I have a confession to make: I've never seen "The Gong Show," not
even one episode. I'm aware of the basic premise and I know (being
somewhat odd myself) that this odd little show would be one I would
like, but I've just never seen an episode, not even on Nick at
Nite. That show, of course, is Chuck Barris's claim to fame. That
could change very soon, however, when George Clooney's new movie
"Confessions of a Dangerous Mind" hits a theater near you. It is a
movie based on Barris's "unauthorized autobiography," where he
relates tales of being a hit on television and being a hit (man)
for the CIA. Chuck Barris, you see, is not only the creator of "The
Dating Game," "The Newlywed Game," and "The Gong Show" --- he spent
nearly two decades as a decorated covert assassin for the CIA.
CONFESSIONS OF A DANGEROUS MIND is his story.
The book itself is a bit weird (much like a slew of the contestants
on his game shows), but he makes it interesting with his spicy
writing style, his candor and his filthy mouth because, boy, Chuck
Barris can swear like a sailor! It starts innocently enough with
him discussing aging as an old television superstar and then
quickly moves into killing people --- bad guys like Mario Moretti
and Salvador Panagra Renda. CONFESSIONS OF A DANGEROUS MIND makes
for a somewhat intriguing read, as Barris alternates between
discussing his game shows and his travels overseas to kill various
criminals. It is filled with some fun and some double-crossing and
some sex and some shootings (sounds like a good movie!).
"Brazioni's shoulders were hunched together. He was shooting from
the hip. Soledad's right arm was fully extended, unloading his gun
at point-blank range, the end of the barrel just inches away from
Renda's face. All I heard were little popping sounds. Renda slumped
to the back of the bench, his head flopping to the side. Someone
screamed." Barris's writing is quick, succinct and to the point. As
you're reading it, you can imagine Barris telling the story to you
face to face in conversation, perhaps over a couple of martinis at
a late night party catered with little quiches and shrimp
cocktails. For that, the book makes its mark.
But, just as successful as he is in telling his life story, you
can't help but think, particularly with a subtitle like
"unauthorized autobiography," that it's a bunch of bunk. It would
be fun to think that a game show host could also be an assassin
(can you imagine the patriot Bob Barker knocking someone off with a
.22-caliber automatic with silencer)? But at the same time, can we
believe that a game show host COULD be an assassin? It's a stretch.
Also, he writes the details of the murders, the spy games and the
double-crosses in a very cool and matter-of-fact way. Wouldn't the
CIA not want people to know the kind of information that he's
giving freely to whoever picks up his book (or, in the coming
months, to whoever goes to the movies)?
Overall it is a fun diversionary read, but after finishing it, you
feel a little duped (like Dorothy felt when she realized the Wizard
of Oz was just a smart guy behind a curtain) and a little put on,
like perhaps someone should have gonged Chuck Barris when he
started talking about his whirlwind adventures of killing enemies
of the state. Can it be true?
Reviewed by Jonathan Shipley on January 21, 2011