From the book
Prologue"Now, dearie, I will require a hot plate for my appearance on Professor Duhamel's program."
Russ Morash, who had answered the telephone in a makeshift office he shared with the volunteers at WGBH- TV, was momentarily startled, not so much by the odd request as by the odder voice. It had a quality he'd never heard before-- tortured and asthmatic, with an undulating lyrical register that spanned two octaves. A woman's voice? Yes, he thought, like a cross between Tallulah Bankhead and a slide whistle.
With brusque Yankee economy, Morash tried to decode the caller's m.o. "You want-- what?"
"A hot plate, dearie, so I can make an omelet."
Doesn't that beat all, he thought. A hot plate! An omelet! What kind of a stunt was this gal trying to pull? Morash had worked at the station for a little under four years, and in that time he had heard his share of doozies, but they were workaday doozies, what you'd expect to hear at "Boston's Educational Television Station." The principal clarinetist for the symphony orchestra needed an emergency reed replacement, a beaker broke during a Science Reporter rehearsal, those were the tribulations that befell such an operation. But-- a hot plate . . . and an omelet . . .
"Well, from my experience that's a first," Morash told the caller, "but I'll be happy to pass it on to Miffy Goodhart, when she gets in."
The twenty-seven-year- old Morash knew that commercial television was in remarkable ascendance; since the end of World War II, it had catered to an enormous, entertainment- starved audience that was hungry for distraction, and creative minds were struggling to feed the greedy beast. But educational TV-- and WGBH, in particular-- was a different creature altogether. Educational TV was an anomaly, a broadcasting stepchild in its infancy, still in the crawling phase, with no real road map for meaningful development. "We were kind of making it up as we went along," Morash says of an experiment that was barely six years old. "There was tremendous freedom in what we could put on the air." Still, there was nothing exciting about the programs on WGBH. Audiences were as scarce as scintillating programming. A scattering of viewers tuned in to watch Eleanor Roosevelt spar with a panel of wonks; fewer tuned in Friday evenings when a local character, jazz priest Father Norman J. O'Connor, introduced musical figures from the Boston area. Otherwise there were no hits to speak of, nothing to attract people to the smorgasbord of brainy fare. The station was licensed through the Lowell Institute to the cultural institutions of Boston: the museum, the libraries, and eleven universities, including Harvard, MIT, Tufts, Boston College, Boston University, and Brandeis. The educational backdrop was a fantastic resource. Each member of the Institute provided support, financial and otherwise. If one of them said, "Hey, we've got a great professor. Let's broadcast his lecture," that was enough to launch a new show.
Such was the case with Albert Duhamel-- make that P. Albert Duhamel-- one of Boston College's most lionized teachers. Duhamel was a man who loved books and their authors. A suave, strapping academic with a penchant for Harris tweed, he was addicted to the intellectual interplay that came from talking to writers about their work. Al was an author himself-- his steamy Rhetoric: Principles and Usage was a campus blockbuster-- and his show, People Are Reading, was the tent pole of WGBH's...
Author: Bob Spitz
Bob Spitz is the award-winning author of The Beatles, a New York Times best seller, as well as seven other nonfiction books and a screenplay. He has represented Bruce Springsteen and Elton John in several capacities. His articles appear regularly in magazines and newspapers, including The New York Times Magazine; The Washington Post; Rolling Stone; and O, The Oprah Magazine, among others. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
"A biography perfectly suited to its subject -- as lively, fascinating, and singular as Julia Child herself." - Daniel Okrent, author of Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition
"It's a revelation." - Lev Grossman, Time Magazine
"Spitz captures another side of [Julia's] complex personality: her fierce diligence in mastering the science as well as the art of cooking through detailed experimentation and her concern to translate the preparation of complex French recipes for readers in America . . . An engrossing biography of a woman worthy of iconic status." - Kirkus Review (starred)
"A rollicking biography that captures the vision, pluck and contagious exuberance that were the essence of Julia Child" - People Magazine
"In this affectionate and entertaining tribute to the witty, down-to-earth, bumptious, and passionate host of The French Chef, Spitz (The Beatles) exhaustively chronicles Child's life and career from her childhood in California through her social butterfly flitting at Smith and her work for a Pasadena department store to her stint in government service, her marriage to Paul Child, and her rise to become America's food darling with the publication of Mastering the Art of French Cooking and her many television shows. . . Released to coincide with Child's centenary, Spitz's delightful biography succeeds in being as big as its subject." - Publishers Weekly (starred)
"The most engaging celebrity biography we've read in years . . . Spitz manages to convey the vigor, curiosity, confidence and booming voice of a truly remarkable woman as if she is sitting at the kitchen table with you. . . Spitz is a fantastic writer." - LA Weekly
"A much-appreciated, well timed gift to us all . . . Julia has never been more alive in the hearts and minds of those who grew up with her and drank her dreams." - The Huffington Post
"In what is by far the most substantial new book on Child, Bob Spitz draws a lively, affectionately detailed portrait . . . [with] the kind of language, slangy and salty, that Child would have enjoyed and might have used herself." - Wall Street Journal
"Spitz gives us plenty of the wacky one-liners that endeared Child to her television audience, and a warm, nuanced portrait. But his bigger achievement is in setting her career against the most significant movements of the 20th century, from McCarthyism to the sexual revolution to the greening of America. He reveals how she helped redefine domesticity in the media age, transforming the way we cook, eat and think about food. . . A consideration not only of her life but of her place in 20th century American history, the book makes a strong case for Child as a 'cultural guerrilla' on par with Andy Warhol, Bob Dylan and Helen Gurley Brown." - Newsday
"After wiping your drool off the page, you might wonder where Spitz uncovered such narrative gold . . . Author and subject almost become one, as Spitz channels the spirit of Child in his own words. . . His detailed research into mid-century American cooking helps us understand why exactly Child was such a big deal" - Becky Krystal, Washington Post