More than a quarter-century after his death, Bob Fosse’s fingerprints on popular culture remain indelible. The only person ever to win Oscar, Emmy, and Tony awards in the same year, Fosse revolutionized nearly every facet of American entertainment, forever marking Broadway and Hollywood with his iconic style—hat tilted, fingers splayed—that would influence generations of performing artists. Yet in spite of Fosse’s innumerable achievements, no accomplishment ever seemed to satisfy him, and offstage his life was shadowed in turmoil and anxiety.
Now, bestselling author Sam Wasson unveils the man behind the swaggering sex appeal, tracing Fosse’s untold reinventions of himself over a career that would spawn The Pajama Game, Cabaret, Pippin, All That Jazz, and Chicago, one of the longest-running Broadway musicals ever. Drawing on a wealth of unpublished material and hundreds of sources—friends, enemies, lovers, and collaborators, many of whom have never spoken publicly about Fosse before—Wasson illuminates not only Fosse’s prodigious professional life, but also his close and conflicted relationships with everyone from Liza Minnelli to Ann Reinking to Jessica Lange and Dustin Hoffman. Wasson also uncovers the deep wounds that propelled Fosse’s insatiable appetites—for spotlights, women, and life itself. In this sweeping, richly detailed account, Wasson’s stylish, effervescent prose proves the ideal vehicle for revealing Bob Fosse as he truly was—after hours, close up, and in vibrant color.
Chicago Tribune Best Books of 2013
Publisher’s Weekly Best Books of 2013
NPR’s Best Books of 2013
Los Angeles Times Best Seller
Entertainment Weekly’s Top 10 Books of 2013
Newsday’s Top 10 Books of 2013
Los Angeles Public Library Best Non-Fiction Books of 2013
Kirkus Best Non-Fiction Books of 2013
Wasson is a smart and savvy reporter, and his book abounds with colorful firsthand tales... Whoever Fosse was and whatever his work meant, Mr. Wasson’s book is required reading for anyone eager to understand his brand of—to use a term that appears here constantly, and can’t be outdone—razzle-dazzle. And to see through his darkness.
—Janet Maslin, New York Times
Thorough and lively...
—The New Yorker
Terrific... one of the most eloquent showbiz accounts in years... Wasson’s a delightful stylist, practically hitting the heights of Clifford Odets argot... The book gives us a three-dimensional portrait of a beautiful train wreck 60 years in the making, and it’s astutely balanced between what happened onstage or in front of a camera, and what Bob Fosse did in his off-hours to swat away the demons—or invite them in again.
—Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune
Fascinating and exhaustive... This book knows its subject’s loves and his friends and his needs and, ultimately, his despair.
—Ethan Mordden, The Wall Street Journal
The only thing that could have been better than Sam Wasson’s page-turning, comprehensively rendered biography of choreographer-director Bob Fosse would have been Fosse's own memoir.
Unlike countless biographies of artists and performers, Fosse does not rely on dime-store psychoanalysis in explicating its subject and his flaws... Wasson, so skilled at providing a macro overview—he seamlessly outlines the history of both the American stage and the American movie musical to better foreground Fosse’s transformations of each—has also written a book filled with dazzling aperçus.
Here’s something you can’t say about many celebrity biographies: at nearly 750 pages, it feels like it ends too soon. Wasson is such a lively, engaging writer that, as he takes us through the life and career of... Bob Fosse, we scarcely notice we’re turning the pages—until there are no more to turn. Fosse is a fascinating subject: a perfectionist who seemed determined to drive himself into an early grave... The book is everything you could want in a celebrity bio, without any of the gossipy, trashy, third-hand-rumory rubbish that makes too many biographies so painful to read. This one’s a pure joy to read, cover to cover; you read it not merely for Fosse’s story, but also for Wasson’s inventive way of telling it. If this book doesn’t turn up on some literary-awards lists, it’ll be a serious crime.
—Booklist, Starred Review
...Moving and memorable. With chapters whose titles remind us of his approaching death (“Fifteen Years,” “Five Years,” “One Hour and Fifty-Three Minutes”), the author both increases the dramatic irony of the dancer’s days and reminds us continually of life’s evanescence.... Graceful prose creates a richly detailed and poignant portrait, simultaneously inspiring and depressing.
—Kirkus, Starred Review
Bob Fosse... is the glittering, neurotic soul of showbiz in this scintillating biography... Embedded within this exhilarating, appalling portrait is a revealing account of Fosse’s dance innovations: the fluttering hands, wrist flicks, shoulder shrugs and other “isolations” of disarticulated body parts... There’s an enormous amount of scholarship here, yet the story never drags, so adroitly does [Wasson] blend his material into a fluent narrative around evocative scenes where character emerges novelistically.
—Publishers Weekly, Starred Review
Wasson takes readers on a wild ride through the life of Bob Fosse, revered for his directorial and choreographical works on Broadway, such as Sweet Charity, Pippin, and Chicago, as well as the film version of Cabaret... The author interviewed more than 300 of the artist’s friends, relatives, and competitors for this book, and his hard work is evident in the intricate depiction of a complicated, brilliant man. Verdict: A thoroughly researched and fascinating look at Fosse, viewed through the relationships and work that defined him. Highly recommended for theater or movie aficionados, aspiring performers, and fans of engrossing biography.
—Library Journal, Starred Review
Fosse is filled with the kind of inside detail that comes of substantial research, and vivid descriptions that turn the research into a sort of movie in your head. All the way from little Bobby Fosse's elementary school disappointment when the spotlight faded on him, right through to the moment when Gwen Verdon, the love of his life, cradled Fosse's head on her lap on a D.C. sidewalk, just blocks from an audience he was at that very moment razzle-dazzling to beat the band.
—Bob Mondello, NPR
In his meticulously researched biography of choreographer and director Bob Fosse, Sam Wasson weaves an enthralling narrative of a mercurial life lived on a marquee. If you want juicy gossip on Chicago, Cabaret, or Fosse’s infamous sexual appetite, it’s all here. But it’s the little details of Fosse’s insecure side that really captivate, like his timid first days in dance school. Be you Broadway newbie or know-it-all, Wasson’s stories are mesmerizing. For the first time, it’s not Fosse’s dance steps that dazzle—it’s the beguiling man behind the moves.
—Marc Snetiker, Entertainment Weekly
[Wasson’s] got insight; it’s almost painfully acute the way he’s inside the emotions and psychology of artists and performers. It’s possible there’s never been a show-biz bio as aware as this.
—The Bay Area Reporter
Deep inside this comprehensive study, Sam Wasson uses a phrase to describe the movie “Cabaret”: “the bejewling of horror.” Bob Fosse’s whole life was something like that, a man who created magnificent, bejeweled art at personal cost. It’s an American story, powerfully told.
—Paul Hendrickson, author of Hemingway’s Boat: Everything He Loved in Life, and Lost
I tore through this masterful biography, loving it from beginning to end. Wasson writes with a verve ideally tuned to his subject, sparkling with wit and fresh insight. Wasson consistently surprises you with revelations and intimate details, and a huge cast of richly realized characters. He pulls you into a riveting world of tormented talent, the magpie mind that observed, borrowed, and re-imagined to produce landmark entertainments. This is a life lived large—and dangerously—amid cultural currents that propelled and inspired Fosse as a dancer, choreographer and director. In Fosse, Sam Wasson energetically and authoritatively brings it all into sharp focus, with uncanny depth and perception.
—Sally Bedell Smith, author of Elizabeth the Queen