Joie Davidow

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Left, at Book Soup, Los Angeles, photo by Nina Zacuto:
below, at Feltrinelli International, Rome, photo by Julianne Davidow

From the Los Angeles Times:

BUZZ BOOKS A writer and her secret
By Leslee Komaiko, Special to The Times

Tuesday night, on the third floor of the Barnes & Noble store at the Grove, author Joie Davidow, looking très summery in a gauzy lavender top and white cotton slacks, stepped up to the lectern to share a secret, one revealed in her new memoir, "Marked for Life" (Harmony Books, $22.95).

About 60 people, mostly friends of Davidow's, showed up for the reading. There were plenty of journalists and writers present to hear Davidow, a co-founder of LA Weekly and founding editor of the now-defunct magazine L.A. Style. Among the audience were several singers, professional and amateur, who have sung with Davidow over the years. (Davidow, who now splits her time between her house in Hollywood and an apartment in Rome, once had dreams of being a professional opera singer. She has kept up the singing, for fun and love.)

Friends from the journalism world included Ginger Varney, a fellow co-founder of LA Weekly; Laurel Delp, that paper's first managing editor; and current columnist Robert Lloyd. Denise Solis, fashion editor at L.A. Style, turned out, as did NBC News correspondent George Lewis.

Anyone who was distracted by the little voices and electronic tunes wafting over the stacks from the adjacent children's section was immediately snapped back to attention when Davidow began reading from the book's first chapter, "The Angel's Bloody Hand."

"If I had been born in another time, in another place, I might have been left out in the snow to die," Davidow read, "a girl baby my parents couldn't afford to feed, a girl baby with a face so disfigured she'd never find a husband." And so the secret was no longer. Davidow, a pretty, pixie-haired brunet in her mid-50s, was born with a port wine-colored stain that covered nearly half of her face.

Throughout the reading, which alternated between heart-wrenching and humorous, Davidow broke away from the text to tell stories. She recalled her childhood in Milville, N.J., where, as if her birthmark weren't distinction enough, hers was one of the few Jewish families in town. She reminisced about makeup giant Max Factor's introduction of pancake makeup to the consumer market in the 1960s. She shared her many creative strategies for keeping that cosmetic cover-up on, including applying antiperspirant to her face. There was even some singing of Brahms' "Lullaby" as Davidow read a chapter detailing her fifth-grade music recitals.

After the reading, Davidow spoke about the physiology of her birthmark and the many medical procedures she underwent as an adult to correct it. Between the procedures, which erased so much of the mark, and Davidow's adept application of makeup, there is virtually no trace of it on her face today, which explains why so few of Davidow's friends and co-workers knew her secret until now.

In the end, there were questions. One person wondered how her parents reacted to the book.
"They're gone," Davidow answered.
"Who would you want playing you in the movie?" someone else asked.
"Someone beautiful and skinnier than I am," Davidow said.
"Was it cathartic?"
"It was terrific," said Davidow. "I hope people who read the book who have secrets will tell their friends."

Before departing, Davidow signed several dozen books. Among those who queued up in line was writer Steve Weinstein, who has known Davidow a few years. "This was great," Weinstein said, passing Davidow his book. "I had no idea what I was coming to. It's like watching a great twist in a movie."

Book Joie for a virtual appearance.