As much as I love reading about dysfunctional childhoods in celebrity memoirs, I also love reading about normal childhoods (is there such a thing, lol?) that were provided by positive and caring role models, like Sissy Spacek’s Czech immigrants parents, Edwin and Virginia Spacek. I’m more jealous (well, not really) about the way her parents raised her, than I am about anything else I learned about Spacek’s experiences in life, including winning her Oscar.
In her charming new memoir, Sissy Spacek writes about her small town 1950′s childhood in Tyler, Texas, alongside her older brothers Ed and Robbie. Spacek was born on Christmas Day, 1949, and even thought her parents named her Mary Elizabeth, her brother’s called her “Sissy” and the name simply stuck. Spacek was extremely close with her brothers, and she she grew up a tomboy, as she always was tagging along with them. She also valued the simple things in life–riding her bike, going barefoot, and having adventures with her horse Buck with her best friend Vickie and her horse, Rebel Joe.
After a family visit to Coke, Texas when she was just 6 years old, Spacek knew she wanted to go into show business after seeing the Coquettes on stage, twirling their battons, and dressed up in shimmery cowboy outfits and hats. She thought to herself, “I could do that” and “I should be up there.”
I was thrilled to learn that Spacek as a child had the spunk of Judy Blume’s Sally J. Friendman and the tomboyishness of Harper Lee’s Scout Finch. While it was awful to learn of her terrible family tragedy, I was thrilled that she used her grief to follow her dreams of becoming a performer. You might be surprised to learn that Spacek wanted to be a singer before she became an actress, but if you remember her musical talent in “Coal Miner’s Daughter” you can see why she got that fantastic role and won her Oscar for portraying Loretta Lynn. No wonder Loreeta Lynn herself campaigned hard for Spacek in this role.
Being a film geek almost as much as a book nerd, I loved learning about Spacek’s celebrity friends like Bill Paxton, who she met when he was just a teenager working for her husband. I really enjoyed reading about her experiences working with directors like Terrence Malick, Robert Altman, David Lynch and Brian De Palma. In fact, De Palma wouldn’t give her the time of day when she was working under her husband Jack Fisk as a set decorator on “Carrie”–that is, until she finally auditioned for him.
Perhaps one of the funniest celebrity moments of the book for me was when Dolly Parton sent Spacek a telegram after “Coal Miner’s Daughter” opened. It read, “Dear Sissy, I hope you make millions of dollars from Coal Miner’s Daughter so that you can get a boob job and do the Dolly Parton Story.”
While Spacek told the truth about how fun being a movie star can be, she also talked about why she moved her family away from Los Angeles to a farm in rural Virginia. She found it harder to stay grounded when everybody suddenly recognises you on the street, and how they want favors from you, and think they know you just because they know your face. Her own mother shamed her when she was sitting at lunch with her one day, and rolled her eyes when someone interrupted their lunch. I loved how her mother told her “You are so lucky” and “Well, all you have to do is smile or sign your name, or look somebody in the eye, and you can make them happy.” If only all movie stars had a mother like Virginia Spacek, huh?
Spacek maintains that the best compliment she ever got (after getting famous) was from a local carpenter who said, “Sissy Spacek? Why she’s just as ordinary as an old bar of homemade soap.” Even though Spacek seemingly has lived a charmed life, it was so wonderful finding out what I’ve always suspected about her–she is just a small town girl, living life based in reality, rather than fantasy, and she has had plenty of cool moments in her lifetime that haven’t changed her. All I have left to say is, wow, what a great book!
Still need convincing to buy or read this book? Watch Sissy Spacek talking about her book on Youtube now.
To purchase your copy of this book, visit Amazon.com.
To add My Extraordinary Ordinary Life to your Goodreads shelf, visit Goodreads.com.