YOU HAVE TO STAND FOR SOMETHING OR YOU'LL FALL FOR ANYTHING
By Star Jones
Written with Daniel Paisner
235 pages, $22.95
If only she had called it "The Star Report." Think of it -- it could have been the marketing ploy of the decade. Buyers ordering the independent counsel's findings over the Web or at bookstore counters would later find they had mistakenly bought Star Jones' autobiography.
They should be so lucky.
Star Jones (real name: Starlet) has worked for two of the most seductive professions -- law and television. Nationally, she is best-known as one of the five female participants of "The View," ABC's chat room conceived by Barbara Walters, or as Jones calls her, "B.W." The show airs across the country at 11 a.m. daily, but WKBW-TV runs it during the early morning hours to accommodate "AM Buffalo" on its daytime schedule.
Jones' uncanny ability to "tell it like it is" makes her a valuable television commodity, a much-sought-after dinner guest and an exceptionally entertaining author.
Her first national exposure came via Court TV. She was covering the William Kennedy Smith case, in which one of the big issues was Patricia Bowman's inability to remember the details of the removal of her pantyhose -- where, when or how they had come off. Jones was asked to comment.
"Well," I said. "It's been my experience that women know where they take off their underwear, and if they don't, they have a credibility problem." I went on to explain that Ms. Bowman had been wearing control-top pantyhose, and how no woman in the world could forget taking control-top pantyhose off in the back seat of a car. Trust me on this one.
Two days after that comment she was sitting across from Katie Couric, and six weeks later she was "Today's" legal correspondent. (On her first day of work at the network, she was told by NBC news director David Verdi, "You're used to dealing with rapists, murderers and other criminals, but now that you're in television news, you're about to really see what evil is.")
Regardless of what success her media career affords her, Jones insists she is first and foremost a lawyer. She vividly recounts some early cases she tried after landing a job with the New York district attorney's office, fresh out of law school, and became "Star Jones for the People":
I always thought it was kinda cool -- a gentle daily reminder of who I was and what I was doing with my life. Goodness, it still rings with all kinds of bravado and purpose and wonder. "Jones for the People." I don't think I'll ever lose the weight of those words! or what they meant to a 24-year-old kid, fresh out of law school. The privilege of saying them was worth the entire ride -- and they made not knowing where the ride would take me all the more thrilling.
She so loved the law that even when she thought she had just months to live, she returned to school. While in college, she was told she had a large, inoperable tumor wrapped around her esophagus. But months later, Dr. Ben Aaron, who had removed the bullet from President Reagan after he was shot, told her that he would remove the tumor and save her life. "The last thing he said to me before I dropped off was this: 'Just remember, Star, I'm going to save your life, and you're going to be a very famous lawyer someday, and you will never sue doctors.' He was right. I am. And I never have."
The challenge in reviewing some books by media personalities is searching for passages which are remotely quotable. In "You Have to Stand for Something or You'll Fall for Anything," the dilemma is deciding what to leave out. Here are some choice samplings:
On race: "You want to really p--- me off? Come to me with an insincere smile and tell me how wonderful it is that 'someone like me' is so articulate. . . . I once mentioned this particular irritation to an older black woman in Buffalo, and she suggested that the next time some insincere, unenlightened, 'well-meaning' bigoted person came up to me and told me how well-spoken I was, I should say it's because I was raised by white people."
On being a diva: "I'm the handiest girl you're likely to meet, but I put it to work on an as-needed basis. Why should I get out and fix my car on the side of the road? I've got my cellular phone. I've got my roadside assistance. It doesn't prove my womanhood to be able to jump-start my car or change a flat tire. I don't have to prove anything to anybody. I'm a full-fledged card-carrying diva. It's you who needs to prove something to me."
On being a full-figured woman: "I read an article once that referred to me as one of the prettiest 'full-figured' women on television, and I remember wondering what the hell the critic was thinking. I'm arrogant enough, or confident enough, or full enough of myself to think I'm one of the prettiest women on television. Period. End of sentence."
She underscores the importance of creating positive body images in our daughters, such as that instilled in her by her mother, Shirley, and stepfather, Jimmy (who still occasionally calls after watching "The View": "Girl, you were so sharp today I almost cut myself watching you").
Jones also credits her parents with passing on their faith in a chapter titled "That Sweet, Sweet Spirit." She has no doubt as to what she'll do first when she reaches the pearly gates: "When I get there I can say to my grandmother, 'Nobody makes white potatoes like you did,' because the truth is, I have not had a good white potato since she's been gone, and I want her to know that."
In "Who You Gonna Get to Drive the Bronco?" she pays tribute to her closest friends and her co-stars. The title comes from her suggestion that no matter what you think about O.J. Simpson, he must have some redeeming qualities to inspire unwavering loyalty in friends such as Al Cowlings.
Unfortunately, this self-possessed woman turns to jelly when discussing affairs of the heart, her abundant bravado apparently taking a breather. She surmises that perhaps she hasn't yet found Mr. Right because of her tendency to bring up marriage and children on the first date. (Well, maybe not every first date. Her description of the evening she spent in a wild bar in downtown Hollywood doing "body shots" with Leo, whom she spotted in the audience of her syndicated show, "Jones and Jury," reads like the other "Starr Report.")
It's a crime that, because of its overnight air time, Western New Yorkers are missing out on daily doses of both Star Jones and "The View." Even if she's merely one-fifth of that show's appeal (which I doubt), I'd have to borrow one of her favorite lines: "I object."