I was glad as always to join Linda Holmes, Glen Weldon, and – for the first time, for me – Barrie Hardymon on this week’s Pop Culture Happy Hour. Here are my notes and ephemera from this exciting episode. Some of it is stuff I jotted down to say but forgot or didn’t get the chance, and some of it is stuff I wish in hindsight that I’d been smart or quick enough to say on the fly. I keep pounding so-called smart drinks hoping that I shall one day develop the ability to think at the speed of conversation, but it hasn’t happened yet.
Anyway! I wanted to read this brief passage from Nick Hornby’s new novel Funny Girl, our primary topic of discussion, because I think it encapsulates the spirit of the book succinctly. It’s the first meeting between the book’s heroine, Barbara (who adopts the stage name Sophie Straw), and her agent, Brian:
“I want to be a comedienne,” said Barbara. “I want to be Lucille Ball.”
The desire to act was the bane of Brian’s life. All these beautiful, shapely girls, and half of them didn’t want to appear in calendars, or turn up for openings. They wanted three lines in a BBC play about unwed mothers down coal mines. He didn’t understand the impulse, but he cultivated contacts with producers and casting agents, and sent the girls out for auditions anyway. They were much more malleable once they’d been repeatedly turned down.