Frankel and Bosworth, writers about celebrity, to share stage

Fonda and Newman and Mailer and Monroe: Two dynamic writers find the stories behind their subjects' fame

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  • Patricia Bosworth

  • Martha Frankel

By Marilyn Rosenthal

— Martha Frankel and Patricia Bosworth have become celebrated writing about celebrities.

They will talk about their experiences at the Milford Readers and Writers Festival from 10 to 11:15 a.m. on Saturday, Sept. 16, at the Milford Theatre.

They'll discuss all kinds of writing, especially memoirs and biographies. Both Frankel and Bosworth are totally comfortable mixing it up with the rich and famous.

Frankel interviews at least three or four celebrity authors on her weekly radio show, Woodstock BookTalk (broadcast from Radio Woodstock100 WDST and also available at and as a podcast on iTunes). She says she finds friendship and laughter in her radio interviews, which are bright, pithy, and full of fun.

Bosworth has written biographies of Marlon Brando, Montgomery Clift, Diane Arbus, and, more recently, the fascinating Jane Fonda in "Jane Fonda: The Private Life of a Public Woman."

She attended Lee Strasberg's actor's studio in New York City, where she became lifelong friends with people like Fonda, Paul Newman, Marilyn Monroe, Arthur Penn, Elaine Stritch, and Tennessee Williams. She even had a role alongside Audrey Hepburn in the 1959 film "The Nun's Story."

Frankel and Bosworth have also written intimate memoirs about their own families. Frankel's memoir "Hats and Eyeglases: A Family Love Affair with Gambling," recounts her family's lifelong addiction to gambling, as well as her own later addiction to online gambling.

"Hats and Eyeglasses" is an old expression describing a serious loss at the gambling table, when basically all that's left are hats and eyeglasses.

"We bet on everything, from sports to how much our mothers would lose at Weight Watchers," she said.

Bosworth's most recent book, "The Men in My Life; A Memoir of Love and Art in 1950s Manhattan," is a fascinating story about the suicide of her father, a famous lawyer who defended Hollywood screenwriters during the McCarthy era and of her brother's suicide as a young man struggling with his sexuality. In the book, she talks about how she became a suicide survivor.

She shared her experience with Jane Fonda, who is also a suicide survivor. (Her mother, Frances Fonda committed suicide.) Perhaps that is what makes them so close. An article in The New York Times titled "The Dark Tie between Jane Fonda and Her Biographer" analyzed their relationship.

Understand yourself betterFrankel and Bosworth also share a penchant for meticulous research. They also really like their subjects and are fascinated by their lives.

"It is more challenging to interview a man than a woman," said Bosworth. "Women tend to be more open, intimate, confiding, except for Norman Mailer, who was fantastic in terms of the way he talked about love, life, and politics. He had no problem talking about himself, because he was a complete narcissist."

Frankel, in addition to her weekly radio show, is the Executive Director of the annual Woodstock Bookfest, now in its ninth year. Last year 35 authors participated. For the Bookfest's "Story Slam," storytellers take the stage.

"It is a raucous, wild night," said Boswell. "People work hard to be chosen to get on stage in the first place, and the judges make the final decision."

Frankel also teaches writing classes at the Byrdcliffe Art Center in Woodstock. She tells her students, "Writing is a lot of fun — and very hard."

Bosworth's advice to would-be memoirists is to keep a journal.

"It is always fascinating to write and explore family life to get to understand yourself better," she said.

Although Frankel and Bosworth did not know each other before signing on to the Milford festival, they did speak to each other by phone, and Frankel has already recorded an interview with Bosworth for her Woodstock Booktalk radio show, available at and on iTunes.

"It's all about finding the story," Bosworth said.

The second annual Milford Readers and Writers Festival will be held Sept. 15-17 at venues around the borough. Other featured writers include Lee Child and Stephen Rubin, and Robin Morgan and Farai Chideya. For more information visit

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