Travolta

Dave Thompson, Author Taylor Trade Publishing $12.95 (256p) ISBN 978-0-87833-949-5
Puff-piece bios like this leave the reader craving the pleasures of a hatchet-job expose. Thompson (author of a half-dozen band-bios, including Fade Away about Kurt Cobain) starts out with hyperbole and builds from there. Few stars, he says, are able to go ""beyond stardom, beyond even superstardom, and onward until they have so transcended their milieu that... they become synonymous with the era in which they reached the peak."" Travolta's place in the celestial hierarchy, Thompson informs us in the introduction, is somewhat above Charlie Chaplin's, Clark Gable's and Marilyn Monroe's. Which just means that by the second page, one already has serious misgivings about the author's judgment. Fortunately, Thompson thenceforth sticks mostly to patching together quotes from magazine articles into a serviceable but uninspired ""just the facts"" bio. He recounts Travolta's apparently Rockwell-esque childhood in New Jersey, his early successes on TV's Welcome Back, Kotter and in Saturday Night Fever, his long commercial and artistic dry spell (remember Moment by Moment and Perfect?) and his comeback in Pulp Fiction. But Thompson's fawning manner, his unwarranted abuse of the English language (describing the prevailing aesthetic of the 1980s, Thompson writes: ""The gold chains and chest hair were securely locked away in the closet"") and the lack of any accurate cultural context overwhelm any interest in Travolta's life story. Illustrations not seen by PW. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 01/01/1996
Release date: 10/01/1996
Genre: Nonfiction
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