Ubu's story

Gary Goldberg's book is an "instruction manual" for success in love, life and the entertainment industry.

ubu 88 (photo credit: )
ubu 88
(photo credit: )
Sit, Ubu, Sit By Gary David Goldberg Harmony Books 258 pages; $23.95 For all those years at the end of American sitcoms - Family Ties with Michael J. Fox, or Spin City with, ahem, Michael J. Fox - the final frame following all the credits showed a black Labrador with a Frisbee in its mouth and the voice-over "Sit, Ubu, sit," a dog's bark and the voice saying, "Good dog." If you're like me, you probably wondered more than once what exactly the story was behind that segment. It must be some kind of signal by an ex-hippie who lucked into a successful television production career, and wanted to remind himself of those innocent freewheeling days when the dog and the Frisbee were his only possessions So, years later, my editor gives me a copy of Sit, Ubu, Sit - subtitled "How I went from Brooklyn to Hollywood with the same woman, the same dog, and a lot less hair" - and I discover that... I was right! And I should have been writing Family Ties all those years. A series of era-hopping vignettes, recounted in a breezy style with plenty of Jewish references, Sit, Ubu, Sit is producer Gary David Goldberg's "instruction manual on how to succeed in love and life and the entertainment industry," as Steven Spielberg writes in the introduction, one of the many famous names that pop up in the book. Goldberg's story - from a Jewish kid in Brooklyn to the counterculture of California and the hitchhiking trails of Europe and on to the shark-infested waters of Hollywood - is full of both poignancy and punch lines, a lot like the shows he ended up creating. Recounting his wife Diana's successful battle with cancer, his close relationship with a young Fox, their falling out and later reconciliation, makes for riveting reading, especially when recounted by a storyteller of Goldberg's caliber. And the insider Hollywood tales aren't so bad either. And it's even got a happy ending - with the Goldbergs, wealthy beyond their dreams, fleeing Hollywood for a Vermont farmhouse, with the idealism exemplified by Ubu the black Lab, still burning in their souls. The Replacements: All Over but the Shouting - an oral history By Jim Walsh Voyageur Press 304 pages; $21.95 FOR THOSE who remember the 1980s as the musical decade of heavy-metal hair bands and MTV coiffed new-wave pop, The Replacements - All Over but the Shouting will set the record straight. Because the 1980s were also the decade of REM, The Smiths and whole slew of post-punk, barely above-ground passionate rockers who crisscrossed the US and England in vans, playing one-nighters in clubs, lost in an "alternative" musical universe well before there was actually a genre called alternative. And for those that heard them and became fans, the impact was as intense as hearing The Beatles in '64 or Springsteen in '73. The Replacements have always been the most perplexing of them all. Punk rock in attitude, meaning they didn't have stage clothes, they didn't know what songs they were going to play when they took the stage and they didn't really care what people thought of them. The Minnesota band was, in other words, screw ups. But what set them apart was the fact that they were immensely talented, and songwriter Paul Westerberg penned some of the best rock'n'roll songs of the '80s or any other decade. All Over But the Shouting (title taken from 1987's "Never Mind" off Please to Meet Me) is a lovingly compiled oral history by Minneapolis writer Jim Walsh, a contemporary of the band, who was a fan from day one and became a friend. Although surviving members Westerberg, Tommy Stinson and Chris Mars contributed minimally to the project (original lead guitarist Bob Stinson died in 1995), there were enough insiders, fans and friends whose lives were affected by the band and its music to create a complete picture of the band's rise (relatively speaking) throughout the '80s and its demise at the dawn of the '90s. Often chaotic, thrilling, frustrating and chilling - just like listening to The Replacements - Walsh's account is an incisive look at the fringe of society during an era in which people were dressing for success, MTV was creating glossy stars and going to singles bars and just saying "no." The Replacements were doomed to fail because they said "yes" to everything, including too much alcohol, and were not afraid to be real. The band's first four albums (out of eight) have just been rereleased with bonus tracks, and a campaign for a Replacements reunion is mounting. But it's unlikely the youthful abandon and fearlessness documented in All Over but the Shouting could ever be recreated.