LEADING LADY: A MEMOIR
VERDICT This joyful, upbeat, and witty memoir will likely capture the hearts of theater and movie buffs. Read Full Review
Reviewed by Kevin Howell, Jul 01, 2023
A Memoir of a Most Unusual Boy
By Charles Busch
A magical tale of how Charles brought drag into the present by celebrating the glamour of the past.
Sarah Jessica Parker
A poignant, deliciously anecdotal account of a talented artist’s Oz-like journey in the worlds of Off-Broadway, Broadway, and Hollywood.
The Tony Award-nominated writer of Tales of the Allergist’s Wife and the long-running hit Off-Broadway play Vampire Lesbians of Sodom, and a Sundance Festival award winner, Charles Busch has created a unique place in the entertainment world as a playwright, LGBT icon, drag actor, director, and cabaret performer, with his extraordinary gift for both connecting with and channeling the leading ladies of show business.
In wonderfully readable chapters, by turns comic and moving, Charles writes how ever since his mother’s death when he was seven, he has sought out surrogate mothers in his life. In his teens, Charles moved to Park Avenue in Manhattan to live with his Auntie Mame-like Aunt Lil, who encouraged and nourished Charles’ talents and dreams, and eventually he discovered his gifts for writing plays and performing as a male actress.
Busch also shares his colorful and sometimes outlandish interactions with film and theatrical luminaries including the hilarious comedian Joan Rivers (who became a mother figure to Charles after Aunt Lil’s death), Angela Lansbury (who attended her first Passover seder with Charles), Rosie O’Donnell, Claudette Colbert, Valerie Harper, Kim Novak, and many others.
Full of both humor and heart and featuring rare photos, Leading Lady is for readers of entertainment books as well as anyone who enjoys real-life stories of artists who break the mold, ditch the boundaries, and find their own unique way to sparkle.
Witty and whimsical, this book is a deep meditation on the divine feminine, a love letter to the lovers of movies and memories. It’s a stirring, poetic memoir of a life remarkably lived and still living.
I’ll read, watch, listen to anything Charles does. Drag and Hollywood royalty combined in one Grand Dame. Leading Lady, indeed.
Fascinating, elegant, frank and unputdownable. I devoured this book with a glee that could only be surpassed by watching Charles Busch perform live!
If, like me, you already know what a major influence Charles Busch has had on your life and career, you will not be able to sleep until you finish this book. Leading Lady is both a page-turner with name-drops and a book depicting the thrill of creation. It is profound in Charles’s stories of the relationships that formed his life. If you aren’t sure of Mr. Busch’s influence on your own world, you will still be spellbound, but you will also come away with a new mentor for living an unafraid life true to who you are.
Articles and Interviews
Confessions of a Drag Legend: Charles Busch’s Memoir Is Here, Darling
“Leading Lady,” a mosaic of reminiscence and self-analysis, explores the ascent of a man who’s really good at playing women.
By Ben Brantley
Charles Busch Takes a Selfie
By Matthew Hays
LEGENDARY DRAG PERFORMER and playwright Charles Busch lets it all hang out in his candid new memoir…. Read More
Chicago's Bi-weekly LGBTQ+ Publication
A most unusual leading lady: An interview with Charles Busch
By Gregg Shapiro... Read Interview