Fosse (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) by Sam Wasson is a large book, at 750 pages. When I had cancer in 2013, I would have it with me for visits to the luxurious infusion suite at my cute Oncologist’s clinic and for longer stays at the hospital. It was an excellent choice for short bursts of reading and I would often just open to a random page and dig in. Wasson is such a lively, engaging writer and award-winning choreographer/writer/actor/dancer/director Bob Fosse is one of my favorite subjects.
Fosse is full of telling show biz details, with a compassionate slant on Fosse’s tumultuous personal life. The book is everything you could want in a celebrity bio: gossipy, a tad trashy, trivia filled.
Fosse is a fascinating subject: a perfectionist who seemed determined to drive himself into an early final curtain call. He won nine Tony Awards for his stage work before moving films, perhaps the perfect medium for his considerable talent.
In a shocking surprise, Fosse, and not the favored Francis Ford Coppola, won the Academy Award for Best Director in 1973, for Cabaret. He was nominated for four more Oscars. That same year, Fosse won an Emmy Award for the television special Liza With a Z and the Tony for Pippin, the only time in history that a person has won all three of the big awards in the same year, and the only person to have won all three awards in the category of Best Director.
People seem to think that his masterpiece All That Jazz (1979) is his take on his life story, but I find it more of a fantasy and a meditation on Death. It is one of my favorite films. If you haven’t, you simply must see it.
Fosse left this world in on September 23, 1987, taken a heart attack at George Washington University Hospital, after collapsing on a DC sidewalk when he was on his way to a rehearsal for a revival of the musical Sweet Charity.
Fosse was married three times, all were dancers: Mary Ann Niles, Joan McCracken and most famously, the fabulous Gwen Verdon, who was certainly his equal, as well as Fosse’s muse and creative partner. He met Ann Reinking during the Broadway run of Pippin, and they had an on-again-off-again romantic relationship for a decade. They continued to have a professional, creative collaboration until his passing. Throughout the 1970s, Fosse also had an affair with Jessica Lange.
Oh, and he was born on this, June 23, 1927.