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Carly Simon’s Boys in the Trees (Flatiron Books, Nov. 24, $33.50) is one of the best celebrity memoirs of the year. Mostly covering her life from her birth in 1945 to her divorce from James Taylor in 1983, it is an elegantly written and revealing account of her privileged childhood (her father Richard founded Simon & Schuster), her rise to fame and her marriage to Taylor. Much of her life has been shadowed by her relationship with her father, who was tough and demanding on his daughter. Richard L. Simon developed a severe stammer as a young child, had a troubled marriage and an uneven business career and died from a heart attack in 1960 when she was 16. The central thread of the book is that relationship and how it shaped her own relationships, so it is fitting that some of best revelations in the book center on men.
Sean Connery proposed a threesome.
In 1965, Simon, 20, and her sister Lucy, 22, met Bond star Sean Connery on the boat going from England to New York. The pair sent Connery — at the height of his Bond fame — a note saying they were not “ordinary fans” and name dropping the fact that their father was the founder of Simon & Schuster. Connery (“far handsomer in person”) met them for a drink and regaled them with stories, including his recent LSD trip. The next night he invited them to his cabin for a drink where he proposed a menage a trois (or as a one of their friends called it a “Simon sisters sandwich” — try saying that in Connery’s Scottish brogue!). It took a few minutes for it to register on the girls what he was asking — an offer they politely declined. But the next night Lucy met up with Sean solo and didn’t return to the cabin until 5:15 in the morning — a betrayal that Carly used to justify breaking up the sister’s musical act when they landed in New York.
Warren Beatty may be “vain” but she still has nice things to say about him, really nice things, to say about him.
Simon reveals that Beatty is indeed one of the inspirations for “You’re So Vain” (she won’t name the other two because they don’t know the song is partially about them), but she still holds fond memories of her mid-’70s tryst with him. She describes him as a “glorious specimen” who put all other men “to shame, if looks and charm were what you were after.” She praises his sexual skills (he knew how to “play [women] like a Stradivarius”) and his post-coital routines (“Warren always phoned the next day. Sex was followed with a call.”) where he made her feel like she was the only person who mattered to him at that moment.
Still he cheated on her.
In one of the funniest stories in the book, Beatty calls up Simon, about a month into their relationship, to say he’s flying into New York. He’s not landing until midnight and he’s got a 5:30 a.m. call time, he explains, but he must see her. So Simon gets dressed up, sprays perfume on the bed and makes him a meal. Beatty shows up, they make love and he leaves by 5:30. At 11:00, Simon sees her therapist. She tells him she knows he doesn’t approve of Beatty but last night was wonderful and amazing and this is different. The therapist looks uncomfortable. “Under the circumstances, I can’t withhold this,” he says. “Its unbelievable. You are not the first patient of the day who spent the night with Warren Beatty last night.” She quickly confronts Beatty about it, who howls with laughter at the ridiculousness of the situation. She’s so charmed by this she forgives him.
Recording “You’re So Vain” was insane.
She recorded the song at London’s AIR studios, owned by Beatles producer George Martin, in 1971. Paul and Linda McCartney were recording down the hall. Harry Nilsson came by to pitch in and see his friends the McCartneys. Mick Jagger came by and ended up contributing some background vocals on the track between hanging out with Nilsson and the McCartneys (“Conversation struck up between the Beatle and the Stone,” Simon observes).
It was during the recording of “You’re So Vain” she fell for Jagger.
The two had met a few months earlier in Los Angeles and Simon says there was instant electricity between them, but it was in London that she really fell for him. In the recording studio singing “You’re so Vain” together she writes, “The farther away we stood, the closer we got. Electricity. That’s what it was. I wanted to touch his neck and he was looking at my lips. The electricity was raw and hardly disguising its power. Having sex would actually have cooled things off.” (They would, of course, eventually sleep together but Simon is discrete about those details.)
No surprise, James Taylor was and is the love of her life.
She focuses mostly on the good times of their relationship, though it’s clear that his depression cast a shadow over their relationship. There’s too much there to sum up in one point, but her description of the two of them falling in love is moving and beautiful, and her telling of the end of the relationship is honest in its insight, reminding readers that marriages don’t usually end in a big bang, but in fits and starts, with good times intermixed with bad.
Well, Martha’s Vineyard might be the real love of her life.
Simon spent summers there as kid in the mid-1950s, moved into Taylor’s cabin there in the early 1970s and never left (she kept it in the divorce). Simon’s romance with Taylor really plays out in their time on the island and her description of the beauty of the island and life there is evocative and full of affection. Martha’s Vineyard is truly her home, and her portrayal of it is a beautiful love letter to the small island seven miles off the coast of Cape Cod.
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