Posted: 01/25/2012

 

Raised Eyebrows: My Years Inside Groucho’s House (Expanded Edition)

by by Steve Stoliar


Reviewed by Jared Scott Stroup


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I first came across Steve Stoliar’s Raised Eyebrows: My Years Inside Groucho’s House on a lonely day nearly six years ago. It had been gifted to me by a family member aware of my admiration for the bespectacled comic legend, and that familiar craving for a non-fiction book found its fix within these pages. Reading about an icon is one thing, but it’s made all the better when reported by a respectable fan with personal experience to turn it from subjectivity to objectivity. This first person account of Stoliar’s time spent with Groucho is readymade for the superfan to sink their vicarious fangs into.

The instantly recognizable icon that is Groucho Marx, one of the most oft-quoted and imitated comic actors of the 20th Century—with his greasepaint moustache, glasses, cigar and expertly timed cadence—is a legend in almost every show business field imaginable. Groucho stretched his talents to master comedy, television, movies, writing, and even singing and dancing. He also undeniably mastered the art of cigar smoking, with the vice becoming as associated with Groucho as a carrot is to Bugs Bunny. He has a masterful rhythm, in both speaking and in movement, and, congruent with his professionalism, he was always “on”. Any “fly on the wall” documentation of a person like this is bound to be entertaining, and Stoliar”s book is certainly that. It’s also a touching portrait of an artist in his autumn years.

This expanded edition features an introduction by the great Dick Cavett, who was a personal friend of Groucho’s and had many a televised conversation with the legend. His reflections are a good companion to that of Stoliar’s, and together their insight makes an already seminal book on Groucho that much more seminal. The book is more concerned with his behavior and personality than the usual biographical life story approach. It’s about how his presence made the writer feel, and by being filtered through his singular perspective, it’s inherently compelling and poignant—which can’t be said for the usual stream of chronological information that a typical biography would contain. It seems that everybody who encountered Groucho had a story to tell about him, and this is Stoliar’s book-length addition to that lexicon.

Many people would have loved to be in Stoliar’s shoes, hanging out with a hero for an extended period of time. And with the reissue of this book, more people will have access to re-visit that one-of-a-kind experience as often as they wish. Rereading it was like retracing my own foggy memory of a time in my life I’d forgotten I had, and I wasn’t even there in the first place.

Jared Scott Stroup is a Film Studies Major at Eastern Michigan University. He lives, works, and studies in the Detroit area, where he’s involved in theatre and stand-up comedy.



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