Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Another Forgotten Hits Exclusive ... Behind The Scenes With Rock Biographer Mark Bego


Our buddy David Salidor put together this quick little Q & A with celebrity author Mark Bego, who has brand new biographies out about Whitney Houston and Aretha Franklin.  (Bego is known as "the biographer of the stars" ... his Aretha Franklin book is his 59th!!!  Mark also helped out with the Freddy Cannon bio "Where The Action Is", which we've devoted quite a bit of space to lately.)

 Author Mark Bego

Here's a little background information on his latest efforts ...

DAVID SALIDOR:  You currently have “Whitney Houston: The Spectacular Rise and Tragic Fall of the Woman Whose Voice Inspired a Generation," out.  How did you manage to get that book published before anyone else?

MARK BEGO:  I had written the very first book on Houston in 1986 called Whitney!  And in 2009, I wrote a book called Whitney Houston: Die Biografie that came out in the German language, which was published right before her disastrous European tour of 2010.  The minute that I heard about Whitney’s death, I began work on writing a new beginning and ending on it.  This is not a book I instantly wrote.  It is actually one I have been working on for years.

DS:  So, your book on Whitney Houston is coming out in more than just the American version?

MB:  Skyhorse Publishing has printed and distributed it in the U.S. and Canada in the English language.  Plexus in London has it for England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Australia, and New Zealand.  Hannibal Books has it for Germany, Austria, and Switzerland.  Les Editeurs RĂ©unis is publishing it in French for French-speaking Canada.  And Beijing Normal University Press is publishing it in China.  In addition, it is being recorded in the German language for a special books-on-CD version.

DS:  How would you classify Whitney’s life story?

MB:  I refer to it as “a great American tragedy.”  Circa 1992, Whitney Houston was the embodiment of an international superstar.  She had recorded three multi-platinum albums that made her one of the most highly-revered and sought-after singers on the planet.  Her beauty and her grace became legendary.  Unfortunately, her undoing, her drug use, the loss of her voice, and her tragic demise has made this “a great world tragedy.”

DS: How big a part did Bobby Brown play in Whitney’s downfall?

MB:  If you were to talk to Whitney’s mother, Cissy Houston, I am certain that she would tell you:  “Whitney would be here today if it had not been for Bobby Brown.”  What I classify him as, is “an enabler.”  If she was looking for a “bad boy” to party with, and a person who would come along for the ride while she destroyed her life, he was the man.  However, Bobby Brown did not make her do drugs.  He did not make her destroy her life.  He merely helped and encouraged her to do so.

DS:  How do you think Whitney Houston will be remembered?

MB:  In the book I make a strong parallel between Billie Holiday and Whitney Houston.   When you think of Billie, you think of her in a smoky jazz club with a gardenia in her hair, and then you recall her tragic end due to drug abuse at the age of 44.  In time we will think of Whitney as that lovely girl in the film The Bodyguard, and they we will recall her downfall and her death at 48 as a secondary thought.

DS:  You also have a new book in the stores about Aretha Franklin, tell us about that.

MB:  Originally I wrote the book Aretha Franklin: The Queen of Soul in 1989.  It was also the first full biography about her to have been published.  It was expanded in 2001, and reprinted.  When Aretha became so deathly ill in 2009, I knew that it was time to really do a full expansion of the book and to bring it out again now, in time for her 70th birthday:  March 25, 2012.

DS:  Aretha’s own 2001 “autobiography” was not well-received, while “Library Journal” has already heralded your 2012 book for Skyhorse Publishing as being “definitive.” What does Ms. Franklin think of you and your book?

MB:  I know from several sources that Aretha refers to me as “that awful Mark Bego.”  She dislikes me because I tell the truth about her.  I tell the truth about her greatness, her talent and her masterful voice.  I also tell the truth about her lack of fashion sense, the truth about her recent weight loss, the truth about the husband who abused her, and the children she had when she was only 14 and 16 years of age.  I tell the whole story.

DS:  Have you ever interviewed Aretha Franklin in person?

MB:  I interviewed her in person, and I spent an entire afternoon with her one-on-one in her house in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan.  The interview was done for Westwood One Radio, and it also came with an entire list of what I was not allowed to ask her.  I was forbidden to ask her about her sons, the murder of her father, the ex-husband who supposedly abused her, her weight and her personal life in general.  However, I am so easy to talk to, I got more details than anyone else had gotten her to reveal.  Towards the end of our interview she was also supervising the frying of some chicken in her kitchen.  As soon as the chicken was cooked, she announced, “Chicken is done, interview is over!” and then showed me to the door without offering me so much as chicken wing.

DS:  How did you fill in all of the fascinating details about the story about Aretha?

MB:  I sought out and interviewed the most important people in her life and her career.  I witnessed her father preaching in his church in downtown Detroit and found out all sorts of things about him, like the 13-year-old girl he got pregnant.  I personally interviewed Clyde Otis who recorded her at Columbia Records, and he told me some wild tales.  I interviewed Jerry Wexler, who producer her records at Atlantic.  I interviewed Clive Davis, who brilliantly brought her career back in the 1980s.  And I tracked down and interviewed her ex-husband, Ted White.

DS:  You just recently wrote a book with Freddy Cannon called “Where the Action Is!” which has an Introduction by Dick Clark.  How did that come about?

MB:  It was Tom Cuddy who proposed that project to me.  I met Freddy and his lovely wife, Jeanette, and it seemed to be the perfect opportunity for me to work on his autobiography with him.  I was a big fan of the Dick Clark 1960's TV show Where the Action Is!, and Freddy sang the theme song for that show.  He is a talented rock & roll original, and he still loves performing. 

DS:  You did a book with Micky Dolenz called “I’m a Believer.”  Where you stunned by Davy Jones’ death, and what did The Monkees mean to you?

MB:  I was just crushed to hear of Davy’s passing.  I met him in the 1990's when I was on a cruise ship with Mary Wilson of The Supremes, and Davy was the nicest guy.  I originally wrote “I’m a Believer” with Micky in 1992.  My interviewing him came very really naturally for me, because I was a total Monkees fan when I was growing up.  The Monkees and More of The Monkees were amongst my first 10 albums as a teenager, and I nearly wore them out I played them so much.

DS:  You wrote a book in 2009 called “Elton John: The Bitch is Back.”  There must have been a lot to talk about in that.

MB:  With someone as musically prolific as Elton, my original manuscript was nearly 700 pages long.  When you factor in his drug addiction, his rehabilitation, and his devotion to raising money for AIDS research, it made for quite a long and fascinating story.  My American publisher freaked out when they saw how extensive it was. Only my German publisher published the whole thing.

DS:  You were the first person to write a book about Madonna, back in 1985, and you reprised her story in your book “Madonna:  Blonde Ambition.”  How did you get into the middle of that?

MB:  When I first met her I was the Editor-In-Chief of Modern Screen magazine, and I received a phone call from her publicist, asking me if I wanted to interview her.  I knew of her from her disco hits like “Holiday.”  When I found out that she was from my hometown of Pontiac, Michigan, I really knew that I wanted to meet her.  This was before she had even released “Like a Virgin,” and I knew from the moment we met, that she was destined to be a huge star.  I was also on the set of her first hit movie, Desperately Seeking Susan.

DS:  You also did the first book about the rock group Three Dog Night, which you wrote with that band’s keyboard player, Jimmy Greenspoon.  How did that come about?

MB:  I am thrilled to report that Jimmy sought me out originally, and I had a wonderful time working with him on our book One is the Loneliest Number. The first 10 albums that I bought as a teenager included:  The Supremes, Martha & The Vandellas, The Monkees, Sonny & Cher, and Three Dog Night.  At the time I could never have dreamed that I would one day write books on, with, or about all of them!

DS:  Several of your books started out as small paperbacks in the 1980's, and you later expanded them into hard covers in the 2000's, including your book “Cher:  If You Believe.”  How did that come about?

MB:  Several of my favorite performers whom I wrote books about back in the ’80s have had careers that have just grown and expanded since that time.  Who could have predicted that Cher, Bette Midler, Whitney Houston, and Madonna would not only still be recording, but still be considered active superstars in the new Millennium?  Now that Cher and Madonna are going back on tour this year, perhaps it’s time for the third version of those books, too!

DS:  You have had quite the career in this business.  Your first book was “The Captain & Tennille” in 1977, and your latest book, on Aretha Franklin is your 59th.  When are you going to write your own book?

MB:  Actually I wrote a memoir in 2010 that I call Paperback Writer.  If anyone wants to read about my crazy adventures in the music business, it is all there, — a paperback!  Some of my most favorite chapters in that book are about my adventures with my dear Supreme friend Mary Wilson.  The title of memoir is a perfect one, because I am the Paperback Writer!

Thanks, David, for sharing your conversation with Mark Bego with our readers.  All of these books are available through Amazon.com ... here are some of the key links:

And be sure to visit Mark's website here: