Rare Birds: An American Family
What does a writer do when he has a family that includes a blacklisted member of the Hollywood Ten, the brains behind Tony the Tiger and the Marlboro Man, a trio of gay puppeteers, the world’s leading birdwatcher, 1960s hippies, a Dutch stowaway who served in an all-black regiment during the American Civil War, and a convicted murderer? He tells their stories and secrets, illuminating 150 years of American life along the way.
Dan Bessie begins the journey through his family history with his great-grandfather in the cargo hold of a ship bound for New York on the storm-tossed Atlantic. What follows are stories of his grandfather’s various entrepreneurial schemes (including a folding butter box business), a grandmother who was voted “New York’s prettiest shop girl” (and who resisted the recruitment efforts of various city madams), and his uncle Harry’s Turnabout Theater in Los Angeles (a renowned puppet theater drawing patrons as diverse as Shirley Temple, Ray Bradbury, and Albert Einstein).
An extraordinary strain of creativity runs through the Bessie and Burnett clans, and Rare Birds celebrates the colorful diversity of this remarkable and accomplished family. While their choices and professions run the gamut of the American experience in the twentieth century, the history of the nation can be traced in these people’s lives. Bessie’s passionate birds of a feather gather to sing their unique song across decades and generations.
About the Author
Dan Bessie has been a film writer, director, producer, and animator since apprenticing on Tom and Jerry cartoons at MGM in 1956. The author of Reeling Through Hollywood, he is also a screenwriting coach, book illustrator, and cartoonist.