Read Center Square: The Paul Lynde Story by Steve Wilson Online


Advocate Books Life StoriesIn an age when celebrities have turned the act of coming out into an empowering media event, Paul Lynde certainly seems like a campy relic of less-liberated times. This view of Lynde as an out-of-step, self-loathing queen of queens overlooks the man’s great, if accidental, achievement: getting away with being gay on TV on an almost daily basis foAdvocate Books Life StoriesIn an age when celebrities have turned the act of coming out into an empowering media event, Paul Lynde certainly seems like a campy relic of less-liberated times. This view of Lynde as an out-of-step, self-loathing queen of queens overlooks the man’s great, if accidental, achievement: getting away with being gay on TV on an almost daily basis for years. During his three decades as a popular character actor on television, film and the stage, this fairy forefather’s arch and bitchy wit snuck regular doses of the queer world into that bastion of intolerance, the American living room. Lynde showed mainstream viewers that a gay man could deliver the jokes, not just be the butt of them. In doing so, he helped make homosexuality more palatable to unwitting viewers who simply saw him as a stylish, funny man. Biographers Steve Wilson and Joe Florenski draw on revealing interviews with friends from Lynde’s childhood, college days and adult years—including stars such as Phyllis Diller, Charlotte Rae, Cloris Leachman and Peter Marshall, who worked with Lynde in Broadway productions and in film and television. What emerges is a memorable portrait of a man who reaped his share of wealth, enjoyed a fair amount of fame and basked in the adoration of thousands of fans—but paid a price in hardship, heartbreak and hangovers.Steve Wilson met co-biographer Joe Florenski while researching an article on Paul Lynde for Out magazine in 2000. He ran across Florenski’s website devoted to Lynde. Begun in 1997, the site contains exhaustive resources on Lynde, and Florenski has lent research support to both E! and A&E’s Biography for their segments on the comedian. Wilson and Florenski worked so well together on the piece for Out that they decided to collaborate on a book....

Title : Center Square: The Paul Lynde Story
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9781555837938
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 240 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Center Square: The Paul Lynde Story Reviews

  • James
    2019-04-26 20:47

    I was disappointed in this biography. Not because it is poorly written (the writers Steve Wilson and Joe Florenski do an adequate job), or because it doesn’t provide adequate dish (it does), but because it completely shatters the illusion that Paul Lynde would even have been fun at parties. I wasn’t under the impression that his life was easy or that he was overly pleasant, but I was never aware until I read this just how unpleasant he was. Granted, he lost his brother and both of his parents in a relatively short amount of time at a relatively young age. He was also a closeted gay man during a not-so-gay-friendly era. However, the stories of his bad behavior are just ridiculous. He really was just a mean drunk. He was also a racist.Another bubble was burst when I learned Lynde didn’t even come up with any of his zingers on Hollywood Squares. A team of writers came up with all of that for him. Apparently it was not for lack of talent, as all of his contemporaries said the wit was definitely there. He just didn’t have the confidence to pull it off.Read the book if you want the dirt. It’s all there. It’s also interesting how many well-known celebrities he mingled with (from Charlotte Rae to Eartha Kitt). It gives interesting glimpses both of theater life and of Hollywood in the 60s and 70s. It has some laugh-out-loud moments too (read it to find out what he told the mother of a screaming child on an airplane for some really inappropriate humor), but they are almost completely eclipsed by the overwhelming sadness of his life. In the end, you will be left wondering whether to hate Lynde (for being a mean, racist, drunk), or to just feel really sorry for him (SPOILER: he died alone, at just 55, and just after deciding to turn his life around and quit drinking). You will not walk away from this book feeling good about him.

  • Evan
    2019-05-06 15:33

    "...this fairy forefather's arch and bitchy wit sneaked regular doses of the queer world into that bastion of intolerance, the American living room. Paul showed TV viewers that a gay man could deliver the jokes, not just be the butt of them." -from "Center Square: The Paul Lynde Story."When I was a child in the 60s and 70s and had no idea there was any such thing as gay, there was one gay man on TV who seemed to delight everyone in my family, including my grandma, and that was Paul Lynde. And the only thing he did, or that he was really known for, was cracking bitchy quips on The Hollywood Squares; with each jibe punctuated by a uniquely rasping wheezy staccato sound that sort of resembled a laugh yet resembled nothing else that anyone did. It was a trademark comic mannerism and I found it funnier even than his jokes. You couldn't help laugh at his laugh, it was infectious. I loved to imitate it; still do.Of course, few people today know who Lynde was, the fleetingness of fame and all, especially game show fame, but of course Lynde's career went beyond that to Broadway and other venues.He evidently was a troubled man. In real life his wit could sting real people in a way it did not on television, to an anonymous public.I actually had a chance to buy this book for peanuts and passed the chance and regret it. But the public library has it, so I'll be giving it a view.FIRST IMPRESSIONS:Very good right off the bat. The intro gives an excellent pithy overview of Lynde's life and the problems that plagued him: his tendency to attract and repel friends and others and burn bridges, to drink too much, to be embittered that his greatest fame was from a game show. In many ways, he was his own worst enemy. The insults and barbs he spewed in that inimitable sarcastic voice on TV marked a good deal of how he dealt with people offscreen. Some of it stemmed, we're told, from a defensiveness developed in the bland, intolerant Midwestern milieu from which he sprang. A fat child enamored of the movies who liked to dress in women's clothes and entertain the neighbors, he had to become the "funny" kid to survive. The book quickly takes us into Lynde's college days at Northwestern, where he studied drama with the likes of Charlton Heston, Cloris Leachman and Tony Randall.He pined for his high school sweetheart, who did not requite his advances, ultimately. As was par for the day, he stayed closeted, but let out hints of his orientation to his frat brothers.Well, Lynde had anger management issues, to say the least. Even though critics were often in his corner, he seemed unable to reward their faith in him or fulfill his own promise as a comedian and actor because of his uncontainable rebellion and lack of tact. As the authors point out, it's that volatile quality that made the snide Lynde funny, but it also undercut him. He was a double-edged sword. It ultimately led to the bitterness he felt about his career. His penchant for implosion extended to his love life, where he tended to want cold sexual relationships, often with the worst kind of rough trade.PAGE 89: An actress from the 60s TV sitcom "Bewitched" (on which Lynde portrayed the wisecracking Uncle Arthur) tells a story about how during a jet flight Lynde shut up a little girl who was making a racket in the aisles and upbraided her mother:"Paul got up, grabbed the girl by the arm, dragged her over to her mother and said, 'You keep this little girl quiet, or I'm gonna fuck her!'"Wow! THAT IS HARDCORE. LOL!On the next page, it is mentioned how the drunken Lynde often was pulled over by cops who'd approach his driver-side window, pad and pencil in hand and he would casually tell them: "I'll have a cheeseburger and fries."PAST HALFWAY:This book is a good reminder of just how popular and famous Lynde was. His show business credentials: film, TV and theater were quite extensive, and if there is one flaw in this book that is glaring to me it is the lack of a C.V. "career-ography" in the back that lists these accomplishments. James Curtis' "W.C. Fields" has one of these, and it really lends perspective. Back in the days of stadium rock (the 70s) there also was stadium dinner theater. And Lynde's fame was so great that he sold out 4,000-seaters nightly doing Neil Simon plays. The money he got from these stints was so great that it paid for extensive upgrading to his LA mansion. As the book points out, Lynde was a shrewd businessman and negotiator.And the book continues to be a good rundown of his troubles with drink, temper, showbiz jealousies and errant lovers. As the book points out, too, Lynde's appeal extended to heterosexual women, who dug his tanned, toothy masculinity and the open-shirt, chain-adorned chest that was so popular a look in the '70s.FINAL:A good read, especially coming so soon after my reading of Kenneth Anger's Hollywood Babylon. The sad life and lonely death of a star who seemed to have it all yet kept a distance from what he desired. A too-common story, star or not.

  • Evanston PublicLibrary
    2019-04-19 20:34

    When I was kid, mom turned on the TV each morning to watch Hollywood Squares at 10:30 a.m. on NBC. She loved watching Paul Lynde. Mom got quite the kick out of his lightning-quick zingers (we later learned his responses were pre-written). Watching the game show with mom, I learned to appreciate Lynde’s acerbic and campy sense of humor…not to mention the wit of his co-stars, former B-grade entertainers like Wayland Flowers & Madame, Wally Cox, Rose Marie, and Charo. Having been a diehard fan of the TV series Bewitched, I’ll never forget Uncle Arthur’s head yammering at Samantha while it sat on a parsley-garnished dinner plate. When I was 17, Paul Lynde died at the age of 55 of a heart attack. I was shocked then that a seemingly healthy man could die so young. In 2005, Joe Florenski and Steve Wilson explained the mysteries of it all in their biography Center Square: the Paul Lynde Story. I finally got to read it last week…and thoroughly enjoyed it. For all his reputation as a comedian, Paul was a mean drunk, had struggled with obesity, and was unhappy most of his life. Still, he could be gracious and generous to those he loved. And many of the fellow actors from his early career—including Cloris Leachman and Charlotte Rae who attended Northwestern University with Paul—remained his friends up through the bitter end. (Russ K., Ref.)

  • Tlingit
    2019-05-07 19:00

    I wish someone who actually knew and was close to Paul Lynde could have written a book about him. I watched the man on Hollywood Squares and Bewitched. That distinctive laugh and delivery was not repeated by anyone since. I was only a little surprised to hear that his lines had been written for him on The Squares because it's show business. I was saddened to hear about his seeming disappointments in life. I think reading this book can help people understand why it is important that society be open to differences in people's lives. The book was not warm and confidential but it did share many things about Mr. Lynde's life. A good read for the content but not one you'd cuddle up with on a rainy day.

  • Jay Atwood
    2019-04-19 17:38

    Researched as thoroughly and written about as well as possible, it's not the authors' fault that the material was about as sparse and unrewarding as Lynde's abortive forays into the world of sitcoms. Sadly there just wasn't much behind the snide veneer we saw on Hollywood Squares and the occasional episode of Bewitched.

  • Chris
    2019-05-19 15:46

    Earlier this week, I finished another biography of another stupendously funny comedian, "Furious Cool," about the life of Richard Pryor. Not surprisingly, reading it back to back with the Paul Lynde bio drew plenty of comparisons; both grew up in small towns, both were ostracized due to upbringing or disposition, both used humor as a defense weapon, and both later became masters of the craft, but not their demons. When reviewers say, "oh, now I suppose we're supposed to excuse all their bad behavior because they were funny," all I see are shallow readers. No, dingus, you're not supposed to excuse their behavior, but you ARE supposed to read beyond "mommy said I can't do that, so I'm mad at him for getting away with it" and see where all this acting out comes from. If you spend your life being told that what you are is wrong, that you're secondary to the rest of humanity...hell, if your existence can be dismissed by one especially potent word that starts with either F or N, well, maybe you're a tough person and rise above it and do great thing. Or, maybe your great genius comes from the fact that you're a 50 year old raw nerve that never healed over. I'd rather you didn't hit your wives or walk around being a raging anti-semite when you're drunk, but I'd also rather I didn't compulsively eat when I'm nervous. My problems are smaller, but so are my successes. I don't read about Lynde's checkered career, read the endless cyclical patterns with overeating, drunken meanness, or encounters with dangerous hustlers and say "well, he's earned it. He's funny." I do feel empathy, though, and when I see Paul raging and throwing punches, I imagine all those times when I'm so flooded with pain and embarrassment, I just want it to go away, no matter what it takes. And then I multiply that by 50, and see what brilliant people go through.This is a fairly bare-bones narrative, not nearly as flashy or entertaining as the Pryor book. However, it's peppered generously with Hollywood Squares zingers, as you'd hope, and the early days in summer stock and on the "new faces of 1952" revue and other give us some nice insight into the artistic proclivities of one of the most unique comedic voices of the mid 20th century.

  • Rich Meyer
    2019-04-24 13:00

    It's been awhile since I've read a celebrity memoir, since those usually aren't my thing (unless they're about Frank Zappa). I will however occasionally indulge myself with one if it's about a unique individual or favorite actor. Center Square fits both those criteria. I remember Paul Lynde as a pretty versatile comic actor - though like most of his characters, they were just versions of himself - and pretty quick on the quip. I never really even considered he was gay - he was just the goofy guy who had KISS on his Halloween special, and was always in the middle of the Hollywood Squares board. According to this biography, Paul was a much more complex person than I would've realized, and occasionally much more troubled and petty. The book has two pages of photos, and covers all of Paul's career, from his days with WAA-MUU, summer stock, early TV, Bye Bye Birdie, his failed TV shows, and all the other high and low spots. The book is very straight-forward about the uniqueness of Paul's homosexuality; considering his status as a star from the game show and being in America's face daily, as it were, it surprising that it wasn't as big an issue in the day. Overall, this is a very well-written and researched book. If you enjoy Paul Lynde's comedy, you'll like this. And if you'd like to understand more about the TV pilot process in the sixties, this has a lot of inside information on that as well.

  • Rj
    2019-04-30 15:55

    On a whole other gay front I picked up the only biography of Paul Lynde that I could find at my public library Center Square: The Paul Lynde Story (San Francisco: Advocate, 2005). Written by Joe Florenski and Steve Wilson the book is one of those quick, slapdash efforts pushed out by presses to capitalize on the popularity of a celebrity. Although poorly written and thrown together by pasting selections from biographies of others the subject is too entertaining. After discovering the Paul Lynde Halloween Special last week I remembered how much I adored him as a child. Growing up in a small town anyone in the media spotlight who was campy, or over the top always caught my attention and like many a gay child I was enthralled with his antics on Bewitched and anticipated any of his guest appearances on any other shows. Although caustic and bitchy his sense of humour came from a place I understood. Reading the biography it is not surprising to discover he enjoyed the booze and that the humour that gave him celebrity proved a double edged blade that could skewer anyone at anytime. While Florenski is certainly a fan of his subject it would be nice to a biography that situated Lynde's particular form of humour and his popularity with a generation of gays and lesbians in a larger cultural context (something similar to Irene Gammel's Baroness Elsa would be so exciting).

  • Laura
    2019-05-01 17:32

    Hold onto your hats, folks -- Paul Lynde, beloved TV star of the 70s, was not only a rabid anti-semite, but also was a miserable prick in general. If you liked Lynde and don't want your illusions shattered, you probably shouldn't pick up this biography. Even apart from the fact that Lynde was just an unpleasant character, this book will annoy you, as it was full of errors and needed a pretty serious copy edit. Unfortunately, I can't remember any examples, and I no longer have the book, but it was bad enough to be distracting. In general, sort of a downer on every level.

  • SouthWestZippy
    2019-05-16 16:53

    I wanted to like this book. Paul Lynde was such a funny man with a big heart. This book is such a disservice to his life and work. It is a dry read with just tidbits of his life tossed in among the list of his jobs. It did have a couple of funny parts and did have a part here and there that gave him the full view of what he was like and his life. It was not enough for me to give it more than two stars.

  • David Cerda
    2019-04-23 18:38

    This was my beach reading in Puerto Vallarta. The book could have been a bit more interesting and the dish from fellow celebrities was very brief. He drank, he was mean. He drank, he was mean. He drank, he was bitter. You get the picture halfway though the book and it doesn't change. What a wasted talent this man was...

  • Kent
    2019-05-12 13:59

    The worst thing about this book was the editing, and the publisher needs to work on that. I hate books with typos and errors.The story itself is good enough. A few of the episodes even made me laugh out loud (because they were mean). Its sad to read about someone who was so talented, and yet so self destructive.

  • Joe Kilmartin
    2019-04-20 17:32

    A good overview of Paul Lynde's life, although, with a man with as many secrets and deep emotional wounds as Lynde had, it must have been hard to get anything other than a surface impression of him. Great interviews with people that knew him and an attempt to parse his many different faces helped. I'm glad they didn't shy away from discussing his less attractive behavioral quirks too.

  • Damon
    2019-04-19 12:35

    I would have liked this book more if it hadn't been so honest and truthful. Paul Lynde was who he was because of the time he lived in, and when put in a modern context, it's a sad story. He is still an icon and a hero to me, though.

  • Kristie
    2019-05-03 16:42

    My friend wrote this book. He's been a HUGE fan of Paul Lynde since he was very young. It's very well researched and quite a fitting tribute.

  • Jill
    2019-05-12 14:50

    An extra star just because this was an entire book about Paul Lynde.

  • Gregory Broderick
    2019-05-03 20:36

    this book gave Paul Lynde the dignity he deserved and was an open look into who he was behind and on camera

  • Lisa Van Oosterum
    2019-04-19 20:59

    Man, this guy was a KOOKOO. Great read, but his life was so interesting it is quite hard to mess up his biography.

  • Frankie Dick
    2019-05-12 17:57

    this book smells like a cunt...I think.