Friday, January 23, 2009

The Real Life Adventures of Ozzie Nelson & Family

I immensely enjoyed Ozzie, the 1973 autobiography of Ozzie Nelson which I read over the course of two evenings earlier this week. Really interesting. And fun.

Many of my generation remember Ozzie as the central character in one of the most successful television series of all time, ABC's "The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet." That alone qualifies him as meriting my attention because I loved that show when I was a kid and I love it even more now when watching the episodes we purchased in a multi-CD package last year.

Humorous, warm-hearted, wholesome and remarkably well-crafted programs, the TV show starred "the entire Nelson family." There were, of course, Ozzie and Harriet; the handsome and rugged oldest son, David; younger son Ricky (from his "I don't mess around, boy" adolescence to his teen idol years); and eventually daughters-in-law June and Kris. Furthermore, numerous friends of the boys played recurring roles in the show, the Nelson's real-life secretary (pretty Connie Harper) portrayed David's law firm secretary, and Ozzie's younger brother Don was one of the main writers.

It was a family show in more ways than one.

So, no doubt about it, finding "The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet" as thoroughly charming as Claire and I do, reading the chapters in Nelson's autobiography dealing with the TV program were terrific. But no less interesting and entertaining were Ozzie's early days as a boy in New Jersey; his Boy Scout career (including participation in the first international Jamboree in Europe); a standout athletic career as a football player and boxer at Rutgers University; the development of his big band into one of the most popular in the country; his falling in love with the lovely singer, Harriet Hilliard; their touring and show dates; the couple's entry into serial radio with Red Skelton; the impressive success of their own radio and then TV show, and such "up close and personal details" as David's flying trapeze career and Rick's achievements as a tennis player.

Ozzie Nelson writes in an easy, comfortable, conversational style with loads of anecdotes and humorous observations. But there are serious, touching moments too. After all, this is real life.

Ozzie is a great read for fans of the TV show like we are -- as well as those interested in Rick Nelson, big band music, American history, popular culture, early Hollywood, or the engaging interrelationships of a loving, multi-talented and very charismatic family.

We picked up Ozzie on the internet for a couple of dollars. You can too.