Carlip is Queen of the Oddballs
By Andrew Harmon
YOU PAID CLOSE ATTENTION TO THE '70S AND '80S, there's
a good chance that Hillary Carlip's face is still
lodged in a neuron or two of your brain. Pass her
in the frozen foods aisle at Whole Foods and you inexplicably
think of The Gong Show. Sit next to her at
the Hollywood Bowl and your thoughts drift from a
Mahler symphony to Tom Hanks' Bachelor Party.
you haven't gone crazy. Carlip received the first
perfect ten from Gong Show judge Rex Reed for
her juggling act to the tune of "I Really Get
a Kick When He's Around." And in Hanks' 1984
flick, Hillary's real-life "all-girl, ex-con"
band Angel and the Reruns entertained a randy crowd
with their cult hit "Buffy Come Back," a
punk tribute to Anissa Jones, the cherubic star of
Family Affair who later died of a drug overdose.
has spent a lifetime flirting with quasi-celebrity.
It was her peculiar search for identity and her refusal
to ever work a straight job that led Carlip into Hollywood
circles, not the traditional route of nudging up to
packs of hot actors at the Tropicana. As a singing
telegram messenger, she was hired by Cher to perform
at Chastity Bono's 11th birthday party (a surly Chas
was reportedly not amused). Carly Simon and Carole
King swooned over the homemade banana bread that a
teenage Hillary would bake and hand-deliver at shows.
The nightclub finale scene in Xanadu -- the
very picture of absurdity -- features Carlip, front
and center, juggling in mime's garb.
do you do when you feel so invisible you can't sleep
without a light on, afraid that in the dark you just
might vanish entirely?" she writes in her new
memoir Queen of the Oddballs (HarperCollins,
$13.95). "Simple. Become someone interesting
enough to be noticed."
18 poignant essays, Carlip records her adventures,
beginning at age eight with her send-up of Holly Golightly
on the playground of Bel-Air's Bellagio Road Elementary
School. The performance, complete with her mother's
elbow-length gloves and a few puffs on a pilfered
cigarette, sent her straight to the principal's office
and several sessions with a child psychologist. Only
later was her dramatic chutzpah rewarded, when the
school faculty nominated her to appear as a kid guest
on Art Linkletter's House Party.
felt like I had stories to tell that would not only
be entertaining. but also hopefully move and inspire
people to live life fully," says Carlip of her
new book. Meeting her for the first time, you can
almost picture the buoyant teenager she was in the
'70s, with a Joni Mitchell album in one hand and a
bottle of Dr Pepper in the other. She is small, her
eyes youthful and warm and her voice emphatic and
spilling forth with exclamation points. Armed with
felt-tip markers in alarming fluorescent shades, Carlip
scribbles ideas and thoughts into a worn journal,
something she's done every day since 1979. She is
quite possibly the only person in the world who can
type an e-mail in all caps without annoying its recipient.
tales of eating fire on Los Angeles street corners,
Carlip recounts her own zany and heartbreaking love
stories. At one moment, she is ferociously making
out with a leggy Xanadu dancer in the ladies'
room at the Gold Coast. In the next, Carlip recounts
the most unusual situation of her already bizarre
existence: While she dates a soap-opera actress whose
on-screen character is dying of leukemia, Hillary's
own father is in a Santa Monica hospital dying of
the same illness.
originally featured many of the Oddballs stories
on Fresh Yarn, a personal-essay Web site that she
created in 2004. With almost 200 contributing writers,
the site features similarly wacky pieces inspired
by the bouts and bruises that accompany life in Hollywood.
However, Carlip occasionally chooses somber stories
as featured selections, including essays on neonatal
tragedies and struggles with Alzheimer's disease.
Oddballs, Hillary's managed j to help fuel
the interest for personal essays," says Fresh
Yarn contributor and humor columnist Alan Olifson.
"And with Fresh Yarn, she's pulled off a truly
impressive feat: creating a totally selfless piece