by Kitty Kelley
Tis the season, and January is the time for New Year’s resolutions. So, in that spirit, Larry Thompson, a Hollywood magnate, offers his book, SHINE: A Powerful 4-Step Plan for Becoming a Star in Anything You Do. Published in 2005, Thompson’s manual is an evergreen, he claims, and even more relevant for the new year of 2023. “If you’ll give me a few hours of your time,” he writes, “I will give you the knowledge to help you fulfill your dreams, and to rise and shine to meet your true destiny.” Snake oil sales pitch or road map to fulfilling dreams? You decide.
Thompson begins with his own story, growing up in Clarksdale, Mississippi, with a mother who urged him to leave home. “When you get educated,” Annie Thompson advised her son, “you’ve got to get out of this town ’cause [it’s] nothing but a graveyard with streetlights.” Like a stage mother (see the life stories of Gypsy Rose Lee, Shirley Temple, Elizabeth Taylor, Drew Barrymore, Brooke Shields, Dorothy Dandridge, Judy Garland, Groucho Marx), Larry Thompson’s mother pushed him. Pointing to the movie stars in Photoplay magazine, she said: “Now, they’re important. They have respect. I want you to go to Hollywood and be important like them.”
As further inspiration, Mama Thompson went to Memphis and bought a new dress, which she put in a box under her bed. “I’m saving that dress to wear when you invite me out to Hollywood to meet the Stars and to take me to the Academy Awards — on the night you win one.” Her dreams seeded his dreams. “I became driven,” he writes. “I developed the focus and the ambition and the high-level energy required to get there.”
Annie Thompson’s son left Mississippi at the age of 24 to live in California, where stars shine brightest. “Not only had I never been to California, but I had never met anyone who had ever been to California,” he recalls. Driving three days in a black Oldsmobile with maroon interior, Thompson arrived in Hollywood at 10 p.m. on a rainy night, exited the freeway onto Sunset Boulevard and reached the corner of Hollywood and Vine, where “I cried and cried and cried. I had arrived!”
Before beginning your ascent to stardom, Thompson recommends making a list of the great moments you’ve already had. He begins with his own, “The 150 Things I’ve done,” some of which are enviable, maddening and a couple gaspingly unbelievable:
No. 1: Sat on the deck of the Starship Enterprise with Captain Kirk.
No. 46: Made love in a royal balcony box at the La Scala Opera House in Milan.
No. 57: Witnessed the vision of the Blessed Virgin Mary at Medjugorje in Bosnia-Herzegovina.
No. 114: Helped President Gerald Ford become a mule. (Webster’s defines a mule as a cross between a donkey and a horse. The urban dictionary defines a mule as a carrier of things for someone else, usually illegal drugs. Thompson doesn’t explain.)
No. 140: Was ticketed on the way to Palm Springs doing 117 miles per hour in a Corniche.
No. 150: Became a multimillionaire along the way.
As you might expect of a Hollywood agent who’s managed the careers of “more than 200 stars,” there’s a heap of name-dropping: Elvis, Mama Cass, David Bowie, Peter Fonda, Tanya Tucker, Orson Welles, Drew Barrymore, Farrah Fawcett, Rene Russo, Mira Sorvino, Sylvester Stallone. You get the picture.
“Like wisdom and grace, Star quality is something you acquire,” Thompson writes. “A skill you can learn.” He defines and dissects the four elements of Stardom: Talent, Rage, Team, Luck, and provides a primer to each, complete with lists and exercises to do to become a Star. Using his own experience, he writes that Stardom is not an accident: “A drive will motivate you to move to L.A. or New York or Nashville. An Ambition will get you an agent. A passion will get you an acting job. A RAGE will make you a Star!”
Anyone who grows up feeling like an “outsider” or a “weirdo” has an edge. “There’s no one more likely to be a Star (Thompson always capitalizes Star) than someone who doesn’t fit in with the crowd.” Adversity helps. Growing up poor and impoverished in a broken family or learning to dodge bullets in New York’s Hell’s Kitchen ghetto, or being shuttled around foster homes with a begging bowl — each crippling experience bakes into the psyche the inspiration and resilience needed for Stardom.
Before beginning your ascent, the “Shine” meister advises: “Finding Your Team.” By this, he means deciding whether you’re a dog or a cat because you’re either one or the other. Cats, hard to get, are a bit mysterious with hidden agendas, and not totally forthcoming about anything and everything, and they let you get only so close. Dogs are uncomplicated. They adore you, they follow you. You tell them to sit, they sit. You tell them to heel, they heel.
Some in Thompson’s Star Kennel:
Star Dogs — Star Cats
George W. Bush — Bill Clinton
Jay Leno — David Letterman
Tom Hanks — Angelina Jolie
Billy Crystal — Warren Beatty
For some, Shine: A Powerful 4-Step Plan for Becoming a Star in Anything You Do might seem like a book of bromides — “Learn, Yearn, Burn, Discern.” “Dream Big” and “Don’t Give Up.” To others, it will become a bible that sits alongside Psycho-Cybernetics by Maxwell Maltz, M.D., who proved you can program your mind to achieve success and happiness, and Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity.
Whether you’re a star dog or a star cat, the New Year of 2023 is yours to SHINE.
Originally published by The Georgetowner as an installment of “The Kitty Kelley Book Club”
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