Ironically, Random House’s Virgin Books is the publisher of a biography of actress/singer Doris Day, whose professional reputation was that of the “girl next door” and “the eternal virgin.”
But author David Kaufman’s painstakingly researched book “Doris Day: The Untold Story of the Girl Next Door” reveals there was always much more to the performer than the innocent blonde she portrayed on screen.
The book is not a tell-all designed to destroy her image. It does, however, make the woman poignantly human. She was married four times, and had numerous (sometimes shocking) love affairs. She was cheated out of $22.8 million during her career. Her childhood as Doris Kappelhoff was less than ideal. Parents William and Alma fought, and her father left the family when Doris was in seventh grade.
A life-changing accident as a young teenager left her unable to pursue her love of, and potential career in, dancing. Yet during a grueling recovery, her passion and talent for singing emerged. She soon became a big band singer, radio star and beloved film and television actress.
The book is not only a highly-detailed biography of a hard-working performer but also a history of Hollywood and American culture of the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s. Frank Sinatra, Bob Hope, Judy Garland, Ray Bolger, Gene Kelly, Ronald Reagan and Mickey Mantle are but a few of the major names who played a role in her life.
Particularly intriguing are revelations about her less-than-perfect relationship with late son Terry Melcher, and the explanation for his connection to the infamous Charles Manson killing spree.
Readers will also relive Day’s longtime friendship with Rock Hudson, and how their last appearance together increased AIDS awareness.
Fortunately for Kaufman and his readers, while not having Day’s direct involvement in the book, he had tremendous cooperation from numerous friends and co-workers.
At 500+ pages, it’s a long read and may take die-hard Day fans to fully appreciate every word. But this soft cover release is a follow-up to the bestselling hardcover edition, so clearly many such fans exist. Animal lovers will enjoy learning how Day’s love for animals began when she was still a child. And Kaufman’s final chapters make it clear how dogs and cats are her real comfort in her later years, ensuring that Day is surrounded by unconditional love, which may have been all she ever really wanted.
A portrait emerges of a woman whose name and sunny, fresh-faced image were not her intention or choice, and may have eventually been her downfall.