Viewpoint: Something to Write Home About

By Brook Dougherty
Palisades News Contributor

Marilyn Monroe said, “If you can make a woman laugh, you can make her do anything.” Back in 1979, I had a comedian boyfriend and he made me laugh. But he was as violent as he was brilliant, and the “anything” he encouraged me to do was illegal. I had moved from Connecticut to L.A. to be a writer and was spending every night at The Comedy Store besotted by the scene and the talent of guys like David Letterman, Jay Leno, Robin Williams and hordes of other young hopefuls who, like my batterer, were fueled by cocaine and hope.

It started with a simple slap, and as the abuse continued over the subsequent months and years, I wrote down every word, smell, and feeling I could remember in a big green binder. By the time my life exploded, I had a transcript of the whole train wreck. Then I put the green binder away, and kept what happened to me a secret for 30 years. I never planned to share my youth with the world, or anyone except my husband, because I was a wife and a mom, and it wasn’t the mommy back-story I thought would fly in Pacific Palisades.

Then, one day, when my daughter was finished with college, I found the old green binder in a storage unit, and the old comedian in a crummy Las Vegas condo. He agreed to let me use his real name, Biff Manard. There was nothing standing in the way of publishing the book, except that my daughter and my husband hadn’t actually read the book yet, and the thought of “everyone” knowing my past gave me the jitters.

They read a draft in Toulouse last summer. “You have to publish it, Mom,” my daughter said, “It’s not that big a deal.” She was 22. My husband said, “You might want to use your maiden name.” He may have been worried about a reaction from the Weasels, the beloved band he plays in. I feared being thrown out of the Weasel Wives Club.

Six months later, the book was available on Amazon, and the sky did not fall in. My town surprised me. My book was the July read for the Woman’s Club. And then one by one, the Weasels’ band members read the book and sent e-mails that touched my soul.

My purpose in writing the book was to make some noise about domestic violence. If my story helps even one person leave an abuser, then revealing my biggest embarrassment will have been worth it. Me now? I’m working on a new book. Totally fiction.

Brook Dougherty, who lives in the Highlands, is executive director of Young Angels of America. Her book, Nothing to Write Home About, by Brook Simons, will be available at BOCA, 1024 Swarthmore, and Vivian’s Boutique, 875 Via de la Paz. It is also available on Amazon.com.

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