Having been born at the start of the 70s I was lucky enough to fall in love with cinema during the 80s and one of the big stars who really grabbed my attention was Michael J. Fox someone who appealed to men and women equally. From the first time I watched Marty McFly skateboard around the town square in “Back to the Future” I just took to Michael J. Fox and would have loved for someone so cool to be my friend. Then in 1998 Michael J. Fox went public and shocked the world when he told of his battle for years with Parkinson’s Disease, something which he battled privately for years. Yet like a fighter he didn’t let it beat him and brings me to Fox’s memoir “Lucky Man” which is half biography and half his battle with Parkinson’s Disease.
Something which hits you about “Lucky Man” right from the opening pages is that Fox wrote this himself, you read his words and the emotions he felt at points in his life and it makes it a very personal and intimate book as he allows us into his personal life. And as such it often feels like Fox is in the room with you when you read about various things such as the first signs that something was wrong all the time being open and candid about it, making fun of things where it feels right. But at the same time, being a very personal book it’s less gossipy than similar books, with Fox never throwing in something revelationary about another star just for the sake of shock.
Being a memoir “Lucky Man” does follow the well worked formula as Fox goes from mention his childhood right through to where he was at when writing the book. But it is interesting; it is interesting to learn about as a son of a service man relocation wasn’t unusual for the young Michael J. Fox. And it’s just as interesting that before finding his love of acting whilst at school he really wanted to be a rock star, those guitar scenes in “Back to the Future” hit you immediately when reading this. But what makes this all so special is that these are Fox’s own words and the fondness he had for his family and his Nana flow out from his words making you feel privileged to be allowed into the life of a very private man.
Of course “Lucky Man” moves on from Fox’s childhood and covers firstly his rise to fame as Alex on “Family Ties” and his break into movies all the time mixing his acting career with his personal life as he struggled to make it and met Tracy who he would go on to marry. What is quite stunning is the candid look back which Fox delivers about what fame does to someone such as when he got barely a slap on the hand when he was caught speeding, purely because he was a star. It’s quite touching that whilst a star Fox still doesn’t fully understand why he should be treated differently to anyone else and it is that down to earth side of him which makes him so endearing.
What is particularly nice about “Lucky Man” is that Fox opens up about his personal life discussing his family but at the same time still keeps a sense of protectivity when it comes to his private life. It makes a nice change from the celebrity books where they are all too willing to mention everything and anything, usually in a revelationary manner. And as the same time it’s also nice that Fox respects those he has worked with never dishing the dirt on anyone. But at the same time he fills “Lucky Man” with anecdotes such as the craziness of his wedding day when the press would do absolutely anything to try and get pictures.
Whilst Fox does keep a certain amount of privacy one of the surprises in “Lucky Man” is when he mentions his problems with drink, a side of the star many would never have known about. He openly admits that he would go on massive drinking sessions or drink a bottle of wine with no problem waking up the next day without any idea of what he had done the previous night. Tied into this is the emotion of dealing with a career which after such a prominent start was floundering with some mediocre movies. As such you get a real sense that Fox could have easily been just another celebrity statistic as he struggled with drink and a career which was going the wrong way.
But whilst “Lucky Me” is a memoir of Fox’s life as an actor it is also an account of his battle with Parkinson Disease. He recounts about the first sign as one more he woke up with a trembling finger he couldn’t control and how things got progressively worse. But you also get his account of why whilst having brain surgery he chose to keep this battle private and away from the public eye, whilst still trying to work to provide security for his family when it would be no longer possible to act. It’s an eye opening account and educational for those who have never come across anyone with the disease. But what really comes across is that not once does Fox look for sympathy he accepts it’s the cards he has been dealt and is dealing with it the best he can.
All of this means is that “Lucky Man” is a surprisingly intimate memoir with Fox opening up about his life but at the same time still keeping a certain amount of privacy. It does mean that it’s not a glossy, dirt dishing biography which revels in sensationalist statements but one which feels like Fox wanted to make open his life and encourage those who find themselves in a similar battle with Parkinson’s Disease. As I’ve mentioned it feels so personal being Fox’s own words that it feels like he is in the room with you as your read it and it makes him even more endearing by the time you’ve read the last page.
By Andy Webb
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