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Upper Cut: Highlights of My Hollywood Life Hardcover – September 20, 2011

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Atria Books (September 20, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1439199094
  • ISBN-13: 978-1439199091
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.8 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (63 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #461,476 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


“As one of Hollywood's most sought after hairstylists, White tells a rollercoaster of hair, celebrities and surviving life in the fast lane…White's voice is captivating...and her story is an inspiring one, spiked with Hollywood gossip.” --Publishers Weekly

“White writes insightfully…an engaging, celebrity-filled life story.” —Library Journal

"Carrie White reveals a life as dramatic as any Hollywood movie...[her] autobiography is as inspirational as it is cautionary, an often larger-than-life story about chasing your dreams, while also offering a graphic depiction of substance abuse. Carrie's story is poignant, sometimes devastating, and ultimately universal. It captures the turning of decades, the humanity behind the celebrities we elevate to Gods, and the heartbreak of the circle of life." —TCM.com

“White offers a mesmerizing lens into the lives of the bold-facers that called Hollywood home in the sixties and seventies as only a hairstylist could; everyone knows that the salon floor is where all the best gossip happens." —style.com

“Hair! Drugs! Rock 'n' roll! Redemption! You MUST buy this book, and also give a copy to your stylist.”

"A riveting tale." —Jackie Collins

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Hollywood High

“Excuse me, but are you a Delta?” a girl asked, talking down to me.

“No, I think I’m a Lutheran.”

“Well, you can’t sit there if you’re not a Delta.”

It was my first day at Hollywood High School. I was sitting on a bench in the quad area. I had never heard of a quad before this school. Who was she … the quad police? And what the hell was a Delta anyway?

Screw her. I didn’t see a sign that said Private Property. I just wanted to eat my damn lunch.

She looked at me like I was a Christmas decoration at an Easter party. I felt the pencil melting off my arched eyebrows and my red lipstick cracking. No one else was wearing a tight pegged calf-length skirt, a black sweater with a false collar tucked in, a stacked pachuca hairdo adorned with spit curls on each side, and dangling Mexican earrings. I walked over to the other side of the bench around the big tree.

“You can’t sit there either,” she barked. “That’s the Lambdas’ bench. And that other tree over there”—she pointed—“that’s the Betas’ bench. And those benches over there”—she pointed to another and another—“is the Thetas’ bench and that one is the Alphas’. So don’t sit there either, unless you’re an Alpha, a Beta, a Lambda, or a Theta.” She looked me up and down. “And I doubt you are.”

The social scene at Hollywood High School was harder than Pacoima. They just gave their gangs different names. I had never heard of the word sorority or known Greek letters had names. This Delta chick looked very different from Pacoima and me. She was polished like an apple, like a picture on a package, like a television commercial. Everything matched, from her white patent leather purse and white patent Mary Jane shoes to her powder blue fuzzy sweater with another tied around her shoulders. Her pleated beige skirt didn’t look like me either and her round bubble hairdo didn’t move. Her lips were glossy white.

What kind of lipstick was white?

I took a deep breath. She’s not going to get me, and neither are all the damn letters of the Greek alphabet. I remembered the administration building nearby had a large bathroom. Certainly that couldn’t be Delta territory. I turned around quickly, and walked without hesitation toward the brick office building, brown paper bag and books in hand. I kept thinking, left or right, which way is the bathroom? Don’t stop to ask anyone.

I was crushed, trying not to show it, trying not to cry. Not from that bratty bitch, but from what the hell was going to become of me here? It didn’t look good. I pulled open the heavy-windowed door, breezed in like I had been there for years, passing students like I was so busy with important things to do. I spotted the sign, Girls’ Room. Hold on just a little bit further. I walked faster, got to the door and exhaled the breath I’d been holding.

Inside, there were a few girls fussing with their hair, chatting. They didn’t notice me. I saw no feet in the third stall, plowed into it, plunked down on the seat, and locked the door. Safe. I hated to cry. It was a sign of weakness, pointless, and never helped. I took a big breath, stacked my books on my lap like a tray, and unfolded my brown paper bag. I could hardly swallow the dry peanut butter sandwich I had made.

For one week, I sat in that locked toilet cubicle having lunch, constantly wondering about those damn Deltas. Finally bored and annoyed, I figured there was more to this school than classes and a toilet. There must be a Delta in one of my classes. I needed to learn more. I became the Delta detective. Then one day in art class, I heard a new friend, Eve Babitz, talking about the Delta Hell Night coming up. I scooted closer, looking at her drawing. “What’s a Hell Night?”

“Well … first you have to be rushed.”

“What’s rushed?”

“That’s when you are asked by a club to join, then you begin pledging.”

“What’s pledging?”

“That’s when you do anything they ask, and I mean anything! It takes a week, and if you pass, you have the final test, Hell Night.”

Upon further research, I found the Deltas happened to be the coolest and snobbiest girls. They had privileged backgrounds. Their parents were famous or rich or both. I had none of these qualifications. I liked the challenge. I was determined to be a Delta, if only for vengeance.

Using my survival techniques, I saw that if I had a different walk, different talk, and most important, different hair, maybe I could be a girl the Deltas might invite in. As my mother the artist would say after another boyfriend broke up with her, back to the drawing board.

First of all, I hated my name, Carole … so common. When I complained to my mother that seven girls in my class had the name Carol, she said, “But you have an e on the end of your name, you were named after Carole Lombard, your Carole is beautiful.”

“Mom, when the teacher calls Carol, she doesn’t say, the one with the e on the end.”

“Carole” had to go. I remembered back in Pacoima Junior High, a new girl in seventh grade announced her name was Carrie, a name I had never heard before. I loved the uniqueness. I had been name-shopping for ages, and I thought of stealing it then, but I had dropped the idea when the Renegades nicknamed me Suki. Outside of Pacoima and a gang party, Suki sounded like a Japanese dog. Entering this new school was the perfect time for me to take this perfect name.

I started telling everyone: “My real name was Carole, but my mother calls me Carrie for short.” Then I told my mother: “If someone calls and asks for Carrie, that’s me.”

“You? Why would any one call you that?”

“I don’t know, Mom, they just do … it’s a nickname.”

So that was that. I was unofficially, officially Carrie, Carrie Enwright. And that was Enwright with a w.

Next project was my clothes and hair. I dumped my socks, my bunny shoes, false collars, and full Mexican skirts in the wastebasket. I didn’t know where these Hollywood High girls got their looks, but I was sure it wasn’t in a store like Anita’s off San Fernando Road. They talked about Geistex sweaters and Lanz dresses, Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar. Then there was the world of Max Factor, a makeup store across the street from Hollywood High … how convenient.

I listened carefully to the girls in gym chat about Hollywood Boulevard and shopping at The Broadway and Lerner’s Dress Shop. I’d never been inside a large department store. I told my mother that none of my clothes fit. I would get a job or help her ink and paint, but I had to have a new wardrobe or I was not going to school.

“Fine,” she said, and gave me fifty dollars. That was the most money I had ever seen at one time. I shopped wisely so I could get the most for the money. I even found a cardigan that looked like a Geistex. I think one real Geistex sweater cost more than fifty dollars. I bought two knee-length kick-pleat skirts, an angora sweater, and a few blouses. I bought bracelets instead of my usual dangling earrings. Now I had a chance to conquer this new turf. Oh wait, shoes, they tell a lot. I had enough money left over to go to Leeds shoe store, also on Hollywood Boulevard. I bought little flats like that pretty Delta, Rosalind Frank, wore.

But the most important detail was her hair, and I knew I needed to change mine. The Hollywood High hairdo had a name: the Flip. I would study the girls’ hair, imagining how they get it to curl up on the bottom. And I needed to cut bangs, smooth bangs that swooped to one side, not like my mother’s 1940s movie star bangs. I learned in Pacoima and it held true in Hollywood: If I could get my hair right, my life would work better.

Rosalind Frank was in my gym class. I spotted her right away, she reminded me so much of Beverly. She was very pretty and always seemed to have the answer when anyone asked her anything. Rosalind was sharp and assertive and didn’t take any crap. She had a Delta friend, Taffy Paul, whom I also admired. I especially liked her name. Taffy would be my new Charlotte. She was smart and sophisticated, rode horses, and studied drama like me. Then there was Louise, Roz’s best friend, soon to be her second-best friend, because I was going to be Rosalind’s best friend.

I made sure Roz heard me in the locker room, when I would talk about my mother being an artist at MGM and that she had been in films herself.

Finally, Roz said one day, “Do you want to come to Coffee Dan’s today?”

I knew this was the after-school spot.

“Sure,” I answered, not wanting to be too anxious.

“We meet at the Delta bench at three-fifteen … do you know where that is?”

“I’ll find it.”

When the final school bell rang, I knew this was it, like a first date: win the Deltas over or end up a dud. Roz was waiting at the Delta bench.

“Hey, everyone,” she said. They looked up. “This is Carrie, she’s new.” They nodded and went back to chatting. Roz said to me, “We’re waiting for one other girl, do you know Suzy Sparks?”


“She’s a Delta, her mother played Blondie on television,” Roz whispered.

“Oh …” I knew the comic strip, but ...

More About the Author

Carrie White was born and raised in Southern California. With a career that has spanned more than forty-five years, she's styled everyone from Elvis Presley and Ann-Margret to Sandra Bullock and Brad Pitt. Her work has appeared in Vogue, Harper's Bazaar, In Style, Allure, Vanity Fair, Ladies Home Journal, Mademoiselle, and Glamour. The mother of five, Carrie tody owns and operates Carrie White Hair in Beverly Hills.

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Customer Reviews

She is an amazing testament to the human spirit.
I read the book in 2 days, because I could not put it down.
elisabeth hinckley
Full of great stories, Carrie is so full of life!

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By suziola on September 22, 2011
Format: Hardcover
The story spans several colorful decades and Carrie White was in the thick of it. I was moved to tears by her upbringing and charmed by her optimism. She is a colorul writer and you can picture being at the party with her. She also takes you to the bottom. The courage to be that vulnerable about the dark days can only come with enlightenment and this writer has it. I hope she has a novel in her now that she has exorcised the demons. She weaves a great tale.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Christina Westover on September 25, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Upper Cut opens with Carrie White introducing us to a childhood which was without boundaries or parental nurturing as she mixes a cocktail for her mother, her mother's boyfriend, and herself at the tender age of six. Glimpses of heartfelt humor are woven within the tragic tale of a young girl who survived abuse, abandonment, and neglect. While reading Carrie White's accounts as a child, it is plain to see that even at an early age, her instinct to survive was formidable, and she was imaginative and clever enough to find her niche in styling hair. She realized even then, that one must be able to create the illusion of art and fashion in order to, not simply thrive in Hollywood, but to succeed. It is this understanding of art and illusion mingled with a persevering attitude and an unequivocal desire to be the best at what she did which catapulted her into the limelight.

From tales of dates with Jack Nicholson, styling the hair of Claudette Colbert,Bette Midler and Cybill Shepherd among others, Carrie's life appeared to gain momentum quickly. Champagne, drugs, and access to the entire world became her new norm.

However, it was not long before alcohol and drugs began to take their tole on her life. Upper Cut is one of the most candid accounts I have ever read of drug abuse. Excuses are not made for all that Carrie White's children suffered because of her behavior. She does not embellish or try to paint her personal life in a way which glamorizes the hard fast life she once lived, and it is admirable to read of someone who has learned to accept herself regardless of her past. She is proof that true freedom comes when you learn to accept yourself in spite of your background, disabilities, or past mistakes.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By James Kerr on October 18, 2011
Format: Hardcover
You might call Carrie White's "Upper Cut" the definitive screwed-up childhood, Hollywood excesses, triumph-over-addiction, name-dropping autobiography - or at the very least, the most entertaining cautionary tale you are likely to read this year.
White, the ultimate hair-stylist to the stars (just check the book's five-page epilogue of celebrity clients), weaves a sometimes heart-breaking tale of childhood abuse and drug and alcohol addiction, into a page-turner that is almost impossible to put down. "Upper Cut" captures perfectly a moment in time (the late 60's and early 70's) when success in Hollywood was interchangeable with excess and enablers and all too easy temptations were the order of the day. White's inspiring rise to fame through a childhood that would break the spirit of most, and the voyeuristic pleasure derived from details of her fast-lane, celebrity-filled lifestyle are tempered by the book's harrowing passages of a descent into the depths of addiction hell. Although her wrong way turns can be maddening, you feel her pain and it's easy to root for White with her gumption, humor and distinctive writing voice. And in the end, readers will be greatly rewarded by White's climb back to reclaim her spot among the profession's elite.
Highly Recommended.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By L. on June 9, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Fun to read, full of celebrities literally letting their hair down in Carrie's salon. Her life is a wild one, from her Pacoima Chicana days with stacked hair and built up lips to Hollywood High, sophisticated girls, and she manages to fit right in. She discovers that having your hair right makes up for a lot! The good years are the sixties when she was the star hairdresser (she cut my hair once in her salon on Brighton Way) but later years are not so good and she holds nothing back in telling her story. The book is hard to read at this point and remembering it must have been shattering. She comes out on the good side, we pray her rediscovered good life continues. She is exuberant, loyal, full of fun and fearless.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Patty Kennedy on October 2, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Upper Cut: Highlights of My Hollywood Life
I just finished Upper Cut by Carrie White and the book is triumph, not just for the writer; but a victory of the human spirit.
Carrie White brought back all her old friends, complete with their mannerisms in all their wonder and poignancy. Her words carried me back through time to the places and atmosphere of those distant days. She made me laugh with her total recall of the aura and feel of that place and period.
I found myself crying over her struggles and for the thought of her sweet little kids and all the hard times they journeyed through together coming out the other side whole and perfect again. I remembered sadly from that era, those that weren't strong enough to reinvent themselves without the crutches and poisons that finally dragged them under. There are so many friends that I can only remember with regret, but now I can look to Carrie like a friend that went through fire and got a second chance at life in the same way I did. This book is a best seller; I can feel it! Onward and upward!
Upper Cut: Highlights of My Hollywood Life
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