Queen of the Oddballs
Memoirs from a professed Outsider that is funny, and poignant

By Mia Stocker

Self-titled "Queen of the Oddballs," Hillary Carlip proves that being odd doesn't necessarily mean you don't have something to say… you just say it in an offbeat sort of way.

Recounting such teenaged wild adventures as tracking down Carole King, more accurately, stalking the singer songwriter, or engaging in a (perhaps a one-sided) friendship with Carly Simon, Carlip's recounting of a rather unusual life is peppered with celebrity encounters, wild goose chases and insightful views on herself and the world at large.

Carlip views life through a lens unlike any other. The chapter that details her creation of an all girls rock band, comprised of ex-cons who met in prison, is a terrific window into her brilliant mind of shameless self-promotion. Some might say she has chutzpah. (That is an understatement!)

Growing up in Bel Air, and naturally exposed to celebrity up close and personal, Carlip, who as a child is precocious beyond any parent's wildest dreams, single-mindedly becomes an expert juvenile juggler. In a bid for attention and self worth, she actually manages to secure gigs for herself on stage between musical acts in L.A. Adept at the art, one of Lucile Ball's writers summons the mini-master to pass down the skill to Ms. Ball directly. Apparently, the '50s comic icon had to learn every stunt inside and out before trying her very best to look amateurish.

The wealth of insider tidbits pop up sporadically throughout the book in chronological order starting with 1965 and ending with 2004. Detailing the times and trends, "Oddballs" becomes a miniature primer on American pop culture. Preceding each of the 18 chapters are insights into what took place at the time phrased as only Carlip can, with devastating, but subtle, wit.

The title of the book comes from an episode in the author's life when she was a contestant on the notorious '70s talent extravaganza "The Gong Show." Taking her singing-juggling act on stage, Carlip, to her own amazement, wins with a perfect score from the Gong Show's notoriously critical judges. Earning a standing ovation from the most critical of critics Rex Reed, and smiles and approval from sultry singer J.P. Morgan and "uber" blonde "Love Boat" guest star extraordinaire Elke Sommer, it was that moment of victory that set Carlip off on an unconventional and amazingly funny life.

It is that Chapter of her life that Carlip recreated for Valley fans when she not only read that section of the book, she actually recreated the juggling act that won her a perfect score on the Gong Show. Smiling and singing all the way, Carlip is an effortless juggler today. She proved that to her audience at Changing Hands Bookstore in Tempe during her promo tour for her latest book last spring.

[personal experiences, love affairs that went, well south, and interjecting the spirit of the times, Carlip has fashioned a page turning memoir]

She also wasted no time in "venting" her frustration with talk show giant Oprah Winfrey regarding another book she authored. "I didn't always want to bitch-slap Oprah," says Carlip in the opening lines of the last chapter of the book, "Finding the Oh! in Oprah."

Having written in 1995 "Girl Power: Young Women Speak Out," Carlip was thrilled to learn that she was slated to be on the Oprah show to promote the book.

Pleased with the exposure, Carlip was bitterly disappointed when she was basically given a seat in the audience and about two minutes of air time. She vents her frustration with the segment in hilarious detail that is both poignant, bitingly harsh, bitchy and, most important of all in a book like this, funny.

Between the celebrity encounters and the many attempts at show biz fame from singing telegrams, a bit part in that mega musical disaster "Xanadu," scripts that were never realized and a relationship gone sour, Carlip opens up her love life to public view. Her own misconceptions, missteps and leaps of faith are equally detailed. Carlip takes a candid look at herself, her coming out, and her own career in a mesmerizing mix of enlightened observation sprinkled with comedic sections that are as funny as they are candid. Carlip makes herself transparent as cellophane.

In the hands of a less accomplished writer, all of this could have amounted to a cute foaming froth. Mingling personal experiences, love affairs that went, well south, and interjecting the spirit of the times, Carlip has fashioned a page turning memoir that keeps you guessing just exactly what this multi-talented Jacqueline of all entertainment media is going to do next.

In a book that may appear slight, Carlip has touched on subjects that have weight and significance while making you laugh through the rough and rocky road that is life as a "Queen of the Oddballs."


Queen of the Oddballs: And Other True Stories from a Life Unaccording to Plan
by Hillary Carlip