Actress and comedienne Ali Wentworth grew up in the shadow of Muffie Cabot, her perfectly-coiffed and powerful mother, and her early years are profoundly shaped by her childhood in Washington, D.C. Wanting nothing more than to escape the drab world of politics, Ali left for Los Angeles to break into show biz — and succeeded.
With stints on “In Living Color,” “Seinfeld,” “The Marriage Ref” and more, Ali has found her niche as a quirky but lovable character and eventually married one George Stephanopoulos. In the funny but circular way life often works, being a political correspondent’s wife brings her back to Washington. She and her husband welcome two daughters, and mayhem ensues.
Ali Wentworth’s Ali In Wonderland is a fun if haphazard memoir detailing her childhood and teen years and the unexpected events that befell her once she arrived in L.A. Touching ever-so-briefly on her marriage to George, which was my real vested interest in all this, Wentworth manages to weave together a book that is amusing if not wholly satisfying.
My biggest gripe with Ali In Wonderland is its disjointed nature. The book is told through vignettes without real regard to space and time. We may jump from childhood to adulthood, D.C. to L.A., and I never knew whether I was coming or going. This could have worked had their been some unifying theme or parallelism, but as it stood? I felt a little motion sick.
Also, I’m told over and over again how hilarious Wentworth is — and am even informed this by blurber Alec Baldwin. And Wentworth has certainly had an interesting, colorful life. But did I find myself snorting coffee or choking back uncontrollable belly laughs the way I am with my nose in a Jen Lancaster book? Not really. Plus, the book’s tone would shift so abruptly — from talking about a funny show to an attempted rape (literally) — that I further heightened my “am I coming or going?” feeling. I mean, is this humor or true crime? This isn’t funny, right?
There was plenty I liked about Wentworth’s stories, especially when she described her high school years and trips overseas. At less than 300 pages, it’s truly a quick read. But I felt like we’d barely skimmed the surface when discussing her family and marriage. Considering her husband is a prominent journalist and her mother a former first lady’s social secretary, perhaps she just didn’t want to go no-holds-barred and expose her family’s inner workings. I can respect that. But as an American with an insatiable appetite for celebrity gossip, I still craved something juicy.
I guess now would be the point where I admit to having a slight, teeny, almost invisible crush on Wentworth’s husband. George Stephanopoulos exudes control and charisma, and my sister, dad and I were lucky enough to greet him between takes of “This Week” once at the Newseum downtown. (Katie shook his hand! I was too nervous.) As I’m native to the area myself, I could definitely relate to Ali’s descriptions of Georgetown and life in D.C.
Fans of Wentworth or humorous memoirs might find Ali In Wonderland to be a pleasant, diverting afternoon read. Wentworth comes across as very likeable and down-to-Earth, and I never considered abandoning the book. But waiting for the laugh-until-tears-stream-down-my-face moment I craved never quite materialized.
3 out of 5!