Saturday, February 5, 2011

Brooks on Books: They Call Me Baba Booey by Gary Dell'Abate with Chad Millman

Dell'Abate, the beleaguered longtime producer of Howard Stern's radio program also known as "Baba Booey," has a pretty interesting life history outside of the show. It's a good thing, too, because his autobiography is surprisingly short on show-related details. It's mostly...well, the story of his life. That's to be expected, of course, but one could hardly fault a fan for wishing for more info about what he does NOW and has been doing for decades, serving as a key behind-the-scenes force and on-air talent on one of the most controversial media products in history.

I personally enjoyed reading about Baba Booey's often-chaotic childhood, coping with a mother who battled mental illness, but I can picture a lot of Stern fans feeling let down by this particular book. It's not that it's a bad read--though I think it may have been rushed together, credited "co-author" Chad Millman is a capable writer who has put together a solid, smooth narrative--you can't help but wonder where all the Stern show stuff is. Millman smartly intersperses chapters about Stern-related topics Baba Booey throughout what is otherwise a straightforward chronological account of Dell'Abate's life. But while stories such as how the nickname "Baba Booey" was born are a lot of fun, there's a lot missing. Gary refers to his colleagues as family, but we don't hear an awful lot about them beyond surface-type glimpses that don't reveal all that much.

Furthermore, I realize how important music was to Baba Booey's life and he does a good job of stressing its role in his life journey, so I don't blame the guy for sprinkling lists like "Top Ten Desert Island Albums" throughout the book. Hey, it's indulgent, but so what? It's HIS book! But why don't we get a list of, say, "Top Ten Best Guests" of the radio show? Or the worst? There is so little insight into what actually makes the show go that I wonder if this is a deliberate attempt to save stuff for a second book.

But don't get me wrong. This is a good read. Dell'Abate comes off as a decent, likable guy, and it is interesting learning how he climbed the ladder in radio and eventually landed a dream job, the one he still has and probably will as long as Howard decides to stay on the air. But if you're not interested in reading about Gary the man as opposed to Baba Booey the character, you will want to skim or borrow this book rather than buying it.

No comments: