Chip Jacobs

Musings, opinions and linkage from author Chip Jacobs. Visit chipjacobs.com to learn more (dare ya)

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Strange As It Seems: Review Roundup n’ stuff

June 29th, 2016 · No Comments

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Jacobs … is an exceptional storyteller, and his lively look at the extraordinary career of Gordon Zahler … is a peculiar page-turner. Zahler, the author’s uncle, achieved success on the margins of show business despite a spinal injury … Jacobs … craft(s) an imaginative biography about this unusual figure, who carved out a distinct place in post-WWII Hollywood by repurposing the music of his father, Lee Zahler, a prolific film composer. Along the way, readers meet a colorful cast of characters, including animator Walter Lantz, actor Burt Lancaster, and fringe film directors Ed Wood Jr. and Samuel Fuller. Zahler’s life was filled with difficulties, but Jacobs refuses to frame his cantankerous uncle as a tragic figure and cleverly uses his story to expound on the larger history of his family. This fast-paced account of a life lived to its fullest is a triumphant tribute …” – Publishers Weekly

“Family memoirs are rife with grandiose tales of triumph over adversity, and while it would be easy to dismiss Jacobs’ portrait of his unorthodox uncle as another such unvarnished encomium, his professional background as an award-winning investigative journalist for The Los Angeles Times, LA Weekly, and CNN prevents this from being so. With both dramatic flair and detached fairness, Jacobs eloquently reveals the soul of a charismatic and courageous character. Had Gordon’s career taken place on the screen instead of behind it, he would have been the Christopher Reeve of his day.” — Foreword magazine (5 stars) *

“… amazing … Just how does the class clown face death-defying odds … making Hollywood productions and achieving a dizzying amount of fame during the process of shooting films and even marrying? Jacobs captures the turbulent ups, downs, successes and failures of a life well lived in a biography which is vivid, exciting, and thoroughly engrossing.” – Midwest Book Review 

Everyone loves an underdog—and Gordon Zahler, … Hollywood Zelig, and eventual music supervisor of Plan 9 from Outer Space, would seem to be the perfect Boy Alger. Zahler … transmut(ed) the strange horror of physical incapacity into nimble, devilish celluloid miracles …  Zahler’s life was a carnival of mettle, the merging of a Muzak sensibility and an indefatigable, preposterous will to live. In B-movie screenings, as in heaven, the man will endure, unapologetic, undead.” - Film Comment

“Never a book has taken you from laughing to crying within the same page. The book unites two talents: the one of Mr. Jacobs and one of Mr Zahler. And it’s not a coincidence that both are related … The style of Mr Jacobs is, as always, very eloquent, passionate and yet entertaining … sweating of intelligence. For this amazing life, you’ll have an amazing book. Read it, you won’t be disappointed.” - The Culture News

If you are determined to title your book Strange As It Seems, you damn well better deliver. Chip Jacobs does that and more in a loving, funny and well-written biography of his late uncle, Hollywood musical legend Gordon Zahler.” - Bob Andelman @ Mr. Media

” … Strange as It Seems … not only details all of facets of Gordon’s improbable career, but his private life as well, including marriage to Judy, who comes across as a chain-smoking saint in the narrative, his relationship with various friends, cronies, and underpaid assistants, and his ability to live a life that some of us with all our workable limbs can’t match.  A terrific read and one of the best (hopefully movie-inspiring) books of the year. Highly recommended.” - In the Balcony 

“Here is a remarkable tale of Hollywood history that sheds light on the man who provided the music for several TV cartoon series of the 1960s – not to mention the infamous Ed Wood feature Plan 9 From Outer Space … Author Chip Jacobs was Gordon Zahler’s nephew and he throughly traces his uncle’s incredible career – which included providing music to numerous animated series including the King Features TV Popeye’s, Filmation’s Superman and Larry Harman’s Bozo (to name but a few) … It’s a fascinating read.” Cartoon Research

“Gordon Zahler isn’t a member of the Hollywood A-list, but he certainly hobnobbed with many of them … Author Chip Jacobs … explores the man he only knew from a distance … Zahler’s story is a true tale of hard work and chutzpah … and leaves the reader to make up their mind on whether he was brilliant or just lucky. Zahle’s story truly lives up to its title.” Cinema Sentries/Journey in Classic Film

” … In finishing this masterfully written biography, I came away thinking that Gordon Zahler, may well have been the original poster boy for the word Hudspeth.  Strange As It Seems is Twilight Zone Strange but all true and comes highly recommended.” - Steve Hodel, New York Times Bestselling author, Black Dahlia Avenger

“…  Gordon put the American Dream to the test, pushing the boundaries of what is possible if one simply puts his mind to the task. Chip Jacobs infuses Gordon’s story with crisp dialogue and poignant observations … delivering a delightful Man Against Nature tale that has you riveted to the page. You can’t find a better writer … for this type of storytelling. I didn’t want the book to end, and when it did I felt like I lost a good friend. This is a story worth telling, and a book worth reading. Proof that Jacobs is a powerful voice whose work will stand the test of time.” - Stephen Jay Schwartz, Bestselling Author of Boulevard and Beat

*This amazing book is all heart …Chip Jacobs blends the skills of an investigative journalist, the glitz of Hollywood, and the smooth storytelling of fiction to weave a profile of his larger-than-life uncle that will leave you crying, laughing and gasping in wonder, often on the same page. Bravo!” — Denise Hamilton, Bestselling Author of Los Angeles Noir and Savage Garden *

“Readers looking for a glamorous Hollywood story or a tale of gentle uplift should be warned: This is not that book. Instead, Chip Jacobs has written something far better – a witty, clear-eyed account of a charming and utterly impossible man whose ferocious willpower transformed his personal nightmare into a lifelong Technicolor hallucination.” – A. J. Langguth, Bestselling author of  Patriots, Our Vietnam and others *  

FDR’s body and Sammy Glick’s brain? No, but close – and better. Mon Oncle d’Amerique has nothing on Chip Jacobs’ Mon Oncle d’Hollywood, the picaresque, quadriplegic Gordon, who is at least as good a story as anything he helped to put on film: welfare case to Oscar-caliber movies, co-starring Ed Wood and Pope John XXIII, with snappy dialogue and auto crack-ups, lions and tiger rugs and TV bears, one Serene Highness and many spectacular lownesses. Gordon is a premiere citizen of Hollywood As She is Spoken — unsentimental but believing utterly in the art of the possible.” — Patt Morrison, award-winning Los Angeles Times columnist and author *

“Though not about a celebrity or newsmaker, this life being told by Chip Jacobs is an extraordinary one in the history of Hollywood. The raw courage and almost unbelievable stamina of Gordon Zahler – abetted by both love and luck – turns this irresistible biography into a page turner.” — William Robert Faith, author of Bob Hope: A Life In Comedy *

Silver Medal (Biography/Autobiography/Memoir) - Pacific Rim Book Festival

Prime pick, California Bookwatch

(* Reviews from earlier versions of this biography.)

Tags: Blue Jay Way · Don Kirshner · Ed Wood Jr. · Family matters · Gordon Zahler · Gordon's big ideas · Hollywood post production · Rare Bird Books · South Africa · Strange As It Seems: The Impossible Life of Gordon Zahler · The Hollywood Way · Wheelchairs general

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