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The Me Generation... By Me (Growing Up in the '60s) Kindle Edition
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Oh, brother. Let's get real. As Ken Levine points out, most of us who grew up in the 60's still couldn't get to third base or as far as mom would drive us. We had to navigate our way through malls, hormones, bad driving, bad clothes, bad jobs, bad neighborhoods, TV dance parties and of course - cricket invasions. Even though he grew up in Surf City, USA, Ken now peels back the scab to show us what it was REALLY like to be a teenager in Los Angeles through that overly-romanticized/reviled decade. It was pretty cool, and he did it all without a surfboard or a guitar.
Ken's pre-adult life was remarkably normal, if you don't count little differences like:
- Classmates such as Ann Jillian and Jan Smithers...and Rachel
- Two and a half appearances on The Dating Game
- Going to a radio station-sponsored Love-In
- Kicking Neil Young out of a record store
- Seeing a part of Goldie Hawn before Kurt Russell did
- Kissing rubber chickens at steakhouses
- A fear of Ringo
- Having the wrong epiphany in Haight-Ashbury during the Summer of Love
- Getting dating advice from Zsa Zsa Gabor and Stooge Moe Howard
- Being among the first seven or eight people to discover Sonny and Cher
- A mom and dad who were much hipper than he was
- Plus about four dozen more hilarious and heartbreaking episodes
One of the great joys of "The ME Generation...by ME" is how Ken uses the events of each year as touchstones to what was going on in his life - as we all do. We may not have been part of those big stories, but we sure remember what we were doing as they happened...and wondered how we could parlay that into getting girls.
From dealing with his love for television (um, quite literally) to the moment he realized he could write comedy and ultimately reaching a very bittersweet end to Ken's Big Decade, it's an age of discovery that Ken is proud to have you laugh at and identify with. You'll be right by his side, reliving a `60s you never knew, wishing you could have been there instead of wherever you really were. I can't think of many books about the `60s that accomplish that.
Get it. Immerse yourself in it. Enjoy.
He came of age a few miles west and a few years earlier than I did so it's hard for me to separate the cultural and literary value of his memoir from my own personal curiosity and nostalgia.
Maybe I don't have to separate the personal from the historical. I can safely say that his book captures what it was like for nerdy white middle-class Jewish boys to break with their tribe of origin and join the broader youth culture tribe of the times. Ken's fascination with records and radio paved his path from a quiet suburban upbringing to the wild and tumultuous times outside. Vietnam, LBJ, Nixon, student protests, the Sunset Strip Riots, Sergeant Pepper and the big boss beat of L.A. radio created a chaotic, swirling soundtrack for coming of age in the late sixties. Ken keeps his story personal while bringing all these elements into focus.
I read this book because of my interest in L.A. during the sixties. I only later learned about Ken and his significant contributions as a television and film writer and as a sports broadcaster. The fact that he was both shaped by sixties pop culture and helped to shape the culture that followed makes his story more interesting and relevant. The writing is breezy, humorous, enjoyable and often poignant.
I enjoyed revisiting this world that I passed through a few years after Ken did.
This is a fantastic book. It is the perfect combination of how his childhood and teens prepared him for his future career and a slice of life recount of a hormone filled teenage boy. Some unforgettable lines, possibly the best was something like, "and I never did get to feel how cold a witch's tit was."
Even if Ken didn't go on to have a very successful career, this would be a great book. But the little hints of the future success scream that a sequel would be just as entertaining as Mr Levine becomes a businessman and encounters the women in Hollywood. Im hoping the sequel will include a picture with Mr Levine and Ann Jillian.