Lucky Man: A Memoir
In high school, for some odd reason, I went through an Alex P.
Keaton phase. Alex P. Keaton, Michael J. Fox's character on "Family
Ties," always wore snappy suit jackets and ties. So, while my peers
were busy dressing themselves in Banana Republic shirts and Levi's
pants, I was finding nice pairs of slacks and colorful neckties.
Odder still, I was voted second place for best dressed my senior
year (losing to Eliot Wong, who dressed like Vanilla Ice). All that
being the case, I've always liked Michael J. Fox. He seemed like a
nice guy with a nice family doing nice work with nice friends.
After reading his memoir LUCKY MAN, I don't guess anymore. He
is a nice guy with a nice family doing nice work with nice
"I woke up to find the message in my left hand. It had me
trembling. It wasn't a fax, telegram, memo, or the usual sort of
missive bringing disturbing news. In fact, my hand held nothing at
all. The trembling was the message." Fox has Parkinson's disease, a
degenerative neurological condition. He ignored the tremors and
diagnosis (which he received at the nearly unheard of early age of
30) for years, but with the support of his family and friends, he
announced his condition to the world in 1998. "The ten years since
my diagnosis have been the best ten years of my life, and I
consider myself a lucky man."
What's great about Fox's new memoir is that he writes just as well
as he acts ("Family Ties," "Back to the Future," "The Secret of My
Success," "Spin City"), and you come to understand Fox a bit better
through his clear writing and his keen sense of humor. Even with
all that he's gone through --- the search for a diagnosis, the
tremors, the drugs, the debilitations --- he still smiles and he
still laughs, even about his own life, which hasn't always been
peaches and cream.
We discover him in childhood, a precocious boy living in western
Canada and dabbling in television. We see his meteoric rise in
television as he auditions, wins, and rises to fame with his role
as Alex P. Keaton. "Gary recited a rambling monologue about what
made Alex tick. I nodded. And then I read. Right away I could feel
I was in the zone. The laughter was huge, and it wasn't just
'writers laughing at their own jokes' laughter, they were laughing
at what I was bringing to it."
We then get a behind-the-scenes of the rich and famous and see what
nearly brought Michael J. Fox down --- alcohol. "Now, without the
pretense of celebration and camaraderie to veil the abuse, I craved
alcohol as a direct response to the need I felt to escape my
situation. Joyless and secretive, I drank to disassociate; drinking
now was about isolation and self-medication."
The bulk, and best part of the book, is his detailing of his battle
with his disease --- accepting it, living his life through it and
finding that, even though it was taking over his body, his spirit
grew, which made him more able to appreciate his career and his
life. He found a new sense of purpose and now devotes his time to
finding a cure and to spreading public awareness about Parkinson's
Fox's new book is honest and charming, funny and thoughtful. And
that is how I would describe Michael J. Fox as well. He's a heroic
fellow in an age where heroes are hard to come by. Not because he's
fought his disease bravely, but because he is a better man because
of it. Perhaps I should go through a new phase, the Michael J. Fox
Reviewed by Jonathan Shipley on January 22, 2011