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Dandelion; Memoir Of A Free Spirit
 
 

Dandelion; Memoir Of A Free Spirit [Kindle Edition]

Catherine James
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Product Description

Catherine James’s relationship with her young, beautiful, and wickedly irresponsible mother informed her Los Angeles childhood. Neglected—she would be strapped to a chair at night while her mother cavorted on the Sunset Strip—Catherine longed not for normalcy, but just for the chance to get away. To get away to her beloved grandmother Mimi or to her glamorous Aunt Claire’s, a Hollywood version of Grey Gardens stuff with racks of the former beauty queen’s 1930s ball gowns and memories of grand parties with Claire’s ex-husband, Busby Berkeley. To get away to her father, a dashing race-car driver who had been out of her life almost since the day she was born. Or even to get away to school, where she would at least be taken care of. Instead, Catherine was abandoned by her furious mother to become a ward of the state before she reached her teens.

It wasn’t until a chance meeting with a very young Bob Dylan that Catherine was inspired to make her escape—as a real runaway, breaking out of the California orphanage with only one goal: to get to Greenwich Village in New York.

Dandelion then becomes a look through the eye of a needle, as Catherine experiments with Eric Clapton; a peek through the viewfinder of a Polaroid, as Catherine is taken up by the beautiful people in Andy Warhol’s Factory; and a glimpse through a haze of smoke, as she begins romances with rockers like Jackson Browne and Jimmy Page.

While raising her son, whose father was Denny Laine of the Moody Blues, Catherine finally returns to her West Coast roots, reconnects with her family, and discovers that her mother hasn’t changed but her father has: He’s become a heartbreakingly garish transsexual.

Moving and shocking by turns, Dandelion is a completely different view of a celebrated pop culture scene and of a dramatic mother-daughter relationship.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 2230 KB
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S. r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B007R7F9LE
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #440,729 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars book review- Dandelion by Catherine James 15 Feb 2008
Format:Hardcover
Here's a plug for someone I've never met in the form of a book review. It's a newly released autobiography called "Dandelion" by Catherine James. Her style is similar to her compatriot groupie Pamela Des Barres, but less fluttery. Its plainer style actually serves her content well, for this isn't just the tale of amusing sexual encounters among the paleontological dig-sites of the usual 60's dinosaurs, but one of real, live, actual survival.

When you see photographs of her, even now, you'll note the incontestibility that Ms. James has always been a stunner in the looks department. Her family albums of film stars and singers show this was clearly inherited as well as polished by her own self-maintenance and style. However, she was not only the product of the gorgeous genetics of a Hollywood, entertainment-enmeshed family, but also of absolutely off the charts family dysfunction, so vile that it seems part Charles Dickens and part Edgar Allen Poe, hardly something you'd associate still happening in the 20th century of her childhood.

The journey away from horribleness remains the heart of the story, no matter what era. I found a strange, personal recognition in her tale of the Mother From Hell, insofar as it showed me even if my own troublesome family had been as creative in the arts as hers, there still would have been the same friction: toxic is toxic, and unconstrained selfishness in parents is poisonous to children.

Reviewers seem to be divided on this book, some contesting that it may be lightweight in tone by someone of not overwhelming accomplishment. Others note that's it would be a fascinating read even without the name-droppy stuff.
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Amazon.com: 4.7 out of 5 stars  78 reviews
23 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Book review for "Dandelion" 16 Oct 2007
By FastFilm - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Here's a plug for someone I've never met in the form of a book review. It's a newly released autobiography called "Dandelion" by Catherine James. Her style is similar to her compatriot groupie Pamela Des Barres, but less fluttery. Its plainer style actually serves her content well, for this isn't just the tale of amusing sexual encounters among the paleontological dig-sites of the usual 60's dinosaurs, but one of real, live, actual survival.

When you see photographs of her, even now, you'll note the incontestibility that Ms. James has always been a stunner in the looks department. Her family albums of film stars and singers show this was clearly inherited as well as polished by her own self-maintenance and style. However, she was not only the product of the gorgeous genetics of a Hollywood, entertainment-enmeshed family, but also of absolutely off the charts family dysfunction, so vile that it seems part Charles Dickens and part Edgar Allen Poe, hardly something you'd associate still happening in the 20th century of her childhood.

The journey away from horribleness remains the heart of the story, no matter what era. I found a strange, personal recognition in her tale of the Mother From Hell, insofar as it showed me even if my own troublesome family had been as creative in the arts as hers, there still would have been the same friction: toxic is toxic, and unconstrained selfishness in parents is poisonous to children.

Reviewers seem to be divided on this book, some contesting that it may be lightweight in tone by someone of not overwhelming accomplishment. Others note that's it would be a fascinating read even without the name-droppy stuff. Its subhead is "Memoirs of a Free Spirit," and the tabloid-esque encounters she found as both pursuer and pursued in the heady days of the 1960's was a solution that suited her in her escape from horribleness. Metaphorically thrown into the deep end of the pool to drown, she instead learned to swim quite well enough to fashion her own happy ending. I claim take "Dandelion" for what it is, an unusual person's unusual tale of survival, with her journey attaining quite a torrent of enlightenment about family dynamics and personal relationships, for herself or for any other reader.
19 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Life with the Beverly Hell Bullies. 15 Jun 2008
By W. Walker - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Can you imagine a fictional story about a woman who marries a man who she knows is a closet transvestite, then discovers that her estranged father, who was a macho race car driver, has also turned into a closet transvestite and then into a transsexual? And how about the glamous but psychotic and perennially drugged wife of this race car driver who routinely feeds her children only rotting food laced with tabasco sauce and treats them sadistically in so many other ways, in her Beverly Hills home. Can you then imagine that the paternal aunt of this woman was a Miss American runner up and a Zeigfield girl who couldn't keep a string of husbands for more than 2 years each, and ends up making a dependent impotent alcoholic mama's boy of her son, as the only constant male in her life. An impossibly contrived plot, right? Well, once again, reality is more unbelievable than fiction, according to the author, Catherine James. This is quite a readible account of a bizarrely improbable life, with a very twisted start, but then with a series of mentors related to the pop music business, who gave her a shot at a more normal life.
I would have liked some thoughts on what might have caused her mother to be the extreme monster reported. Apparently, she had beauty as well as many talents, including being a compulsive cat burglar. But this was a wasted drugged life, in which she regularly dished out sadism and jealousy toward everyone. Was she probably just born to be such a monster, or were there events in her young life that soured her attitute toward others? Surely, Catherine could have absorbed some evidence from her grandmother. In a similar vein, perhaps she could have offered some explanation for her father's transformation from a macho race car driver into a transsexual. Nor does she offer(as I did above) a plausible explanation for her aunt Claire making a disfunctional mama's boy out of her son Blake.
24 of 29 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Frustrating read 1 Nov 2009
By sb-lynn - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I am a big fan of rock memoirs, and I have read quite a few. I picked up this book because I read so many positive reviews.

The good part about this book is that Catherine James definitely found herself right at the heart of the 60's music scene. She was a runaway from a very abusive home, and ran smack into some of the most famous rockers and celebrities of that era. She meets some well-known singers because her cruel step-father (who goes unnamed) was a famous folk singer, and after running away she meets others by hanging out at Los Angeles venues like the Troubadour.

Catherine meets and makes a connection with Bob Dylan, and goes on to meet and have affairs with Mick Jagger, Jimmy Page, Jackson Browne, and Denny Laine (with whom she had a son at age 17), among many others. She also becomes friends with such stars as Eric Clapton, and Jimi Hendrix, and Roger Daltrey, with whom she still remains close .

It really was interesting to read about Catherine's escapades, both sexual and otherwise. She clearly had access to these celebrities, and we come away from this book thinking that she has lead quite an extraordinary life - especially having come from such a dysfunctional and malevolent family. She lived a life that bounced around between luxury and poverty, fame and anonymity.

My problem with the book is that I come away from reading this wanting to hear the other side's version of what happened. I have no doubt that the events she talks about in this book are true, it's just that I believe that she always portrays herself in the best light - as the continual faultless victim in a life filled with bullies and liars. She seems to go from Point A quickly to Point B, without self-awareness or real description of "why". In this way, the book feels oddly sketchy and incomplete.

Still, this was a fun read in many ways, and I read it in one sitting. Recommended if you want to read a book replete with stories about the rock gods of the 60's from a woman who was there and in a position to know.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A good story - not your typical "groupie" tale 15 Jan 2011
By Privacy, Please - Published on Amazon.com
Verified Purchase
Since the success of Pamela Des Barres' "I'm With the Band", there has been a plethora of books written by and about the "groupies" of the 60's and 70's - the girls who dated, lived with, married, and followed around on the road the famous rock stars of those days. I have read many of these books as I'm interested in the lives and styles of these ladies, who are now in their 50's or 60's (except for those who sadly passed away), and how they ended up going around with musicians, and what happened to them as a result. Catherine James is one that you don't hear too much about compared to the aforementioned Miss Pamela and others such as Bebe Buell, and after reading her book the reason for this is clear: simply that having relationships with rock stars was only a small part of Catherine's life, and was more or less over and done by her mid-twenties, after which she dated a succession of lesser-known men. Unlike some of her peers (i.e. Pamela and Bebe), Catherine didn't seek to be a famous star herself. Also unlike some more of her peers (i.e. Bebe, Cyrinda Foxe) Catherine doesn't seem to have spent a lot of time trying to cadge money for child support or otherwise out of her rock star exes, nor does she seem to have sought out a particularly glamorous or exciting lifestyle. She worked as a Wilhelmina model, but only to pay the bills when she was slightly over the hill to be starting a modeling career (as the book notes); she also worked in such unglamorous jobs as photo double, stand-in, and even cashier.

Catherine's book doesn't go into much detail or dish much dirt on the musicians, with the possible exception of Denny Laine of Wings, with whom she lived for some time in England and had a child. Miss Pamela mentions in her book that Catherine was Jimmy Page's first beautiful American girlfriend in the early days of Led Zeppelin, and that Jimmy dumped Catherine to go with her. However, the portion of Catherine's book dealing with Jimmy Page is just a couple of pages at most. (I couldn't help but wonder if Catherine had left out details so as not to upset Jimmy - it appeared later on in the book that they renewed their friendship and that she might still have some feelings for him, while his relations with Miss Pamela appear strained in both women's books and in other press.) Bottom line is, this is not a "rock star tell-all" book, trashy or otherwise, and if you're looking for that, you're probably going to be disappointed. If, however, you are interested in a good story about the adventures of a beautiful girl from an eccentric (that's putting it mildly) showbiz family who survives many ups and downs and finally manages to achieve a stable, independent life, with a nice family of her own, you'll enjoy this book.

The basic story is this: Catherine is born to two gorgeous but unstable Hollywood high school kids (think "Rebel Without a Cause" on steroids) and is abused as a child by her beautiful mother, Diana. She seeks rescue from various members of the family, including her equally beautiful maternal grandmother, Mimi, and her also beautiful aunt Claire James, a former Miss California who was married to Busby Berkeley. Her car-racing father drops out of her life for decades, only to resurface much later as a transwoman (in a very bad drag). Catherine finally runs away, landing first in youth detention centers, then escaping to Hollywood, then to New York City, with the help of a lot of nice folks who seem to demand little or nothing in return for their niceness - or if they do put the moves on Catherine, she's always able to get away quickly before anything bad happens. Along the way she meets and has serious relationships with Denny Laine and Jackson Browne, as well as dalliances with Pagey, Mick and a few other famous fellows. She ends up raising Denny's child alone in a cabin in rural Connecticut. She spends the rest of the book shuttling between New York and California, trying to eke out a living while dealing with family drama as various lesser-known boyfriends and husbands abuse her, cheat on her, OD, etc. while all of her rich and weird relatives die off one by one, leaving the family fortunes in a tangled state. This has all the makings of a bad melodrama, but because the writer's tone is not the least bit obnoxious or entitled (unlike Bebe's or Cyrinda's books), it's a pleasant story to read, especially since you know it has a happy ending. It's also an interesting and somewhat condensed read, and you can get through it in a weekend.

On the minus side, you don't get the details or sense of humor and fun that Miss Pamela's book conveyed, although it's true that Catherine didn't have a very fun life in many ways. The rock n' roll part of the book is over quite early, so you're left reading about our heroine's affairs with a lot of no-name guys. And, as reviewers have noted, some of the details look a bit questionable, especially if you read closely. At one point Catherine mentions showing around a draft of her first book chapter, yet in another section she says she is terrible at creative writing and takes hours to write a Post-It note. And yet she wrote a whole book? Also, while I don't doubt that she was abused by her mother Diana (the self-effacing tone of the whole book fairly screams "abused child"), there is a story of her face being burned by hot grease that supposely took off the skin and left black charred scabs all over her face. Given that she received no medical treatment for what sounds like major third-degree burns, how did she avoid being scarred for life? Didn't anybody notice this kid with a burned face during the time it took to heal up? Diana's behavior is never put into any sort of context, nor is any motive ever suggested for her actions, which seem all the weirder given that Diana's parents, Al and Mimi, are presented as the nicest people in the world and Catherine considers grandma Mimi her savior and guiding light. Diana goes on to have and abuse three more children and one grandchild, and when the adult Catherine, who by now has a child of her own, comes back and finds this going on, her reaction is to just cut off contact with her mother. You would think that Catherine, being a mother herself, would have alerted authorities or done something to try to stop her mother from harming more children. It is possible that she was simply still too afraid of her mom to take that step, but still. Why didn't anybody do anything?

There is also an aura of Catherine surviving, like some sort of Blanche DuBois, through the kindness of strangers who help her at every turn. This makes for a nice story but I think that a teenage runaway surviving on the streets of Hollywood and New York City would have been exposed to some grittier and seamier sides of life, little of which makes it into the book. By the end of the story, when Catherine is in the process of losing most of her late father's estate through the machinations of shady lawyers, she's starting to sound a bit like a perpetual victim, but the book is almost over by then so it doesn't detract too much from an overall interesting, if short, story, whether it's all the ungilded truth or not.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A review from Catherines lost sister 16 Feb 2009
By Carole L. Potter - Published on Amazon.com
I have not seen Catherine in 33 long years. My niece asked me one day if she could do research on my "other family". Well, to my suprise she found Catherine through her book, "Dandilion" and I immediately ordered the book and OF COURSE got a hold of Catherine. I read the book in one day and I was mezmerized by it and could not put it down. Dandilion is written in such true form. It is powerful, honest, sad, funny and I see my sister as a strong and powerful woman. Catherine, you are my hero and I am proud to call you my sister.
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