The Facts of Life, an American television situation comedy, broadcast on NBC for nearly nine years, making the series one of the longest-running of the 1980s. Edna Garrett, played by Charlotte Rae, served as mother hen at an all-female boarding school, yet no one knew that Charlotte’s personal story of triumph over tragedy spanned more twists and turns than any screenwriter could ever imagine.
Charlotte Rae’s career spans more than seventy years, from the Golden Age of television to Shakespeare in the Park, the New York Cabaret scene of the late 1940s and 1950s to her hit series, The Facts of Life, and well beyond.
Off stage and screen, Charlotte’s life has been one of joy and challenge, raising an autistic son, coming to terms with alcoholism, the heartache of a broken marriage, the revelation of a gay husband, and the sudden challenge of facing middle age with financial and emotional uncertainties—a crisis she ultimately turned into the determination that brought her stardom.
The Facts of My Life is the first opportunity for Charlotte’s fans to explore the fascinating story of her extraordinary life: poignant and hilarious, a story of courage and triumph, one that speaks for a generation of women breaking barriers, taking on challenges, overcoming personal tragedy, and paving the way for others.
“It’s about time a book came out about one of the most talented and beloved performers in the American theater. Charlotte is the consummate actress, comedienne,and entertainer. Her work on stage and screen is always hilarious and somehow also gets you right in the gut. Her story is every bit as brilliant. Read it and smile.” –Carl Reiner, producer, director, and actor
“To think of Charlotte Rae is to smile. Consequently,when I began to read The Facts of My Life,I was unprepared for the emotional impact it would have on me.By the time I finished the first chapter, dealing as it does with her severely troubled son Andy, I was in tears. As an old friend of Charlotte’s, I thought I knew her fairly well, but as I read on, I discovered that the ‘facts of her life’ were constantly surprising, (as well as amusing and engrossing)! –Sheldon Harnick, composer of Fiddler on the Roof
Charlotte Rae Talks 'The Facts Of Life'
Charlotte Rae chats with Access about her new book, her memories of starring on "The Facts of Life" and working with a young George Clooney. Charlotte Rae's book "The Facts of My Life" is out now.
Charlotte Rae Talks Family Struggles, Husband's Bisexuality
Charlotte Rae talks with Access about raising a son with autism and coping with the revelation of her husband's bisexuality. Read Charlotte Rae's book "The Facts of My Life".
Book signing with Jerry Stiller at Sardi's Restaurant in New York City:
Charlotte's book signing at the Grove's Barnes & Noble in Los Angeles, November 2015, with family and friends:
“ . . . it’s all told with a great deal of honesty, pain and grace in her recently-published memoir, The Facts of My Life, which she co-wrote with her youngest son, Larry Strauss, who is a teacher and professional writer.
“The book outlines in great detail her impressive career in show business, which saw her grace the New York cabaret scene, the Broadway and regional theatre stage, the silver screen, and of course, television (her list of acting credits at the end of the book lists nearly 50 TV show appearances, which dates back to as early as 1954).
“There are plenty of interesting anecdotes that she shares with the reader of her multi-media career (my favorite is one period in the mid-50s, when she shuttled between performing in two major New York stage productions . . . Also, Rae chronicles the many personal struggles she endured throughout her career, including the constant concerns of getting regular acting jobs to pay the bills, her bout with alcoholism, finding out that her husband— musical composer John Strauss— was a homosexual, and most difficult of all, being a loving and devoted mother to her sons, especially her oldest son Andy, who was living with an autistic disorder at a time when autism was rarely heard about or diagnosed at best, and whose volatile, violent tendencies compelled her and John to have him committed to New York’s notorious Bellevue Hospital psychiatric ward (although when they moved to California, they found a more humane clinic for Andy, where he managed to live with his autism and enjoy a full life until his untimely death from a heart attack in 1999 at the age of 43).
“However, the last third of the book deals with behind-the-scenes stories of The Facts of Life and the lead character that has made her a household name with TV viewers even more than 25 years after the show went off the air . . . ‘There are many people who grew up with me and The Facts of Life. In fact, many people still think of me as Mrs. Garrett, and when they see me in person, they want a hug from me,’ said Rae during a recent phone interview. ‘The writers and producers of The Facts of Life allowed me to make Mrs. Garrett a more loving, more human kind of character. As a result, the viewers loved Mrs. Garrett so much, that they wished their mothers were more like her.’
“Rae believes that the lasting appeal of The Facts of Life is attributed to how it dealt with the many issues that teenagers faced back in the 80s when the show first aired, and still face today. ‘The show did a great job portraying the issues that kids go through, as well as the many struggles and joys of life, and even parents watched it with their children, which I find was a tremendous asset of the show,’ she said.
“The Facts of My Life is a very entertaining, frank memoir of a veteran actress with almost 70 years worth of stage, movie and TV credits to her name, and has the enviable position of being forever associated with one of the most recognized mother figure characters on television. And Charlotte Rae’s life and career, to paraphrase the theme song from the show that made her famous, took the good, took the bad, took them both and there you have the facts of Charlotte Rae’s life.”
[Excerpted from “Book Review” by Stuart Nulman in the Montreal Times, November 21, 2015. To read the full review, visit: http://mtltimes.ca/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/21.12-Montreal-Times-112115.pdf]