Telling The Story

Q “Can you say something about the experience of writing both books in terms of any similarities or marked differences and to what extent you feel that the finished book was as close as you could have gotten to revealing the person being written about – and what the critical and public reaction to both books has been?”

David Kaufman Books

David Kaufman: “The first editor of my Ludlam biography told me that even though Ludlam was dead before I began working on the book, after I interviewed everyone who had known and or worked with him, I would know Ludlam better than any of them, since I would come to know him from their multiple perspectives. The same is true of Doris Day. Though I never spoke to her directly, I interviewed well over a hundred people who had, over the years, lived with and or worked with her. I know who she was from all of their perspectives, which is far more telling than anything I might have gained from her personally.

The fact is Doris Day said what she had to say about her past in her memoir, written with AE Hotchner, in 1975. On the other hand, Rex Reed told me that Doris told him, years later, that she wanted to do another memoir, to correct all of the errors in the Hotchner book – of which there are many. I tried, as best I could, to set the record straight.”

I also found a way to do that with Doris Day’s own voice, via my discovery of the Jane Ardmore papers. Ardmore was a Hollywood journalist who befriended Day, and Day was utterly candid with her, fully aware that she would be able to vet everything Ardmore had written. Since Ardmore interviewed Day countless times, over a 15-year-or-so period, she got Day’s truer feelings about the past, present, and future during her heyday, than Hotchner could glean from her in a matter of months in the mid-1970s, when she was looking much further back.

I discovered a treasure trove in Ardmore’s previously unpublished notes, interview transcripts, and rough drafts. I quickly realized that here was the true Day autobiography. And with the Ardmore estate’s permission, I’ve incorporated what struck me as the most pertinent information throughout my biography.

As for the critical response to both of my books, my Ludlam biography received more early raves – and two significant awards. (A Japanese edition was, incidentally, also published.) While the response to my Day biography has been far more extensive, it has also been more equivocal.

Charles Ludlam

Charles Ludlam wrote, starred in and directed 29 plays while running his own troupe, The Ridiculous Theatrical Company.

Part of the problem is that several early reviewers based their assessments on the bound galleys of the book, without the Notes, Acknowledgements, Index, or Bibliography. On the basis of what they wrote, and given their evident ignorance of Doris Day’s life, they had no idea that I had interviewed people who were a part of her life. They claimed, erroneously, that I was just rehashing what she had written in her memoir or had already appeared elsewhere. Nothing could have been further from the truth.

Not only did five people who lived with Day at different times share their memories with me, but I interviewed many other colleagues, relatives, and friends, who had never made their memories public before. For that matter, I was also the first person to study the Warner Bros. archives regarding DD, discovering so much that she herself did not know about the first 17 pictures she made, and much of what Marty Melcher, her husband and manager, was doing behind the scenes.

There has, however, been a growing appreciation for my biography of Day in the media, with a great number of TV interviews, most of them on national networks, and countless radio interviews. There have also been increasingly positive reviews and features in newspapers throughout the US, reaffirming my DD bio as “definitive,” since I uncovered so much about the star that had not been previously divulged.

The initial public response to my Ludlam may have been more equitable, but then, it was confined, at first, to a smaller body of fans. In today’s Internet world, there is no accountability for opinions or even assertions—anyone can say what they want, and get away with it. But it sometimes has nothing to do with what is true or accurate. For nearly 30 years now, as I’ve always told everyone I’ve ever interviewed for either an article or a book, my ambition is to be as completely accurate and thorough as I can be. This was also the case with everyone I spoke to regarding Doris Day. What’s more, I approached Doris several times, but she chose not to talk to me or participate in my biography. That was, in other words, her choice, as opposed to mine.

doris day photo session

Doris Day prepares for a photo session at Warner Brothers, circa 1948-1949.

I have been made to believe that Doris Day will never read my biography of her, and that disappoints me, because I imagine she would learn things about her background that would astonish her, and might liberate her to feel more comfortable about her past.

In the meantime, I also know that she resents my biography because of all the unwanted attention it has galvanized on her, particularly in the tabloids. I regret that development, but it is entirely beyond my control. In fact, the several times that the Globe tried to interview me, I refused to cooperate. They wrote again and again about my book, but they didn’t even print the correct title. (There have been at least five Globe cover stories on Day since my book was published a year ago.) They also wrote a good deal that was inaccurate about Day, having nothing to do with me or my biography. But because she refuses to read my book, Day will never understand the difference, and continue to believe what certain cronies, who have their own agendas, tell her – even though they, as far as I can tell, have not read my book, either. Finally, a large part of Day’s story is that she doesn’t want to have anything to do with anything over which she has no control.”

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