Author: Rita Lakin
Publisher: Applause Theatre & Cinema Books
From my experience I have found that there are two kinds of autobiographies, one is written for your family and friends knowing full well that others would not be very interested in your life, and the other is where the author really has something interesting to say.
Rita Lakin's The Only Woman in the Room falls into the second category, particularly if you have grown up during television's golden age in the 1960's and up to the 1980's when Lakin was crafting dozens of television stories such as Dr. Kildare, Peyton Place, Mod Squad and Dynasty and many more.
In the Preface to the autobiography Lakin immediately sets the tone when she asks herself if her story would be a good one? We have to bear in mind that Lakin has devoted her entire writing career to fiction, first for television and more recently to novels. Could she apply, as she mentions, the same writing principles she has used in the past to crafting her autobiography such as paying attention to characters, theme, flow, message and audience? After my reading The Only Woman in the Room, I have to admit that Lakin effectively pulls it off and even sometimes shocks her readers with some of her revelations and her determination to succeed in a man's world.
As a pioneer woman writer in Hollywood, Lakin informs us that during the 1960s and 70s prime-time network television writers comprised mostly men and this is what she had to contend with, and not because it was a prejudice, but rather it was cultural. As a result, Lakin, throughout her career, felt insignificant and insecure, which was quite common among the few women writers at the time. This insecurity even carried over to her second marriage with director Robert Michael Lewis who was only interested in his own career and probably never loved her. As she states: “Before I was married, I was considered kind, generous, carefree, outgoing and fun to be with. By the time my marriage ended, I'd become a different person.” In fact her children thought she was brainwashed by aliens.
In addition to her bumpy professional and personal relationship with Lewis, Lakin provides us with recollections as to how her experiences as a television and movie writer was fraught with difficulties and hurt feelings where stabbing in the back by male colleagues was quite common. She even recounts how one of her male co-workers took credit that was not due to him and passed off her material as his own.
Concerning movie and television scripts, Lakin does not hold back in her criticism where she states that it had nothing to do with an art form as they were only a blueprint for the crew. They believed that dialogue was inconsequential and that was their concern. Words were for the actors as opposed to writing fiction where words were king and it was just the writer and the printed page.
What is an eye opener was Lakin's final remarks in the Epilogue where she mentions that she recently learned that only four percent of the members of the Writers Guild of America in the 1960s and 1970s were women and sadly, nearly a half a century later, it is only up to about twenty-two percent. In her words, “Maybe we haven't come a long way, baby, yet.”