James Kirkwood is the forgotten man of American letters
In 1975, he had two shows playing on Broadway, while his latest novel Some Kind of Hero saw reviewers comparing him to Saul Bellow and Joseph Heller. One of those shows – A Chorus Line – won him a Pulitzer Prize for his co-writing contribution and went on to become the biggest stage phenomenon in history. Yet today his work is largely out of print and his name rarely mentioned.
Kirkwood led a life that was as gripping as any of his novels or plays. The son of silent screen stars, he grew up in Hollywood surrounded by celebrities and opulence before his parents went broke. His childhood was littered with trauma, including finding the dead body of his mother's fiancé when he was twelve. Before writing, his professional life encompassed the coast guard, stand-up comedy and soap opera acting. His private life was equally varied, involving loving sexual relationships with both men and women.
Sean Egan – author of seventeen books – took over seven years to write this definitive biography, interviewing more than sixty of Kirkwood’s family, lovers, colleagues, friends and adversaries in the process. In a sweeping narrative that takes in Hollywood in the Twenties, the boom era of New York nightclubs in the Forties and the Eighties AIDS holocaust, Ponies & Rainbows both details a remarkable life and seeks to re-establish an even more remarkable talent.
Interviewees include: Gary Beach, Vasili Bogazianos, Ahmet Ertegun, Bill Gile, Milton Katselas, Terence Kilburn, Larry Kramer, Arthur Laurents, Baayork Lee, Jim Marrs, Vivian Matalon, Donna McKechnie, Terrence McNally, Donald Oliver, Richard Seff, Zachary Sklar, Liz Smith, David Spencer, Elaine Stritch and Robert C. Wilson.