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Catherine James’ relationship with her young, beautiful and wickedly irresponsible mother informed her Los Angeles childhood—neglected enough that she was 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 Aunt Claire’s, a Catherine James’ relationship with her young, beautiful and wickedly irresponsible mother informed her Los Angeles childhood—neglected enough that she was 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 Aunt Claire’s, a Hollywood version of Grey Gardens stuffed with racks of the former beauty queen’s 1930’s 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. To even get away to school, where she would at least be taken care of.  Instead, Catherine was finally 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 inspired Catherine to make her escape—as a real runaway, breaking out of the California orphanage with only one goal: to get to Greenwich Village.  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 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 a dramatic mother-daughter relationship.  


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Catherine James’ relationship with her young, beautiful and wickedly irresponsible mother informed her Los Angeles childhood—neglected enough that she was 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 Aunt Claire’s, a Catherine James’ relationship with her young, beautiful and wickedly irresponsible mother informed her Los Angeles childhood—neglected enough that she was 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 Aunt Claire’s, a Hollywood version of Grey Gardens stuffed with racks of the former beauty queen’s 1930’s 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. To even get away to school, where she would at least be taken care of.  Instead, Catherine was finally 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 inspired Catherine to make her escape—as a real runaway, breaking out of the California orphanage with only one goal: to get to Greenwich Village.  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 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 a dramatic mother-daughter relationship.  

30 review for Dandelion: Memoir of a Free Spirit

  1. 4 out of 5

    Peacegal

    After a very rough start with an abusive and neglectful society woman for a mom, Catherine James led a charmed life. She always seemed to be in the right place at the right time, which led to her meeting, befriending, and forming relationships with many of the titans of Sixties rock. The laid-back, more open nature of the time, as well as her own background, ensured James's cultivating of these incredible experiences. True, there were experiences that were maddeningly skimmed-over. There were ti After a very rough start with an abusive and neglectful society woman for a mom, Catherine James led a charmed life. She always seemed to be in the right place at the right time, which led to her meeting, befriending, and forming relationships with many of the titans of Sixties rock. The laid-back, more open nature of the time, as well as her own background, ensured James's cultivating of these incredible experiences. True, there were experiences that were maddeningly skimmed-over. There were times I really wanted more detail about the rock stars and less about the homes the author lived in or what she ate. And the last couple of chapters especially, when the author attends the deathbeds of two family members, struck me as more than a little of the creative re-imagining people tend to engage in to make themselves look better and difficult situations more manageable. Also: Denny Laine, of the Moody Blues and Wings, is the father of James's child and is a serious jerk.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Yolande

    Wow, what a compelling life story. The title, Dandelion, is from a poem the author's grandmother used to read to her and symbolizes Catherine James's free-flowing adventures. She experiences mental abuse at home, life in an orphanage, life as a runaway, has a child with Denny Laine of the Moody Blues and wins the love and friendship of many, including Mick Jagger, Jimi Hendrix and Jimmy Page. The author has a beautifully romantic nature and with every new relationship, making love is like a glit Wow, what a compelling life story. The title, Dandelion, is from a poem the author's grandmother used to read to her and symbolizes Catherine James's free-flowing adventures. She experiences mental abuse at home, life in an orphanage, life as a runaway, has a child with Denny Laine of the Moody Blues and wins the love and friendship of many, including Mick Jagger, Jimi Hendrix and Jimmy Page. The author has a beautifully romantic nature and with every new relationship, making love is like a glittering eternal paradise. Sadly, the magic usually dies. James says she has opportunities for a more comfortable life, but knows that she didn't come to earth for that. She has an interesting overview of the life she chose and I ended up admiring her strength of spirit and deep certainty about her purpose. Predictably, her most wonderful gift ends up being her son. But nothing else is predictable in this story. I really enjoyed living vicariously through her story for a few days. It's worth ignoring the many typos and just focusing on the romance and wild times.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Lori

    I had never heard of Catherine James before reading this book, but I was hooked after reading her opening description of a luncheon with the world's ugliest transvestite---her father. Her childhood was very Dickisonian and priviledged at the same time, and her teenage and young adult years included being part of the lives of many famous rockers (although she isn't an arrogant name dropper). Great read for any fans of 70s rockers, for sure!! I had never heard of Catherine James before reading this book, but I was hooked after reading her opening description of a luncheon with the world's ugliest transvestite---her father. Her childhood was very Dickisonian and priviledged at the same time, and her teenage and young adult years included being part of the lives of many famous rockers (although she isn't an arrogant name dropper). Great read for any fans of 70s rockers, for sure!!

  4. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

    I loved everything about it.....the 60's, the rebellion, the music, and the young girl story. I loved everything about it.....the 60's, the rebellion, the music, and the young girl story.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Lisa

    Loved the writing style. A very emotional memoir of a very intriguing life. I mean, this girl hung out with Bob Dylan when she was a teenager and had relationships with Mick Jagger and Jimmy Page(although, it seems most girls from the 60's/70's slept with Jimmy Page...he was a bit of a man whore.) Different from Pamela Des Barres "I'm With The Band". Catherine James had amazing experiences and also a lot of unfortunate ones. Pretty jealous that she got to spend time with Bob Dylan(most jealous), Loved the writing style. A very emotional memoir of a very intriguing life. I mean, this girl hung out with Bob Dylan when she was a teenager and had relationships with Mick Jagger and Jimmy Page(although, it seems most girls from the 60's/70's slept with Jimmy Page...he was a bit of a man whore.) Different from Pamela Des Barres "I'm With The Band". Catherine James had amazing experiences and also a lot of unfortunate ones. Pretty jealous that she got to spend time with Bob Dylan(most jealous), Jimi Hendrix and Mick Jagger. Also pretty jealous she witnessed George Harrison playing "My Sweet Lord" at a party. That's just enviable. This woman seems to be very sweet and I quite enjoyed reading about her life. I thought it was sweet how she wrote about most people with adoration. She didn't come across as bitter about anything, even when people treated her poorly. She didn't even seem bitter about being abused by her mother when she was a child. Definitely an interesting read for anyone who loves anything to do with that beautiful time when music was amazing and inspired people to just do crazy things like run away from home(or in this case, an orphanage) to be part of the scene. This woman definitely met a lot of amazing people on her journey.

  6. 4 out of 5

    K

    I enjoyed this after a long self-imposed reading break. Ended too abruptly for me but still up my alley.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Glorianne Roccanova

    I really like to read memoirs....this one is pretty good. now if you all think you have wicked parents, cuz her family was a hoot....

  8. 4 out of 5

    SouthWestZippy

    Had enough so stopped reading on page 78. Ugg it is just over the top drama that is makes the book questionable. oh and loves to name drop.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Lauren

    I really enjoyed this book of Catherine James's life, so much so that I re-read it! I see other reviewers disappointed in the fact that she did not go deeper into the details of her relationships with musicians. That's actually why I enjoyed it so much. I am a huge fan of 1960s/1970s music and have read other books about "groupie" lives. This one stands out from the rest as it does not focus on those relationships too closely, which can really draw a book out and become name droppy. This woman's I really enjoyed this book of Catherine James's life, so much so that I re-read it! I see other reviewers disappointed in the fact that she did not go deeper into the details of her relationships with musicians. That's actually why I enjoyed it so much. I am a huge fan of 1960s/1970s music and have read other books about "groupie" lives. This one stands out from the rest as it does not focus on those relationships too closely, which can really draw a book out and become name droppy. This woman's life story is far more interesting than the intimate details of those men, and quite frankly i respect her for not delving deeper into the relationships. I admire her for she is clearly a woman of strength and class. I enjoyed the casual, conversation style of the book as well.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Tanisha

    Favorite of the Groupie Books Easy, engaging read. When it was over I still wanted more. James is an extremely resilient woman and seems to have weathered her tragic childhood with grace and without the narcissism and emotional instability of other muses such as Bebe Buell and Patti Boyd.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Michele

    It turns out that the people who loved the music were far more interesting than the ones who made the music. This story is a sunbeam. The femininity in rock n roll is the final culmination of romanticism, magic, belief and starry eyed wonder.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Olivia

    The writing was repetitive but I really enjoyed the story!

  13. 5 out of 5

    Lisa Petty

    If you are nosy and starstruck, you will love this. Also, if you are an abusive parent, this will make you feel good about yourself.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Angel Andres-engelman

    Alrught Was a quick read, interesting storyline. I personally got the feeling the writer was complaining alot of the time, not entirely detailed regarding incidents.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Lara

    Good book! That was a really wild story! Tragic and heartbreaking but also incredibly interesting and inspiring. It is well-written and engaging.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Tracey Railton

    Brilliant, beautifully written first few chapters then then goes rapidly downhill and descends into What I Did On My Holidays. Repetitive and disappointing.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Natalie

    Made me miss England terribly! Loved the stories of a chaotic, nomadic and music filled life!

  18. 5 out of 5

    Rachel

    Catherine James’ relationship with her young, beautiful and wickedly irresponsible mother informed her Los Angeles childhood—neglected enough that she was 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 Aunt Claire’s, a Hollywood version of Grey Gardens stuffed with racks of the former beauty queen’s 1930’s ball gowns and memories of grand par Catherine James’ relationship with her young, beautiful and wickedly irresponsible mother informed her Los Angeles childhood—neglected enough that she was 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 Aunt Claire’s, a Hollywood version of Grey Gardens stuffed with racks of the former beauty queen’s 1930’s 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. To even get away to school, where she would at least be taken care of. Instead, Catherine was finally 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 inspired Catherine to make her escape—as a real runaway, breaking out of the California orphanage with only one goal: to get to Greenwich Village. 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 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 a dramatic mother-daughter relationship.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Christina

    Not a perfect book, but a compelling one. I was expecting a juicy, light, gossip-filled book by one of the most infamous groupies ever to grace the Sunset Strip. Instead I got a sad and fascinating memoir about an unusual and difficult childhood. The parts about Catherine's relationship with her mother are raw and feel very truthful. It's hard to read about the abuse she endured as a child. Once Catherine leaves home (with inspiration and help from a young Bob Dylan), the book becomes a little l Not a perfect book, but a compelling one. I was expecting a juicy, light, gossip-filled book by one of the most infamous groupies ever to grace the Sunset Strip. Instead I got a sad and fascinating memoir about an unusual and difficult childhood. The parts about Catherine's relationship with her mother are raw and feel very truthful. It's hard to read about the abuse she endured as a child. Once Catherine leaves home (with inspiration and help from a young Bob Dylan), the book becomes a little less compelling. Her stories about Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, and many others are interesting, but I found myself more interested in the things that were glossed over -- even relationships with husbands, for example, sometimes take up only a few pages. Other times, meetings with celebrities that turn into relationships seem extremely fortuitous. The reader often gets the impression that there is more to the story than the author is telling. Despite this, the book is a very interesting read, and a life story well told. I

  20. 4 out of 5

    Kelley Nance

    I decided to read about Catherine James after being introduced to her in Pamela Des Barres book I'm With The Band-Confessions Of A Groupie. Where Miss P's story is an exciting, light read about a happy, free-spirited girl who finds herself in the center of the rock and roll cosmos of the 1960's, Catherine's story is one about true survival. She was born unto a horrible, abusive mother and was left to her own devices at such a tender age. The circumstances were so dire that she made a decision to I decided to read about Catherine James after being introduced to her in Pamela Des Barres book I'm With The Band-Confessions Of A Groupie. Where Miss P's story is an exciting, light read about a happy, free-spirited girl who finds herself in the center of the rock and roll cosmos of the 1960's, Catherine's story is one about true survival. She was born unto a horrible, abusive mother and was left to her own devices at such a tender age. The circumstances were so dire that she made a decision to go out and find her own way because she felt that anything was better than the way she was living. Like Pamela, she met some very colorful (now legendary) figures who would make a huge impact on her life but she had to claw her way through some very hard circumstances just to retain some semblance of sanity and control over her life. She, like her friend Miss P, is a woman I would love to sit down with and just listen to her tell her story! What an interesting, compelling read! You won't be disappointed with this memoir!

  21. 4 out of 5

    C'lestial

    This was a very engaging story about a woman who started life in a horribly abused setting.It goes on to how she had survived in her life and all of her interesting experiences with a "Murphy's Law" type of life back in the 60's and onward. Her stories range from meeting Bob Dylan at an early age, to meeting Denny Laine and having a son by him, to partying with many of the well known and famous rockers of the 60's and 70's to her affair with Jimmy Page (like most every girl who knew him then I th This was a very engaging story about a woman who started life in a horribly abused setting.It goes on to how she had survived in her life and all of her interesting experiences with a "Murphy's Law" type of life back in the 60's and onward. Her stories range from meeting Bob Dylan at an early age, to meeting Denny Laine and having a son by him, to partying with many of the well known and famous rockers of the 60's and 70's to her affair with Jimmy Page (like most every girl who knew him then I think, lol), failed marriages and more. I could definitely empathize with her in many of her circumstances as many held true for me too, in a very eerily way. It appears she was able to purge herself of many of her emotional demons through writing this story and I'm happy for her. I really enjoyed the read, my only complaint is I wish she had gone into much more detail about some of her life and relationships.The book read like journal or a Cliff-Notes version of a potentially great biography. I hope she writes more.

  22. 4 out of 5

    V

    Though an entertaining read, I would not name it as one of my favorite female memoirs of the time period. Considering that it was looped together with Just Kids, I'm with the Band, Wonderful Tonight, and Miss O'Dell, I expected Catherine to have had more run-ins with various musicians. To her credit, she did not drag the book along, and it read at a brisk pace, coming in at a little over 200 pages. Though an entertaining read, I would not name it as one of my favorite female memoirs of the time period. Considering that it was looped together with Just Kids, I'm with the Band, Wonderful Tonight, and Miss O'Dell, I expected Catherine to have had more run-ins with various musicians. To her credit, she did not drag the book along, and it read at a brisk pace, coming in at a little over 200 pages.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Bonnie

    Catherine James was born of wealthy Hollywood parents who were possibly a couple of the worst parents a child could have. She overcame this handicap not merely surviving, but succeeding on her own starting in her mid teens, aided by her beauty, creativity, determination, and famous people in the popular (drug) culture of the 60's. Several places early on she mentions that she wanted to be a nun, however her risky behavior did not show any knowledge of or guidance in religion. I was attracted to Catherine James was born of wealthy Hollywood parents who were possibly a couple of the worst parents a child could have. She overcame this handicap not merely surviving, but succeeding on her own starting in her mid teens, aided by her beauty, creativity, determination, and famous people in the popular (drug) culture of the 60's. Several places early on she mentions that she wanted to be a nun, however her risky behavior did not show any knowledge of or guidance in religion. I was attracted to her story because, though I grew into adulthood during that period, I knew little of the culture she experienced. The writing is compelling,straightforward and easy to finish in a couple of hours.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Sharon

    This book is a train wreck. As it began it reminded me very much of "Go Ask Alice", only because this woman's life is ridiculously unfortunate. I really did not enjoy it. It was written in a conversational tone, and not a good one. It had several grammatical mistakes-which I attribute to poor editing on the end of the publisher-which immediately turns me sour on a book. It is interesting if you are into the 60s and 70s music scene, with a lot of name dropping-pretty sure this chick slept with ev This book is a train wreck. As it began it reminded me very much of "Go Ask Alice", only because this woman's life is ridiculously unfortunate. I really did not enjoy it. It was written in a conversational tone, and not a good one. It had several grammatical mistakes-which I attribute to poor editing on the end of the publisher-which immediately turns me sour on a book. It is interesting if you are into the 60s and 70s music scene, with a lot of name dropping-pretty sure this chick slept with everyone famous in the music industry. I am not really into all of that-so for me it didn't do much. It seemed like a somewhat self-indulgent memoir.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Topmar

    This book makes me want to kiss my mother. Thank you, Mom, for providing me with the basic necessities of life, such as food and a little love and touch... Young Catherine James endured such horrible circumstances that she preferred being sent to youth detention over life at home with her messed-up mom. What follows is a life of adventure (many rock musicians), luck (sky-high beauty), mayhem, and a number of marriages (well, and divorces). Oh, and her dad's a bit wacky too. I like the revelatory This book makes me want to kiss my mother. Thank you, Mom, for providing me with the basic necessities of life, such as food and a little love and touch... Young Catherine James endured such horrible circumstances that she preferred being sent to youth detention over life at home with her messed-up mom. What follows is a life of adventure (many rock musicians), luck (sky-high beauty), mayhem, and a number of marriages (well, and divorces). Oh, and her dad's a bit wacky too. I like the revelatory style of memoirs, and she's a crisp, no-nonsense, funny writer.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Jo

    A fun read, and Catherine James comes across as someone you'd like to spend time with. She was lucky to have a few caring individuals in her early life to look after her and encourage her in the face of horrific abuse and neglect. Throughout, her pluck and resourcefulness are admirable. Having read this right after Pattie Boyd's "Wonderful Tonight" I was struck by Catherine's strong desire to remain in control of her life. Her positive outlook and humor throughout was refreshing when she could h A fun read, and Catherine James comes across as someone you'd like to spend time with. She was lucky to have a few caring individuals in her early life to look after her and encourage her in the face of horrific abuse and neglect. Throughout, her pluck and resourcefulness are admirable. Having read this right after Pattie Boyd's "Wonderful Tonight" I was struck by Catherine's strong desire to remain in control of her life. Her positive outlook and humor throughout was refreshing when she could have easily turned her misfortunes into a "woe is me" tale.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Michele Gardiner

    I've seen Catherine at parties, and even chatted with her a bit, knowing little about her. Two labels I'd given her: groupie and model. So one dimensional! Labels like these hardly sum up a human with a life of experiences. And WHAT experiences I now know, after reading her book, Catherine has had - the sort of experiences which could make other people crumble. All of her struggles she followed with her ability to not only survive, but to fight harder for the life she wanted, envisioning and cre I've seen Catherine at parties, and even chatted with her a bit, knowing little about her. Two labels I'd given her: groupie and model. So one dimensional! Labels like these hardly sum up a human with a life of experiences. And WHAT experiences I now know, after reading her book, Catherine has had - the sort of experiences which could make other people crumble. All of her struggles she followed with her ability to not only survive, but to fight harder for the life she wanted, envisioning and creating that existence. Her story is jaw-dropping, fascinating, and inspirational.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Amy Holland

    Blech. I read the first two chapters of this book (about her father becoming a woman), and thought it would be a good read. The rest of the book was pretty crappy, though; James had an interesting life, but the prose was uninteresting and the plot took on the feeling of "and then this happened, and then this happened, and then this happened..." I wouldn't recommend it. Read The Glass Castle if you're interested in stories about a messed up childhood. Blech. I read the first two chapters of this book (about her father becoming a woman), and thought it would be a good read. The rest of the book was pretty crappy, though; James had an interesting life, but the prose was uninteresting and the plot took on the feeling of "and then this happened, and then this happened, and then this happened..." I wouldn't recommend it. Read The Glass Castle if you're interested in stories about a messed up childhood.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Robyn Obermeyer

    I enjoyed the book, funny i saw a paul mcartney and wings concert on palladia and there was denny laine singing go now.....Little did I know what I do now about all that! This woman had some great jobs as caretaker and the sheer struggle of being such a free spirit with a son so young, a very cool lady for sure!

  30. 5 out of 5

    Tia

    This was a really good read. I had to keep reminding myself that it was a memoir. Hard to believe all of this actually happened to someone! And I never got the impression that she felt sorry for herself. What a strong & beautiful woman.

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