Ghost of a Chance:: A Memoir
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Ghost of a Chance:: A Memoir [Hardcover]

Peter Duchin
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)

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Editorial Reviews Review

A strange and compelling mix of celebrity bio and social history, Ghost of a Chance is the autobiography of bandleader Peter Duchin. The son of an even more famous bandleader, Eddy Duchin, Peter Duchin was sent off to be raised by the friends of his socialite mother after her death. Those friends just happened to be the Harrimans, Averell and Marie. After watching "The Eddy Duchin Story," the Hollywood film version of his (biological) father's life, the younger Duchin recalls feeling "pretty beat up and confused." The same can be said of his life in general, but that's what happens when your paternal legacy includes one father who ranked among the top entertainers of an era and another who happened to be one of the richest and most important world figures of a century.

From Publishers Weekly

Pianist, conductor and composer Duchin's mother died in 1937 when he was only a few days old and he never saw much of his father, famed bandleader Eddie Duchin. In spite of this, he had a privileged childhood, and, as he recalls it here, his life has never been less than charmed. Brought up by Averell Harriman, the former governor of New York, and his wife, Marie, on their estate, he studied music at Hotchkiss and Yale but didn't think seriously of a career until after a carefree year in France and an easy stint in the army. Once he decided to follow in his father's footsteps, however, name and connections made everything easy. Before long, his band was providing music for presidential inauguration balls, state dinners and society events around the world. In this lightweight autobiography written with freelancer Michener, Duchin tells of his life with the Harrimans, his year of bohemian living in Paris, his two marriages and his lifelong association with the rich and famous. The only bitter note is his account of the machinations of Averell Harriman's second wife, Pamela, currently the U.S. ambassador to France, who he claims destroyed his close relationship with his "second father." Photos not seen by PW. Author tour.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Following in the footsteps of his famous father, Eddy Duchin, pianist and band leader Peter Duchin has made a career of providing an elegant mix of jazz and popular dance and dinner music at exclusive clubs and high-profile social and political functions. After his mother's death when he was an infant, he was taken in by former New York state governor Averell Harriman and his wife, Marie. He found himself in a privileged world and was clever and talented enough to take full advantage of it. While his father's name and connections opened doors in the world of entertainment, growing up with the Harrimans allied him with politics and old money. As a result, his memoir freely drops famous names like Sinatra, Kennedy, Onassis, Goldwyn, and Astaire. This initially provides a glittery fascination, but there is little insight in this ultimately disappointing and shallow book. Intended for the general reader, it will be of interest to Duchin's fans only.?Kate McCaffrey, Onondaga Cty. P.L., Syracuse, N.Y.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

For a man who claims his fingers are "stubby and peasantlike, gardener's fingers," Peter Duchin has not had a shoddy career as a pianist. The son of the "Gatsby-like" Eddy Duchin, Peter has mastered 3,000 songs (from the Beatles to bossa nova) and hobnobbed with every swell from Cary Grant to the Kennedys. His memoir is a fascinating account of the early years, when his absentee dad was replaced by surrogate parents Marie and Averell Harriman, to the later ones as he took his show on the road. Duchin reveals himself as a combination raconteur and accomplished outdoorsman. There are fascinating glimpses of croquet games on Samuel Goldwyn's home course, Jack Benny's eightieth birthday party at Frank Sinatra's compound, two White House weddings, and cruises on the Onassis yacht. As a composer, conductor, and pianist, Duchin has attended some show-stopping parties, but the one he ranks tops was a golden wedding anniversary featuring the Duchin band and two guests--the bride and groom. This is a humble and heartwarming memoir of a class act. Patricia Hassler

From Kirkus Reviews

A chatty self-portrait, much of it via press clips and other friends' recollections, of life in the entertainment wing of the Social Register. Duchin's early history is dramatic. The press called his parents' marriage ``a romance between Broadway and Park Avenue,'' but Duchin contends that his society bandleader father's Ukrainian Jewish background made acceptance difficult within his mother Marjorie Oelrichs's debutante circle. His mother died six days after his birth, and his father traveled constantly, so he became an ``orphan,'' growing up an honorary WASP on the estate of Averell Harriman, a friend of Marjorie's. Duchin describes life in the mansion with a fond richness of detail. Harriman was parsimonious and self-involved, but his wife, Marie, acted as a parent to Peter, shepherding his entrance into Hotchkiss and Yale, approving of his junior year abroad in Paris, where he lived the high life with George Plimpton and the rest of the Paris Review crowd. Duchin slid (effortlessly, it seems) into a showbiz career and, despite his reservations about the famous Duchin piano style (young Peter dug Bud Powell and disliked frilliness), found himself seeking society gigs in the mold of his father, Eddy. Duchin is cheerily upfront about his advantages, and his musical observations can be sharp, as in his discovery that WASPs can't dance but respond to a march beat, or a description of the night he met Arthur Rubinstein, who played ``a majestic Chopin polonaise with the same improvisatory approach I might have used for jazz.'' Duchin is what he is, and the book overflows with brief tales of Averell and Jock, Gloria and Brooke, Leland and Kitty. True to his piano style, it's upbeat and smartly paced--though you get the sense he's dutifully marching you through. (32 pages b&w photos, not seen) (Author tour) -- Copyright ©1996, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.


... it is within an atmosphere of sincere, descent puzzlement that Ghost of a Chance projects its virtues ... it is the story of Mr. Duchin's human nature, which, by the evidence, is very strong indeed. -- The New York Times Book Review, George W. S. Trow

From the Inside Flap

Celebrated pianist, conductor, and composer Peter Duchin has been providing music for U.S. presidents, society galas, and charity events for more than 30 years. Now, in this compelling autobiography, Duchin offers both a poignant personal memoir and a fascinating account of life on the road with the band.

About the Author

The New York Times Book Review said that Peter Duchin was a living compendium of a hundred years of social history. . . . He has lived a life another man would not have survived.  Orphaned by his glamorous parents, the Newport debutante Marjorie Oelrichs and the famous bandleader Eddy Duchin, he was raised in the privileged, old-money world of Averell Harriman, the diplomat and former governor of New York. He grew up to be America's preeminent society bandleader, effortlessly entertaining and charming partygoers at Truman Capote's Black and White Ball, the White House, and thousands of society galas. As he recalls his life and relates the frank, often surprising recollections of the many friends and famous figures who made up the strange family  of his youth, Duchin also explores the changing face of social life in America.

From the Trade Paperback edition. --This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.
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