Venice, California, the wild parties, the many outrageous people she meets, her ups, downs and disappointments shine though as she uses her friends and extended family in order to find a place for herself in this world.
The death of many of her friends, those that she called her gay husbands, her fathers final days and taking care of him rather than letting him pass in a cold hospital room, Dolores’s life takes yet another turn as she relates information about Aids, her feelings about so many of her friends, losing the great Divine, Tommy and hoping to understand the reasons behind so many events in her life. From 1980-1990 she lost so many people and she shares a journey entry after Bill Franklin dies. In her own words she states her feelings, the demons that she sees, the ghosts dragging her back and “pulling her under,” and questioning if she should allow herself to be pulled under too. Tommy Pace her closest friend and Rodney Price passed just two weeks after Bill things changed for her as she shares the pictures on pages 267-270 bringing so many to life. If you want to know more and about where she is now read the Epilogue and find out for yourself. One very uniquely presented memoir, one colorful and flamboyant Diva in her own right and one book that will bring to light what happens when a family sends a young 18 old out on her own to cast her own stardom find her own way and realize that her Life is A Four Letter Word: There are so many that I could place there so I will place a few that I think fit: Her life is a four letter word: Work, Hope, Love and Viva. The many faces of this amazing woman are scene and her many voices come through loud and clear.
Fran Lewis: reviewer