Alibi V.24 No.2 • Jan 8-14, 2015 

Book Review

Perl in the Rough

Easy Street (The Hard Way)

Ron Perlman with Michael Largo
Da Capo Press
hardcover
memoir
$26.99

To the kids searching for wisdom on how to make it in the cinema industry: Look no further than Ron Perlman's new memoir to get a real idea of the kind of work it will take to get to the top. Easy Street (The Hard Way) by Ron Perlman (Hellboy, “Sons of Anarchy”) with Michael Largo tells the slow-burn tale of one artist's rise to fame and fortune. And by slow I really do mean sloooow—it took Ron Perlman, actor, director, writer and voice artist, more than 50 years in the field to become the star he is today. Covering the full scope of life from his obese childhood in New York City to his first foray into drama in high school, to finally making the transition to big studio films and shows in Hollywood only to be knocked down again and again, Perlman uses his core talent as a thespian—that of a storyteller—to show his own rocky road to glory.

Possibly one of the very best parts of this book is Perlman's singular and vibrant voice shining through with the aid of Michael Largo. As soon as you start reading the first chapter, you can hear that gravelly voice as if the author is sitting right next to you, just laughin' and shootin' the breeze. It's an incredibly personal style with a gravitational pull that creates an emotional bridge to this far-off star.

Every line is taken apart; every movement examined. As [Perlman] learns from the great Sean Connery, “Don't say a word unless that word is worth saying, and if that word is worth saying, say it beautifully.”

Also in the running for best part of the book is the actor’s insight into the art of theater. Perlman reveals a true master's intelligence and understanding in explaining the emotional, mental and physical artistry that goes into creating a character. Every line is taken apart; every movement examined. As he learns from the great Sean Connery, “Don't say a word unless that word is worth saying, and if that word is worth saying, say it beautifully.” Perlman shares his quirky experiences and thoughtful observations of working with cinema and theater icons like Guillermo del Toro, Marlon Brando, Jean-Jacques Annaud, Rick Baker and Tom O'Horgan, to name just a few.

Yet for someone with such talent, determination and charisma, it comes as a surprise when Perlman bravely exposes his lifelong battle with low self-esteem. By going all the way back to when he was just the “fat kid” on the block who used comedy as self-defense, he reveals a deep self-awareness—both psychological and historical—of what made him the artist and man he is today.

The only unfortunate part of the memoir is the ending. The unfocused second-to-last chapter wraps up into a tidy yet encouraging piece about success and failure. It should've ended there. Instead, a tacked-on last chapter devolves into a bizarre rant that touches on everything from the corporate takeover of the arts to politics, racism, low culture, banking bail-outs and the end of the little man. It's depressing as hell because, although Perlman expounds that it's up to the new generation to create the arts anew as a rebellion against the corporate desensitization of the masses, apparently none of us young, consumerist hooligans has a clue where to start because we have no role models to look to since all the true heroes like Gable, Lombard, Sinatra, Davis, Wayne, Harlow, Bogart, Garbo and Erroll are dead. What's even sadder is that the weird rant at the very end of this incredible journey brings the whole work down a notch. Therefore, while I do suggest you read the book and get a dynamic perspective of what goes on behind the scenes, I also suggest you either read to the bitter end and take the last chapter with a grain of salt—or just rip it out.