BWW Reviews: FOSSE by Sam Wasson
I figure I met Bob Fosse around page 433 of Sam Wasson's new biography, Fosse. I was a grad student, researching the development of the director-choreographer. I wrote to a number of men, requesting interviews, but only Fosse responded in the affirmative. So one spring day I found myself sitting in his apartment on West 58th Street. It was the week before the Tony Awards, when Chicago would be all but forgotten in the wake of the A Chorus Line juggernaut. I don't remember much of what we discussed, but despite the famous ego on display, I was surprised he took the time to meet with me.
Wasson's massive 723-page dissection of one of the premiere talents of musical theatre is excessive, entertaining and exhausting. The length (of which 130 pages is devoted to bibliography and footnotes) is only the most obvious reason. Mostly, it's the subject, Fosse himself, who could easily be described in the same way.
It's no accident that Wasson peppers his book with psychological explanations for Fosse's addictions: sex, prescription and illegal drugs, alcohol, smoking, work. It's not fair or accurate to simply write off those issues as the embodiment of an artist's insecurities. There was much more at work here, much of it dark and disturbing. And that's what makes this such a compelling read.
Would Fosse have benefitted from present-day psychotherapy? It's hard to say. His demons appeared at an early age and he wasn't always willing to let go of them. But what struck me most was his profound loneliness.
He would call members of his dance corps in the middle of the night, just to talk, to convince them to come to his hotel room or apartment. And while sex was the ultimate result, it was not the goal: the goal was to assuage the loneliness that weighs so heavily in the night.