Posted by medusamorlock on March 17, 2011
I don’t know how many of you fell in love with the winsome and talented Jessica Harper back — well, back nearly 40 years ago, longer than many of you have probably been alive — but if you were among the legions of fans she garnered when she starred in 1974′s Phantom of the Paradise, you may not realize that she has metamorphized into something quite remarkable and wonderful. More wonderful than she was in Phantom of the Paradise? Probably not possible, but something maybe unexpected and totally delightful.
If you’re a parent, you’re probably aware that she has for many years juggled her acting career with a very accomplished additional calling as an author of acclaimed children’s books and writer/singer of children’s music. I knew not having kids would one day bite me in the ass — I had somehow missed this whole renaissance of hers! It’s not my world, but she became incredibly well-loved and honored for her contributions in these areas, and yet who would be surprised? Anyone who heard her in director Brian DePalma’s Phantom of the Paradise, singing songs written by the multi-talented Paul Williams, knew that she had a lovely voice and quite the way with a song. The movie has a strong and ongoing cult following, including cast reunions at yearly gatherings dedicated to the film, where Jessica revisits her musical moments from the movie, to the attendees’ delight. (Note: We are temporarily unable to embed videos here, so you’ll have to click on the links to see them.)
Jessica always had a bent for appearing in films that tended toward the unusual and often generated devout followings, such as Phantom…, or director Dario Argento‘s supernatural thriller Suspiria, or Herbert Ross’s brilliant and under-appreciated 1981 musical Pennies from Heaven co-starring Steve Martin and Bernadette Peters, or the early Hollywood-set X-rated comedy Inserts with Richard Dreyfuss and Veronica Cartwright. We also can’t forget Shock Treatment, 1981 the follow-up of sorts to 1975′s cult classic Rocky Horror Picture Show, where Jessica played RHPS‘s Janet opposite Cliff De Young’s Brad and an interesting British cast, including funnymen Barry Humphries (better known now as the unforgettable Dame Edna Everage) and Rik Mayall (famous from The Young Ones TV series.) Let’s also not omit her important roles in two Woody Allen films, the first in 1975′s Russian Revolution comedy Love and Death, and later in 1980′s introspective Stardust Memories, and her great work in the Steven Spielberg science fiction adventure Minority Report from 2002.
Also along the way from the then until the now, Jessica dipped into many TV roles, including a stint as a semi-regular on comedian Garry Shandling’s much-lauded early Fox network comedy It’s Garry Shandling’s Show, and other roles on mainstream network hits like Hawaii 5-O, Moonlighting, The Equalizer, Wiseguy, Chicago Hope, Ally McBeal and many others.
She’s always been known as a terrific actress with great depth, not a cookie-cutter type who could be made to fit into just anything, and that’s why any time you see her name in a movie you know you’re going to see something special. Jessica Harper is mesmerizing onscreen, and she’s no less so in her other endeavors.
So maybe I missed her fame as a first-class celebrity parent, but her latest accomplishment is definitely right up my alley. She’s written a cookbook with a comedic slant, entitled The Crabby Cook Cookbook, combining her love of cooking with her witty takes on feeding her sometimes recalcitrant family. (She’s been married to Fox studio exec Tom Rothman for over 20 years and they have two daughters). What’s even more entertaining is that she’s made a series of short videos to go along with the book, and you can watch them on YouTube and other places, including her website. They’re hilarious, too, and adorable.
Jessica’s currently making the rounds of talk shows to promote her book, and I just caught her on a local Florida interview program this morning, in fact. She’ll all over the place, so keep an eye out and you might be able to catch her. As you can see from the bookcover, The Crabby Cook Cookbook comes with a heavy sprinkling of humor and Jessica’s unique combination of talents perfectly fit the task at hand.
Who would have thought that Phoenix from Phantom of the Paradise would turn out to be an amusing cook with a resume full of children’s books and CDs? Not me, probably, but I’m so glad she did. It’s very satisfying to see a wonderful actress who’s also decent person and a talented writer and a great mom and a funny lady. I’m not usually somebody who craves a happy plotline, but boy, I like this one!
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