Click Here To Purchase The Importance of Being Ernie: From My Three Sons to Mad Men, a Hollywood Survivor Tells All

Author:  Barry Livingston

Publisher: Citadel Press, Kensington Publishing Corp.

ISBN: 978-0-8065-3509-1

The Importance of Being Ernie begins and ends at a celebrity autograph show.  In the prologue various child stars sit at tables where they sign and sell 8x10 photographs to fans. Barry Livingston (Ernie in My Three Sons) sits between Richard Dreyfus on his left and Jay North (Dennis in Dennis the Menace once upon a time) on his right. He is between them in another way:

One of these actors is an Oscar winner and the other is employed as a prison guard somewhere in Florida. I’m sure you know which one is which.”

This prologue is not intended to denigrate any child star who failed to make it as an adult actor but rather to create a context in which to understand the challenges and pitfalls of beginning an acting career during childhood. In the epilogue he says:

The acting business is a weird, wonderful world. It has taken me on a long eventful ride. I started out strong as a youngster with My Three Sons, worked on stages from Broadway to Salt Lake City, went into a midlife career hibernation, battled some demons, started a family, became Mr. Mom, and began a slow, tenacious climb back into a respectable adult acting career. I can’t wait to see what’s coming next, because I am not going away any time soon.”

This memoir by a child star who continues to act in TV and film is flat out fun. The author employs a conversational style with wit, candor and absolutely no pretension whatsoever. It is down to earth, real, & shows us a  vulnerability and modesty we would not have expected among working actors in Hollywood and New York.  He relates his encounters with many famous people (including Elvis, Paul Newman, Myrna Loy,  Steven Spielberg, Robert Downey Jr. just to name a few) in a series of funny & insightful anecdotes demonstrating a generous gratitude for friendly treatment and a generous forgiveness for not so friendly treatment (and confirms what I have long suspected: that Adam Sandler is a mensch).

Those aspects of his life that could be construed as terribly sad, including the back story of his parents, are told in the voice of a person who gives everyone the benefit of the doubt and respects them for doing the best they can. He chronicles the down times in a matter of fact manner that does not over dramatize anything and this style makes it clear that he really is a survivor, a person who “gets over it” as well as a person who takes success in his stride and does not get a big head.  In other words, he does not take himself too seriously.

What he appears to take seriously and is grateful for is the love of a wonderful wife and his responsibilities to be a good husband and parent to his beloved children. It says a lot about the author and his wife of thirty years that their initial bonding experience occurred while they saved the life of a young woman who had attempted suicide. This man’s priorities are all in order. His psychological insights into the pitfalls of child stardom, including the isolation at school and the need to, at some point, experience real childhood, even if that means some pretty wild behavior are right on point.  I could definitely see this guy in the role of counselor/mentor if he chose to pursue that. If you enjoy meeting down to earth people with a sense of humor as well as perspective on life’s ups and downs,  you will definitely enjoy The Importance of Being Ernie. It is more than a memoir, it is a life lesson.

Click Here To Purchase The Importance of Being Ernie: From My Three Sons to Mad Men, a Hollywood Survivor Tells All