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Reviewed by Rich Follett for Readers' Favorite
“Stumbling Toward Applause: Misadventures in Entertainment” by Doug Matthews is one part memoir, one part entertainment and one part education for those with an interest in Show Business. Mr. Matthews’ particular area of expertise is in coordinating entertainment for lavish special events, which are commonplace now but were largely unexplored territory when he entered the arena with his mentor Ben Kopelow in the early 1980’s in Vancouver, Canada, after a career in the military, during which he played keyboard in a rock band alongside friends with colorful nicknames like ‘Pipes,’ ‘Guitar God’ and ‘Tooth Fairy.’ The cast of characters is as entertaining as any madcap Hollywood adventure - talented performing artists with every kind of personality quirk imaginable, difficult clients, escorts and potential johns who mistake ‘entertainment’ for something a bit more blue, yodelers, fortune tellers, Elvis impersonators, has-been magicians, chorus girls, celebrities (their names will amaze and delight ) and… oh … did I mention the wild animals? In addition to the interesting personalities populating these anecdotes, there is a veritable cavalcade of ‘technical difficulties’ to be dealt with. Mechanical failures; human error; unforeseen circumstances; all conspire to sabotage events. Matthews’s ingenious solutions and pro-active compromises with ruffled clients are inspired and have a lot to teach about how to do a difficult job and please people against impossible odds. This book is worth a read even if you have never been interested in the world of entertainment - everyone from waiters to ministers will benefit from the life lessons included in “Stumbling Toward Applause.”
Matthews’s writing style is affable and easy-to-read. He is an adroit and likeable storyteller and humorist - it is easy to see why he succeeded so well for long in a difficult business. The pages of this entertaining narrative resound with charm, personality, and no small amount of writing skill. Perhaps the most pleasant surprise of all is that Mathews has a playwright’s ear for dialogue; at one point, he dresses up a scene with a sample of the ‘Newfie’ accent (from Newfoundland) from a Provincial night club owner in a dialogue that reads as fresh and true as being there. The engaging and mildly self-deprecating way in which Matthews acknowledges the ironies of his life journey is absolutely winning and infinitely appealing. There is a distinct sense of the reader laughing with him, alongside him. It is an irresistible incentive to keep reading. Along the way, expect a few touches of real-life tragedy and abject failure, all of which will catch in your throat and perhaps bring a tear. The ‘stumbling’ of the title is a most apt designation for this marvelous roller-coaster ride through a unique and memorable career. “Stumbling Toward Applause” deserves a standing ovation.