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The Amorous Busboy of Decatur Avenue: A Child of the Fifties Looks Back Hardcover – May 3, 2005

3.7 out of 5 stars 40 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Best known for his unique brand of observational humor—seen on Broadway and in film and television—Klein details his life from ages nine to 25 as seen "through the gauze of time." Uproarious opening chapters about his 1950s Bronx childhood and his overly cautious parents ("Never touch a light switch with wet hands! My God, don't cut that bagel toward your neck!") give way to a recollection of seeing a feared fourth-grade teacher go beyond her usual verbal venom and hit a student in the face. Klein's theme park of memories alternates dark moments with sunlit humor. Teenage frustrations prompted a visit to a Harlem prostitute, which filled Klein with "shame and triumph and guilt." He encountered individual and institutional anti-Semitism at Alfred University, yet led the frat house fun, moving on to the Yale School of Drama, Chicago's Second City, New York theater and a variety of romances. Along the way, Klein had successes and failures, both in bed and on stage. Probing not only his own psyche but also the evolution of sexual mores during the 1950s and '60s, he unfurls an array of captivating anecdotes, writing with wry wit and honesty. B&w photos. Agent, Mel Berger. (June 2)
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From Booklist

Celebrity autobiographies, perhaps by definition, are often self-indulgent. Klein's story is no exception. Fortunately, the comedian, actor, and witty observer of our social foibles is also a fine and very funny writer. Raised in a Bronx apartment by very "cautious" Jewish parents, Klein recounts his childhood with both affection and a sharp critical eye. While he seemed inclined to rebel, Klein also makes clear, without regrets, that he is a proud product of his youthful experiences. In school, he was an occasionally disruptive class clown, but he obviously gained both knowledge and insight from his public-school education. As Klein pursued a career in entertainment, one can see the flowering of his gift for satirical social criticism. His first major break, winning a job with Chicago's Second City improvisational troupe, is remembered here fondly, and Klein fills his story with interesting and revealing anecdotes about many Second City alumni. Klein's humor is biting, sometimes scatological, but never bitter, and he reveals an interesting life with this thoroughly enjoyable chronicle. Jay Freeman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Touchstone; First Edition edition (May 3, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0684854880
  • ISBN-13: 978-0684854885
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.2 x 9.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (40 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,692,358 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Neil W. Fleischmann on May 4, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Robert Klein has been my favorite comedian since I was twelve. Mind Over Matter was the first comedy album I ever heard and after that I was hooked. In eighth grade English class when we were assigned to memorize and recite a poem, I chose Mind Over Matter by Robert Klein (which I still know by heart.)

Since then I have become a comedian myself, and whenever asked who my favorite comedian is I answer "Robert Klein" without hesitation. I was thrilled to discover his memoir and am excited to be the first customer reviewer.

Klein once again displays the unique intelligence fans have valued for years by writing a detailed and touching memoir rather than a joke book. This book is rich with detailed memories. As an avid fan I was amazed and intrigued by how closely the routines I remember so fondly reflect Klein's real life. This confirms the theory that the best humor, and Klein is the very best, must come from the truth.

In a his classic routine about Alfred University ("people clap with one hand for Alfred") Klein recounted his shock upon discovering a dormitory neighbor with a swastika mobile and his frantic phone call home ("Mama, the boy next door..."). The book contains an in depth telling of the tale, which includes a brawl with the boy who insisted the shape wasn't actually a swastika.

In another old favorite routine Klein asked, "do you really have to wait an hour after you eat before you go swimming?" He went on to explain that his father claimed that you waited different times for different foods ("jello - five minutes, franks and beans - you can't go in till NEXT YEAR.") The book tells this true story in great detail.
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Format: Paperback
The Amorous Busboy of Decatur Avenue is Robert Klein's memoirs of growing up in the Bronx in the 1950s. Born in 1942, Klein writes affectionately of the basic influences of his youth during the years 1951 to 1966. Each chapter begins with a picture of Klein during the period discussed.

His parents were children of immigrant Jews who were "careful, cautious, wary people" and passed on their concerns to Klein and his sister. His bedroom was a Castro convertable ottoman in the living room of their small 6th floor apartment.

The first four chapters cover his life in junior high and high school in the Bronx. Having grown up in the Bronx myself during this time, I found these very well written and full of delightful details.

The next five chapters are about his life at Alfred University in rural upstate New York. Here he confronts anti-Semitism and develops a love of acting and comedy. He also works summers in the Catskill Mountain resorts made famous in the movie "Dirty Dancing." He is no Patrick Swayze, and his amorous nature is mostly unfulfilled.

The last six chapters tell the story of his breaking into show business. His first success in Chicago's Second City and his friendship with Rodney Dangerfield are highlights of this section.

One of the recurring themes of the work is his sexual relations over time. Beginning with his losing his virginity to a 112th Street prostitute, Klein reminisces about the women in his life and the sexual and sometimes loving relations he had with them. Although he is not very graphic in his descriptions, this male oriented portrayal of sex in the 50s and early 60s may seem insensitive by modern standards.
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Format: Hardcover
Having been a huge fan of Mr. Klein's for many years, I'm so pleased I couldn't get to sleep a couple of weeks ago and happened to catch him as a guest on David Letterman's show, where he mentioned having written his memoir. I read the book in 4 days, which is a record for me as I have a young son, so it's not always easy to find the time to read but Mr. Klein's wit, intelligence and humor, made it a "can't put down" book! The chapter he writes about bringing home his German girlfriend, Elizabeth, to meet his parent's for the first time and his father's behavior that evening with the Hitler questions is "classic"! My only concern is, how long do we have to wait for the sequel?!!
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Format: Hardcover
Although leavened by Klein's breezy humor, this account of his first 25 years is marred by too many overly detailed stories of too few essentially banal events that will interest only hard-core fans of the author. There is, for example, a 4000-or-so word anecdote about an instance in which Klein resists his 4th grade teacher's attempt to intimidate him and an episode running to about 6000 words in which Klein -- then 14 or 15 -- escapes a menacing confrontation with three slightly older schoolmates who accost him in a park in his Bronx neighborhood. Neither these two or many of the other extended accounts of the rather mundate rites of passage contain enough dramatic weight to justify even half their lenghth. For those who grew up in the Bronx or were Jewish contemporaries of Klein's at Catskill summer camps and small rural colleges, the familiar terrain that Klein traverses will trigger nostalgic memories, but others will be disappointed by too little focus on career-making moments.
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