Monday, February 20, 2017
Rumpus Room Reads #3 - All For The Love of Daddy
Okay kids, strap on your shoulder pads, we're going straight to the eighties today with this trashy J.A.P.-tastic incest-flavored selection from Marcia Rose, "All For The Love Of Daddy," where a rich Jewish New York family of three strong loud successful grown daughters and their elegant mother all anachronistically kowtow to the whims of the deeply flawed and possibly sociopathic patriarch. But it's just Daddy! We all know how Daddy is!
This juicy tale definitely came from my grandma's basement, and I obviously couldn't WAIT to read it. The card-like fold-out cover was an amazing collaborations between an author and the graphic designer responsible for that creepy pervasive eighties nail salon art. Actually, after looking her up to confirm my suspicion that "Rose" was a pen name that dropped at least an "n" if not a "nblatt" or "nberg" from its tail, I found out Marcia Rose herself is a collaboration between a Marcia and a Rose. I imagine these two women met in a synagogue Jazzercise class similar to the one my own mother attended when I was a child, swathed in neon spandex and drenched in Calvin Klein's "Eternity."
So on the first part of the cover, we get the enticing tagline "Daddy's girls - his beautiful daughters, his loving wife, his devoted secretary - and a lifetime of secrets . . ." The subtly vaginal red tulips let you know there's bangin' afoot. It doesn't take a detective to figure out that a secretary described as devoted to a man first introduced as "Daddy" is definitely living the boss-humping dream. But first let's turn our attention to the brunette Princess Di type smoldering away above one of the extras from "Dynasty." Don't you want to see the rest of that gorgeous tableau?
In an effort to get into what I felt was the spirit of this novel, to consume it in its natural habitat, I read this book while wearing my most "Eighties Ladies" billowing t-shirt and riding the stationary cycle at the Jewish Community Center gym. Unfortunately, I then took this masterpiece with me into the sauna, where it rapidly deteriorated like a defrosted Mel Gibson in "Forever Young." Lesson learned - Rumpus Room Reads are to be enjoyed at room temperature only.
Before my copy's cover completely fell apart, I snapped this pic, where you can see the legitimate branch of Daddy's family, partially disembodied and weathering a pastel windstorm of triangles and vagitulips. "Dynasty" granny is Sylvia Strauss, the mother of Daddy Jack Strauss's three daughters. But he wanted a boy to carry on the NYC real estate development construction company he established after WWII ("Evergreen" callback! Why did my grandma have all these novels where the family got rich from blasting out Levittowns? Was she secretly pining away for her lost love, the inventor of the McMansion? I must ask her the next time I call home.). Brown Di is middle sister Deena, a loud, colorful, funny mother of four married to a stiff conservative jerk that Daddy loves. Deena just started taking script writing classes with a hunky sensitive younger professor and it's opening her eyes to how unhappy she is in her marriage. Being a loud, colorful, funny mother of four formerly married to a stiff conservative jerk my Daddy loved, I could see how this story line was going to end, but I was pleasantly surprised with the whole British cruise ship captain loverboy vignette.
Haughty and hairsprayed, the blonde in green is humorless youngest daughter Marilyn, a doctor no less! And yet she's unmarried at thirty six so she's a huge disappointment. Sick of the constant chattery judgments of her family and of Daddy in particular, Marilyn hightailed it to a sleepy ski town in Vermont as soon as she could and rarely visits home. Marilyn has a ponytailed goyishe boyfriend and when Deena's family life starts falling apart, she takes in Deena's teenage youngest son Saul after he gets into some sort of computer-related trouble which I didn't realize was possible in 1986. This softens her and she ends up finally accepting the goy's persistent marriage proposals in the end, thus making her fully acceptable to her clan once and for all.
The dark haired vixen in the massive blue blazer and even more gargantuan fur coat on the left is domineering hot-tempered eldest daughter Elaine. Not pictured is the forty extra pounds she is described as being gorgeous despite carrying. Elaine runs a successful lingerie business with her worshipful husband Howard, whom Daddy never liked because he suspected he was secretly closeted (more on how Jack Strauss is the worst below). Elaine's dream is to run the family construction business. But the main plot of the book centers around how Daddy is about to sell it, because he has no sons to carry on for him! Or does he?
Yes, you guessed it, Daddy's secretary, a dull reserved southern blonde shiksa named Linda, has sacrificed her youth and beauty at the altar of Daddy's love for the past four decades. She birthed his son and refused all suitors even though Daddy said he'd never leave Sylvia, and is a two dimensional whimpering pathetic mess, existing only as an object for Daddy's comfort. I guess maybe it's a vanilla predecessor of the gross line-crossing sub/dom relationship in "Fifty Shades?" I don't know, I got divorced before I needed to read that book (zing on married ladies, sorry not sorry).
The secret product of Daddy's union with his secretary is the utterly repulsive Lawrence, the VP of Daddy's company and also a cartoon of a selfish rich eighties jerk. Dude has a Lambo and a gambling problem. I'm assuming he shaves his face with whipped cocaine. When Elaine freaks out and demands Daddy gives her a chance at the company, she discovers Lawrence is embezzling hundreds of thousands of Daddy's dollars. Lawrence discovers the undeniable lure of Elaine's college-aged daughter Zoe's "hot Jewish eyes" and absconds with her to the Caribbean before everyone finds out Lawrence is actually Daddy's son and thus Zoe's uncle.
Somehow I find this incest subplot way less gross than Daddy himself. Look at that little twerp, surrounded by dynamic powerful Jewesses. The Strauss women, so strong and fearless everywhere else in their lives, tiptoe around Jack, coddling his fragile masculinity at every turn. We find out Sylvia knew the truth about Lawrence all along, but she just swallowed it and sallied forth. We find out Marilyn's self-imposed exile may stem from accidentally seeing Daddy and Linda kissing on the street when she was twelve then telling her mother about it in the form of "a friend of mine saw her dad . . ." and having her mother shut down and insist she ignore the whole event. Whenever Daddy is exposed, his daughters can see his personality shift, snakelike, probing for the appropriate mask to garner the total obedience and idolizing love he's always gotten from the women in his life. There's some serious pathos going on here.
To a female reader in the 21st century, Daddy comes off as something of a villain. As I exercycled my way through this thing, I was sure that Daddy was going to get some sort of comeuppance in the end. But it's all sort of a wet fart. Daddy's confused that his "girls" are all people all of a sudden, and Sylvia's like "that's right, things are changing, your girls are all happy in a way that still satisfies 90% of your patriarchal bullshit, and now you have to retire so we can go on more cruises!" They're all independent but they're still craving that fatherly approval, still doing it "All For The Love Of Daddy." I left this book as vaguely dissatisfied as Sylvia must be after four and a half decades in bed with Daddy, who I have no doubt is a less than generous lover. Yet I can't deny I thoroughly enjoyed this. If you want to angrily snort laugh while cycling at your local JCC gym, definitely check this baby out.