Arts and Entertainment your connection to The Boston Globe

Jong's writer daughter admits to fear of 'Flying'

NEW YORK --There's a juicy tidbit about actress Joan Collins. But Molly Jong-Fast, daughter of ''Fear of Flying" author Erica Jong, says some secrets from her colorful family have been spared in her new memoir.

''I try not to scoop my mother in my writing -- especially about her life," the 26-year-old says during a recent interview at her apartment on Manhattan's Upper East Side.

Nonetheless, her mother's ex-boyfriends -- from the wine dealer who went to jail to the guy who wound up selling vacuum-packed frozen meat from a truck -- are fair game in ''The Sex Doctors in the Basement: True Stories From a Semi-Celebrity Childhood."

It's a tale of growing up amid New York's wealthy and famous, a tale of nannies, secretaries, potential stepdads, and eccentric relatives -- including Jong-Fast's grandfather, novelist Howard Fast, a one-time communist with a 1,100-page FBI file. In fact, she decided to share her stories with the world not long after 83-year-old Fast married his much younger secretary.

''I thought . . . this is the time to write about these people because they are so nuts," said the young author, dressed in jeans, a black shirt, and fuzzy light blue slippers, her long, wavy blond hair hanging loose.

Jong-Fast's tone is irreverent, and she doesn't shy away from such things as her grandfather's obsession with his reviews in The New York Times or how her grandmother's stomach ''looked like a tushy placed slightly higher up on the wrong side of her body."

She has no mercy for Collins, a pal of her mom's who once told Jong-Fast that she was ''too fat" to go on fashion designer Valentino's yacht. ''Even at the tender age of thirteen, I knew that I'd be dining out on this faux pas for the next decade," she writes.

Jong-Fast gets her revenge by recounting another episode involving the ''Dynasty" star. She writes that she opened a mysterious white box that Collins had asked her to drop off -- even though it had taped sides and was tied with string.

''I found a wig in Joan Collins's box, and that's when I realized that Joan Collins was not all she's cracked up to be," she writes.

This resulted in a letter from Collins's lawyer. A lawyer for Random House then went through the manuscript and took out anything potentially libelous. To avoid other legal complications, Jong-Fast changed names, often using funny pseudonyms -- ''Hitler" for a therapist, ''Belle" for her grandfather's second wife, ''Mr. Pig" for one of her mother's boyfriends.

The ''sex doctors" in her book's title refer to Phyllis and Eberhard Kronhausen (authors of ''Erotic Fantasies: A Study of the Sexual Imagination," among other books) who lived in the basement of her mother's Upper East Side townhouse for three years.

Though her mother's love life provided plenty of material for her memoir, Jong-Fast says she's only read about 200 pages of ''Fear of Flying" -- ''I think I'm sort of rallying myself up for it."

The book, first published in 1973, is a semi-autobiographical novel about Isadora Wing, a poet who leaves her husband at a conference for psychoanalysts to drive across Europe with another man. Its frank talk about sex, fantasy, and desire from a woman's point of view was groundbreaking. The book has sold at least 12.5 million copies worldwide.

''It was the sex that really bothered me," says Jong-Fast, who remembered at 15 or 16 thinking that it was ''really dirty."

Today (free)
Yesterday (free)
Past 30 days
Last 12 months
 Advanced search / Historic Archives