Picks and Pans Review: Diahann!

updated 05/12/1986 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 05/12/1986 AT 01:00 AM EDT

by Diahann Carroll with Ross Firestone

Diahann Carroll (born Carol Diann Johnson) made her public debut at 6 as part of the Tiny Tots choir in Adam Clayton Powell's Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem. From there she modeled, sang and acted her way into the mainstream, in such Broadway shows as No Strings, such films as Claudine and as a regular on TV's Dynasty. What's impressive about Carroll, now 50, is her passion for hard work and her drive to overcome professional obstacles—she came of age when blacks were rarely tolerated in major roles. But her self-destructive personal life brings to mind Liz Taylor, another woman whose private melodramas have often upstaged her talent. Carroll's Richard Burton was Sidney Poitier, who, she says, dazzled and tormented her for nine years; he comes off as an arrogant heel. ("Instead of dealing honestly and above-board, he had promised whatever had to be promised to get what he wanted, then promptly forgot all about it once that was accomplished.") The unlikely hero is David Frost, Carroll's onetime fiancé, whom she describes as one of the few emotionally mature men she has been drawn to. Two other insignificant characters beat her, while her third husband, Robert DeLeon, a journalist 15 years her junior, was more devoted to drink and fast cars than to her. Out of the chaos came Carroll's beloved-daughter Suzanne, by Diahann's first husband, jazz impresario Monte Kay, and enough wrenching material for her own soap. At times Carroll's explanations for her misadventures wear thin. (Of her rebound marriage to businessman Freddie Glusman, she writes: "I wouldn't have to change. I wouldn't have to grow...The silly child inside me was delighted.") But this autobiography for the most part has an emotional honesty. For fans of showbiz trivia, the cameo appearances by Harry Belafonte, Sammy Davis Jr., Duke Ellington, Miles Davis, Marlon Brando, Humphrey Bogart and Richard Rodgers make this a spicy read too. (Little, Brown, $16.95)

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