Summer Beach Read Memoirs: Questlove, Ed Hardy, Aisha Tyler Tell All

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THR sits down with the stars whose self-penned hardcovers are stocking Hollywood’s bookshelves this season.

Though the summer temperatures will be winding down in a few weeks, Hollywood's bookshelves continue to stay hot with celebrities' freshly-printed memoirs. The Hollywood Reporter touches base with the (mostly first-time) authors of this season’s releases: atypical accounts of pursuing the American dream in the spotlight, served with generous amounts of both heartache and heartwarming nostalgia.

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By Ed Hardy with Joel Selvin

(Thomas Dunne Books, $26.99, 304 pages)

Though the cover of Don Ed Hardy’s memoir is dressed in dragons, skulls and a red-tipped sword -- and bears the co-authorship of veteran rock journalist Joel Selvin -- don’t expect to read about a tattoo artist’s most jaw-dropping moments, since such was never the case for Hardy. “I’m not some heavy metal guy that’s gonna be able to describe the hotel room that got ruined!” Hardy tells THR. “That’s just not who I am. That’s just the preconception, which still exists, that tattoo artists have some ultra decadent lifestyle. Or that they’re a subhuman species, like the more tattoos you have, the fewer brain cells you use.”

Instead, Hardy inked a memoir of his fascination with precision amid permanence and pressure -- techniques perfected under tattoo legends Sailor Jerry Collins and Horihide, displayed on Peter Coyote and Margaret Cho, and printed on tees and trucker hats by the “phenomenal, genius marketer” Christian Audigier (inaccurately, at times, since Audigier continued the use of Hardy's name and artwork on product lines after their contract ended; the two settled a $100 million lawsuit out of court in 2009). “I’m just trying to set the record straight to say, 'yes, there is a real person behind all this who drew these things' -- it’s my life’s work,” says Hardy, who laid down his needle in 2008 and is preparing to show his 14-foot paintings at an art show in Beijing. “It’s developed as a visual art; it’s a legitimate thing. It’s not for everybody -- I don’t know why people get them, and I don’t care if they do -- but just give it a little respect.”

Sample Passage:

We were smitten with this style of tattoo, like anybody who has ever been pole-axed by art. When you're so drawn to art, to making pictures and looking at art, it's really all you want to think about, besides maybe sex and feeding yourself. To us, this was like a beacon from Mars. It was like, bang, and you suddenly see everything differently, your whole perception of what art can look like is changed in an instant. That's how it was for us to see this Chicano art.

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By Aisha Tyler

(It Books, $24.99, 256 pages)

When CBS’ The Talk wrapped its second season last August, co-host, comedienne and Archer cartoon voice Aisha Tyler put up an email auto-responder and paused all her projects, including her “Girl on Guy” podcast that pushes guests like Chris Rock, Joe Manganiello and Seth Green to share stories of self-inflicted wounds, or “personal tragedies that happen that you can’t blame anyone else for,” says Tyler. “These people talk about their terrible, embarrassing, really boneheaded mistakes, and it was time I finally share some of mine.” Though ranging from see-through outfits to insurmountable drunkenness before the SATs, what’s Tyler’s most wince-worthy retelling? “I liked this guy and I ended up throwing up all over him -- it’s scarred over, but at the time, I was such a lovelorn stupid mope.”

Tyler's second book travels from childhood through the hurdles of coming up in comedy, with each essay juxtaposing well-worn adages attributed to the likes of Thoreau, Nietzsche and Buddha with her own lessons learned from the experience -- a mix of the crass and the heartwarming. “Nobody wants to be friends with the guy who comes running into a bar and goes, ‘OMG you guys, I had a presentation at work today, I got a promotion and a new office, and I’m dating this super hot girl,’” Tyler explains of owning her embarrassing missteps. “Everybody wants to punch that guy in the face! But everybody loves that guy who comes in with only one shoe on, he’s damp and his pockets are turned inside out, and he goes, ‘OMG you guys, I think I just set my car on fire.’ Everybody loves that guy! We can just laugh about it together.” Looks like her strategy pays off: She’s well-received as Drew Carey’s replacement on The CW’s newly revived and renewed Whose Line Is It Anyway? and just hosted the Young Hollywood Awards.

Sample Passage:

Being an arrogant little snot with a freshly minted Ivy degree and no money to go out and do stuff like normal people, I sat on my dumpster-rescued futon and watched a lot of comedy on this channel while eating Smartfood by the fistful. And inevitably, after each set, I thought arrogantly and snottily, "Man, that sucked. I could totally do better than that guy." It was this kind of unfounded and breathtaking hubris that made me quirkily adorable, and also highly likely to lose a limb or get stabbed by an itinerant tattoo artist someday.

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By Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson and Ben Greenberg

(Grand Central Publishing, $26, 288 pages)

The multi-hyphenate lead member of The Roots -- who also just opened his hybird fusion food stand in NYC's Chelsea Market -- has entertained the idea of writing a book since 2008, thanks to his collection of moments with the likes of Jay ZDave ChappelleStevie Wonder and Prince. “A lot of exciting things have happened, but nine times out of ten, I’ve always been somebody’s co-pilot or vice president, or the second guy that experiences first-hand someone else’s experience,” says Questlove. “The hardest thing to do was to pare it down to that the common denominator of my story, not just the story of when I saw other people doing things.”

But rather than simply narrating his life from his childhood in West Philadelphia to his present post as the musical director of Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, Questlove benchmarks his memories with specific standout songs, and tangents into extended discourses on musical history, black art and the ever-evolving genre of hip hop, complete with occasional, lengthy footnotes. He also includes frank reflections of a dark period when he lost his musical passion and faith – “I really felt I was a dead person through that,” he tells THR. After developing the habit of writing between the hours of 2 a.m. and 6 a.m. (even the acknowledgments), Questlove sits satisfied with what he ended up with. “It took four years for them to coax it out of me, and I finally gave in and gave it my best shot. I wrote a book that I would like -- at the end of the day, I have to live with it.”

Sample Passage:

Before that, hip hop had a sense of belonging. When Run DMC did "My Adidas," you could go out and get a pair of Adidas. You could put on jeans and a Kangol hat. You could be part of that club. When motherf------ are talking about buying a jet or a speedboat, well, that's not inclusive. And think of where the videos are set. Early on there was lots of on-your-block shit, videos with regular locations: street corners, houses, empty lots. People could identify with that in ways they couldn't identify with mansions.

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By Darlene Love with Rob Hoerburger

(William Morrow Paperbacks, $15.99, 368 pages)

Sure, her story played out on the big screen in the summer’s documentary 20 Feet From Stardom, but even then, Darlene Love shared the spotlight with fellow backup singers Merry Clayton and Voice alum Judith Hill. She seizes center stage to vividly share her key moments, including singing chart-toppers as part of The Blossoms, breaking out of Phil Spector’s stubborn grasp, cleaning houses to make ends meet and fighting for a long-awaited solo career. Most satisfying to share was her upbringing: “Neither my father nor my mother wanted me to be in this business,” Love tells THR, “so there was struggle not only with them, but I was also in a Pentecostal church that didn’t believe in this kind of music. Singing is beautiful, music is beautiful; it’s not meant for one religion or the other. It’s to be shared by everybody. That’s really what helped me. God put me through all of that crap so I could do it.”

Love says that “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” will always be the hit she's most closely associated with: “Everybody on the planet, it seemed, was on that record singing background: Cher, Sonny Bono, it was so much fun!” And what's the reaction been to her tell-all memoir so far? “Tom Jones thought it was funny,” she laughs, “and I’ve got so much work now, I can hardly handle it -- but I’m not complaining!”

Sample Passage:

Hearing your voice on the radio is a dangerous kind of epiphany, because it can instantly throw everything in your life in and out of focus at the same time. It's like having a kaleidoscope spin in your mind. In an instant you see your parents, husband, brothers and sisters, friends, the kid who whupped you in the third grade, the kind choir director who let you know you could sing and the gym teacher who made you feel you had no right walking, all the people you want to celebrate the moment with you and all the faces you want to rub in it.

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By Kennedy

(Thomas Dunne Books, $25.99, 336 pages)

Long gone are the days when MTV championed music videos -- and therefore, so too are VJs like Lisa “Kennedy” Montgomery, who bookended their playback with pop culture chats and discussions of youth issues. As the host of Alternative Nation, Kennedy helped establish alternative rock and grunge as staples of a '90s culture that's coming back in style. “There’s a sweet spot in nostalgia, a point where you start to forget why your youth was so fantastic -- you want to relive it before you’re too old to do anything about it,” says Kennedy, who saw the re-issues of Pearl Jam and Nirvana’s albums as a trigger to pursue the book. “It’s a time that will always live on. It’s your youth -- it’s seared onto your heart and your memory.”

Besides on-set memories and run-ins with Courtney Love, Jenny McCarthy and Michael Jordan, her favorite anecdote to revisit was wrestling with Oasis’ Liam and Noel Gallagher at the network’s Aspen cabin. “It seemed like a great idea on paper, but they show up and all they do is disappear into the bathroom for 20 minutes at a time and insist on playing The Beatles’ White Album. It’s like, we’re not at an Oasis concert, my friend!” More difficult moments for Kennedy to pen include discussing Frank Zappa’s funeral and becoming the inspiration for the Goo Goo Dolls’ breakout hit “Name.” And as a failsafe for any fuzzy memories, Kennedy includes Q&As with the likes of Dave Navarro and Nirvana’s Pat Smear to feature a moment’s second perspective.

Sample Passage:

Newspeople had to change in the communal wardrobe rooms like commoners. Kurt Loder could not have given less of a shit; he was easy like Sunday morning and had virtually no beauty/wardrobe/hair instructions for anyone and he looked better than everybody. Smart people don't have time to care how they look, their pristine genes and natural symmetry find no need for vanity. Kurt was oddly handsome enough he could show up anywhere, on any continent, in the same blazer he'd popped off the Concorde wearing, and he'd still look 37 percent more collected and smarter than you.