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Comfort and Joi"Comfort and Joi"
by Joseph Dougherty
iUniverse, 2005
     Comfort and Joi is part biography, part memoir. It's a refreshing blend of Hollywood history and personal reflection. The "Joi" of the title is 1950's and 60's pin-up and actress Joi Lansing. Lansing, one of the many blonde bombshells of the era, was seen in the background of such famous films as Singing in the Rain and Touch of Evil. She didn't have any lines in these films, but boy did she look great walking around in the background. She was also a regular on television's "The Bob Cummings Show" ( aka "Love that Bob") and "The Beverly Hillbillies." She was never as famous as fellow bombshells Marilyn Monroe, Jayne Mansfield, or Mamie Van Doren, but she did influence the dreams and fantasies of a generation of men through her appearances on both the big and small screen. One man who fell under her spell is the narrator of Comfort and Joi. For the book, he secludes himself for a weekend at a borrowed beach house on the California coast. With him, he brings all of Lansing's movies. He spends the time watching her movies in order, thinking about the changing nature of the movie going experience, and reminisces about his own life.
    Comfort and Joi follows Lansing's life from here early days as a contract player for MGM to the end of her career in the late 60's and early 70's when she was doing B-grade films such as Hillbillys in a Haunted House and Bigfoot. Throughout it all, the book's narrator argues that Lansing always kept to her solid work ethic of showing up, doing her work, and looking as good as she could. 
     After spending the weekend really thinking about Lansing's life and career, the narrator debates whether it is better to be on the edge of a classic movie--something that will live on forever--or better to be the center of your own forgettable movie. What he comes up with seems to go against all the ego-centric thinking this culture instills in people.
     Through the narrator's weekend experience, you get the feeling you've learned something not only about Lansing but about the nature of being. Heady stuff, granted, but the book never gets bogged down in the existential mire. It is an entertaining read from cover to cover.
     Hopefully, this book will bring about a renewed interest and appreciation for one of the real unsung beauties of her era!

     (An interview with Joseph Dougherty, author of Comfort and Joi,can be heard on the March 2005 edition of WILL-Radio's features program Sidetrack. Click here to launch the Real Audio archive of the program. The feature is at the end the show.)

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