A gay old time in Hollywood

“It is never a happy moment in the life of a struggling artist when some fresh assault on his fragile dignity compels him finally and painfully to concede that Failure has lost its charm.” So begins Joe Keenan’s My Lucky Star, the third volume of the Emmy-winner’s chronicles of Phil Cavanaugh, a down-on-his-luck, homosexual, New York playwright. This time around, the madcap adventures of Phil and his companions-co-author Claire Simmons and bumbling buddy Gilbert Selwyn-take them to Los Angeles for a gay romp through the Hollywood hierarchy.

My Lucky Star crackles with the same breed of intelligent comedy that Keenan brought to television’s Frasier. Puns, metaphors and wordplay abound as the author demonstrates his delightful mastery of the English language. Rather than wasting paragraphs on unnecessarily verbose descriptions, Keenan manages to convey fantastically vivid images through simple turns of phrase. Sprinkled throughout the text are such bon mots as “some lovely stenographer who’d finally removed her glasses,” “a small, curdled smile such as Iago might have mustered for Othello Appreciation Day,” and “an erection so swift it was nearly audible.”

Working with such a marvelous grasp on the language, it’s no surprise that Keenan’s novel is such a delightful read. When a chance meeting, a jilted lover and a stolen screenplay land Phil’s trio in Hollywood, hilarity quickly ensues. Gilbert’s clumsy deceptions have landed them a screenwriting gig with some of Tinseltown’s biggest stars-and Phil’s biggest crush. Rumors of celebrated actor Stephen Donato’s closeted homosexuality have been circulating for years, and Phil sees his screenwriting job as the perfect opportunity to confirm them personally. First, however, he and his friends will have to navigate past a wily uncle, an imbecilic aunt, a domineering mother, Gilbert’s vengeful ex-wife, and the district attorney of Los Angeles County.

Cameos from real-life celebrities including Harrison Ford, Drew Barrymore and Quentin Tarantino rocket My Lucky Star to its highly unexpected, albeit slightly unrealistic, conclusion. Featuring drama worthy of Spielberg, suspense straight out of Hitchcock and humor the equal of Woody Allen’s, My Lucky Star is both a rapid and rewarding read.

Though not exactly boasting the literary merit of The Day of the Locust, Joe Keenan’s My Lucky Star is perhaps the most thoroughly amusing novel to emerge from Hollywood in recent years. Packed with all the winning elements of a blockbuster, My Lucky Star gets two thumbs way up.

Peter Chomko may be reached at peter.chomko@temple.edu

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