Review: Trust Me by George Kennedy

Weighing twelve pounds, George Kennedy catapulted out of his mother's womb and into our hearts. He faced a tough life, as he was born in 1925, shortly before the Depression, into a show business family. His father was a pianist, and his mother was a ballet dancer. Kennedy made his stage debut at the age of two on the lap of a ventriloquist. His father died at the onset of the Depression and with the death of Vaudeville occurring at the same time, his mother led a peripatetic existence in New York. George was four. They struggled, sleeping in doorways or cars until a woman named Dolly gave them shelter, but Dolly's generosity had a price tag. Torture was commonplace in her household, and she beat George and his mother.

During WWII, a military career in the Air Force was a way out. He worked as a military adviser in radio and television, was assigned to deal with the national media on behalf of the army and thus after a few twists and turns, he broke into acting and show business which led to stardom.

Kennedy writes as he talks, constantly questioning the reader. Refreshing candor and an undying optimism keep one turning those pages. An Oscar winner for his supporting role in Cool Hand Luke, his famous 'paws' have made it to the Hollywood Walk of Fame where he has earned a star for having filmed over 200 films such as The Dirty Dozen, Airport, Earthquake, Death on the Nile, Steel and those Naked Gun movies. His TV credits include Maverick, Have Gun Will Travel and Rawhide.

At 86, he has chosen to write his amazing life and with no ghostwriter, no help from a friend with a pen. As he says, "Trust Me is about what happens when you stop fearing and think."

Stories of stars and his first hand experiences are refreshing and make for a fun though enlightened read. From stories of what it was like to work and to befriend Dean Martin, Patricia Neal, Bo Derek, Carol Burnett, Clint Eastwood, Frank Sinatra and Paul Newman, to experiencing two failed marriages, to the death of two children, he continues to have faith: "Without my dreams I would have no one to play with at all," he would tell others. Kennedy laments the damaging effects of drugs and alcohol and the limited role one can play in helping addicts.

You don't have to be a movie buff to enjoy this book. It is about being human in that asphalt jungle called Hollywood. Handsome, strapping, his good looks caused Don Rickles to quip, "You ain't Jewish, are ya? Thank god, I'd go get uncircumcised."

Kennedy's memoir ends with a philosophical view of the life hereafter. He puts his pet cat Mo to sleep and reflects on the life he will have and all the personalities he will meet. Kennedy even sees Dolly apologizing to him for her torture to his mother and to him. It is a wise ending filled with wit and insight, optimism and courage for the next life. Trust Me is to be taken at face value and then some.