After a book has been out ten years or more it can be time to review its selling and critical success. Day at a Time by Mary Anne Barothy was one of the early books put out by Hawthorne Publishing in 2007. Mary Anne had come to us to say she had written a book about her 1970s experience as Doris Day’s secretary, living for part of the time in Doris’s home. It would surely, we thought, find a reading audience.
In 2007 Doris Day movies were still being shown as favorites on “Turner Classic Movies” and some of the fledgling cable channels. Doris herself was no longer acting in movies or TV but was an active leader in animal rights and adoption issues. The appetite for movie star personal histories was strong: Doris’s fans were all over the nation, enjoying re-runs of Doris’s well known and loved favorites like “Calamity Jane,” “Pillow Talk,” and “The Man Who Knew Too Much” but also the less well known films like “Send Me No Flowers” and “Romance on the High Seas.”
Fan clubs played a large part in the dissemination of enthusiasm for the star, and Doris herself was gracious and encouraging to those fans who wrote to her, sent her gifts at Christmas, and even came to see her. Mary Anne Barothy had begun her relationship with Doris by going to Hollywood to try to meet her idol and through a set of circumstances, came to gain Doris’s friendship. Eventually she moved in to help the star at home on Crescent Drive.
Mary Anne worked with us at Hawthorne to tell her stories of Doris and her fan and home life, including stories of her love for her son Terry, who was seriously injured and in the hospital at one point, her interactions with fellow stars like Billy De Wolfe and famous Hollywood personalities like her good friend Jacqueline Susann and her interest in spiritual subjects and good causes. The story was one of an amazingly varied and good person, lively, fun, giving and caring to those who came within her sphere, even a stray dog which was running in the streets near her home and had to be tracked down and loved.
The book’s release was immediately successful; fans caught on to the book and a general audience embraced its honest storytelling and perspective on the life of a famous star in the movie industry. Mary Anne the author began visiting bookstores, organization meetings and living facilities. The first edition sold out and 2,000 more copies were ordered. Reviews in Indianapolis Monthly and other publications got news of this good book around.
Mary Anne’s approach was admittedly adoring. What she found behind the veneer of a star’s public persona was a woman, positive and sincere. Criticism could have been made (but wasn’t) that the picture in the book never covered any weaknesses or faults Mary Anne observed, except perhaps that Doris was too gullible and trusting. Mary Anne would have countered that she didn’t really find any serious flaws in the star’s persona as she lived with her. That was the truth.
Some few disgruntled fans asserted that she had “told too much.” That as secretary and confidant Mary Anne should not have revealed that at the time Mary Anne was with her, Doris had a face lift, that she had a rare weekend fling with an unnamed fellow actor, that as she cared for and honored and loved her mother, Doris went through the eternal self-questioning about how one lives with and cares for an older parent.
These bits of discord did not stop the praise for, and enjoyment of, thousands of people who read the book and came to Mary Anne’s audio-visual presentations. Edition One was a big success for Hawthorne Publishing, reprinted in 2009, and now a new edition would add more material to Mary Anne’s little bit of life of the movie star Doris Day.
Click back to the website to order Day at a Time: An Indiana Girl’s Sentimental Journey to Doris Day’s Hollywood and Beyond, Edition Two.