Celebrities say the darnest things

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Tampa Bay Online
‘Celebrity Biography’ takes page from stars
Published: January 4, 2011

Celebrities write the darnest things — especially in their autobiographies.

Take Vanna White‘s detailed description of her letter turning skills on “Wheel of Fortune.”

In her 1989 memoir, she painstakingly recounts what we’ve all seen: how she gets excited when she hears Pat Sajak announce, “Oh, Vanna,” how she shows off her gowns; how she “must concentrate on every word a contestant says” so she can spring into action to turn the letters; and how she has to “rush like crazy” when the puzzle is a long phrase.

“Sure, it’s not the most intellectually challenging job in the world but it is hard work. … What’s my secret? As I told ’60 Minutes,’ it must be in the wrist,” she wrote.

That book, published at the height of her fame, was the inspiration for “Celebrity Autobiography,” a night of laughs based on insipid passages from memoirs.

Producer, actor, and playwright Eugene Pack created the long-running off-Broadway show more than 10 years ago after reading “Vanna Speaks” and realizing the comic potential in dramatic readings of celebrity drivel.

“We started performing these at a little restaurant in Hollywood on Monday nights and it grew from there,” says writer/actor Bruce Vilanch, who is part of the ensemble performing “Celebrity Autobiography” tonight through Saturday at Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater (call 727-791-7400 or visit www.rutheckerdhall.com for information).

Vilanch will be joined by various performers during the run, including Vincent Pastore (of “The Sopranos”) and Dawn Wells (on Saturday) of “Gilligan’s Island.” The show’s creator Eugene Pack also will perform.

The cast of six changes with just about every performance, Vilanch said in a telephone interview. “So does the material because new celebrity memoirs are published every year,” he adds, noting that the words of Tiger Woods, Miley Cyrus and Sarah Palin are in the act.

Vilanch, one of Hollywood’s most prolific gag writers, says that what makes it work are trivial passages from celebrities with an inflated sense of self-importance.

“These famous people have been given large sums of money to write so they think that what they have to say is important and they think people care about every little thing that they do,” he says.

Audiences will be treated to Suzanne Somers’ poetry; how Joan Lunden picks the clothes she wears; and romance advice from Motley Crue’s Tommy Lee.