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Hiding in Plain Sight: The Secret Life of Raymond Burr Paperback – September 1, 2009


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Hiding in Plain Sight: The Secret Life of Raymond Burr + Merv Griffin: A Life in the Closet + Full Service: My Adventures in Hollywood and the Secret Sex Lives of the Stars
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 280 pages
  • Publisher: Applause Theatre and Cinema Books (September 1, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 142347371X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1423473718
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (56 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #329,072 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starr's lackluster biography doesn't do justice to the complex man who transformed himself from B-movie thug to television's beloved attorney, Perry Mason. Born in British Columbia in 1917, Burr moved to California as a child, where he took his first stab at acting in a local theater group. Moving back and forth between bit parts in California and on Broadway, Burr finally signed a contract with RKO, despite his fictional résumé that claimed he spent time on the London stage. His deep baritone and imposing frame made him the perfect heavy in a string of RKO thrillers. But it was his role as Perry Mason on TV that made Burr a household name. Running from 1957 to 1966, the CBS courtroom drama featured Mason eliciting confessions on the witness stand and never losing a case to his arch nemesis, DA Hamilton Burger. Burr's private life, most notably his long-term relationship with Robert Benevides, was kept quiet, primarily through the dead spouses Burr invented along the way. Working steadily until his death in 1993 from cancer, Burr remained a television icon, following up the success of Mason with Ironside, where he played a paraplegic cop. Starr, who has biographies of Joey Bishop and Bobby Darin, does little to illuminate the actor or the man, and sidesteps a much-needed exploration of homosexuality in Burr's Hollywood. (May)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Michael Seth Starr (River Vale, NJ) has covered television at the New York Post for thirteen years. He has written biographies of Peter Sellers, Art Carney, Joey Bishop, Redd Foxx, and Bobby Darin, and has appeared on The Today Show, The Early Show, Good Morning America, The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson, Entertainment Tonight, and Access Hollywood.

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Customer Reviews

While it expands a slim book, it's not necessary.
Hank Drake
Unfortunately, author Michael Starr relies almost exclusively on second-hand sources for his text-- newspapers, magazines, and other print material.
Douglas Doepke
As Mr. Starr reports it, there does not seem to be anything revealing or in the slightest bit noteworthy in the telling of Raymond Burr's life.
Joseph Albanese

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

130 of 135 people found the following review helpful By Hank Drake VINE VOICE on June 23, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Raymond Burr was one of the most distinguished actors in television history. Although his early career was dominated by film work, he became identified with the small screen after playing the title character in Perry Mason. His work did much to bring credibility to a medium which was often seen as inferior to the silver screen.

Raymond Burr's homosexuality was an open secret in Hollywood when he died in 1993, and common knowledge shortly thereafter. There was no "scandal" when this information was revealed, mainly because Burr had led an honorable life which was marked by his generosity to those in need. That he was closeted while in a 35 year relationship with actor Robert Benevides is more a reflection on the era and the Hollywood mentality than on Burr himself. The author, Michael Seth Starr, does not seem interested in reflecting on those subjects, rather than the lengths to which Burr went to conceal his private life.

Starr seems obsessed with Burr's weight, arguably more than Burr or his fans ever were. Hardly a page goes by without mention of Burr's "corpulent girth" or "morbid" obesity. Not all gay men, closeted or otherwise, are body fascists, yet Starr's personal attitudes on the subject seem to pervade the book.

At times, the book is bogged down in irrelevant detail. Starr gives a blow-by-blow account of the plot of Rear Window and several other films. While it expands a slim book, it's not necessary. Really, what film fan, not to mention Burr fan, does not know the plot of Rear Window?

Since his death, Burr's many fans have wanted a definitive telling of his story. Hiding in Plain Sight isn't it.
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70 of 73 people found the following review helpful By Curtis Jones on May 10, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Throughout an otherwise informative and well-written book, Starr keeps hammering home two points over and over. He was gay: we get it. He was fat: we get it. Thanks to the tabloids and my own eyes, I already knew he was gay and fat. I'm over it.

Still, the book is interesting due to well-researched info about his workaholic acting schedule (before, during and after the Perry Mason years), and his tireless generosity toward his fans and overseas troops. For whatever faults one might find, Mr. Burr is a man I wish I had known.

Starr has chosen a good subject for a bio, and spent considerable time on it; but the excessive mentions of Burr's sexual preference, fabricated life story and girth really needed a good editor. The repetition became tiresome.

Plus a few minor factual errors take away from the author's credibility. For example, Andy Griffith's "Matlock" series never aired on CBS.
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37 of 40 people found the following review helpful By Douglas Doepke on July 26, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a workman-like account of Burr's life and career. Unfortunately, author Michael Starr relies almost exclusively on second-hand sources for his text-- newspapers, magazines, and other print material. There are few first-hand sources which could relate all-important private aspects of the celebrity's life and career. Thus what emerges is largely a portrait of the public man-- the beloved figure of television melodrama-- instead of the carefully guarded private one.

There is, however, one highly significant exception to this public account. Starr makes no bones about Burr's secret life as a gay man during the homophobic decades in which he became a revered public figure. Nor does Starr soft-peddle the many cover stories Burr concocted to hide his sexual orientation. This is the book's main virtue and should lay to rest the many stories and confusions about this controversial phase of the actor's personal life.

However, as a result of Starr's reliance on secondary sources, we can only guess at Burr's private emotions during the key Perry Mason period. For better or worse, his character came to stand for the American criminal justice system to much of the public. Yet the man himself could have been arrested in many parts of the country as a "deviate". The anxiety must have been difficult at times. Too bad author Starr could not give us an inside glimpse of a period when great success also meant great apprehension. Perhaps, by Ironside's more tolerant era, Burr could have "outed" himself without too great of a career risk. But likely the cover story of dead wives and child had become too embedded to undercut. Anyway, these fictitious stories continued to define the private man in the public's eye right up to the end.
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31 of 33 people found the following review helpful By Joshua Irving Gershick on May 7, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Popular character actor Raymond Burr, who played a series of menacing heavies in Noir thrillers of the 40s & 50s and finally hit paydirt playing the title role in the long-running TV series "Perry Mason," is given short shrift in this thin, poorly researched and shabbily written bio.

Author Michael Seth Starr clearly has no shame: He has done hardly any spade work at all. The quotes he derived from quickie interviews are repetitive and unremarkable. There is no analysis, nor any kind of contemplation in this cheap tome.

The material on Burr and others is out there but requires some thinking and digging. Instead, Starr focuses obsessively on two things: the actor's fluctuating weight; and a made up Hollywood bio that concealed Burr's homosexuality - an open secret in filmland.

Newsflash: actors and others in the day (and today!) had beards and lied about their sexual identity. That could have been a launching pad for an exploration of that phenomenon during the classic era - but alas, that certainly would have required work.

If you must read this silly, pitiful book, borrow it from the library. It will disappoint. In fact, the only thing good about the book is the jacket photo of Burr.

Raymond Burr was a talented actor who made it look easy. He deserved better. He deserved a real bio. This book is utterly without merit.
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