Dandelion: A Memoir of a Free Spirit
Catherine James’s relationship with her young, beautiful, and wickedly irresponsible mother informed her Los Angeles childhood. Neglected—she would be strapped to a chair at night while her mother cavorted on the Sunset Strip—Catherine longed not for normalcy, but just for the chance to get away. To get away to her beloved grandmother Mimi or to her glamorous Aunt Claire’s, a Hollywood version of Grey Gardens stuff with racks of the former beauty queen’s 1930s ball gowns and memories of grand parties with Claire’s ex-husband, Busby Berkeley. To get away to her father, a dashing race-car driver who had been out of her life almost since the day she was born. Or even to get away to school, where she would at least be taken care of. Instead, Catherine was abandoned by her furious mother to become a ward of the state before she reached her teens.
It wasn’t until a chance meeting with a very young Bob Dylan that Catherine was inspired to make her escape—as a real runaway, breaking out of the California orphanage with only one goal: to get to Greenwich Village in New York.
DANDELION then becomes a look through the eye of a needle, as Catherine experiments with Eric Clapton; a peek through the viewfinder of a Polaroid, as Catherine is taken up by the beautiful people in Andy Warhol’s Factory; and a glimpse through a haze of smoke, as she begins romances with rockers like Jackson Browne and Jimmy Page.
While raising her son, whose father was Denny Laine of the Moody Blues, Catherine finally returns to her West Coast roots, reconnects with her family, and discovers that her mother hasn’t changed but her father has: He’s become a heartbreakingly garish transsexual.
Moving and shocking by turns, DANDELION is a completely different view of a celebrated pop culture scene and of a dramatic mother-daughter relationship.
- catherine james, September 2012
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