Through the curious life of Dick Kallman–a real-life celebrity striver, poisonously charming actor, and eventual murder victim–the unforgiving worlds of postwar showbiz and down-low gay sexuality are thrown into stark relief in this “page-turning blast” (James Ellroy, author of Widespread Panic)
Dick Kallman was an up-and-coming actor in the fifties and sixties–until he wasn’t. A costar on Broadway, a member of Lucille Ball’s historic Desilu workshop, and finally a primetime TV actor, Dick had hustled to get his big break. But just as soon as his star began to rise, his roles began to dry up and he faded from the spotlight, his name out of tabloids and newspapers until his sensational murder in 1980.
Through the eyes of his occasional pianist and longtime acquaintance Matt Liannetto, a tenderhearted but wry observer often on the fringes of Broadway’s big moments, Kallman’s life and death come into appallingly sharp focus. The actor’s yearslong, unrequited love for a fellow performer brings out a competitive, vindictive edge in him. Whenever a new door opens, Kallman rushes unwittingly to close it. Even as he walks over other people, he can never get out of his own way.
As Matt pores over the life of this handsome could-have-been, Up With the Sun re-creates the brassy, sometimes brutal world that shaped Kallman, capturing his collisions with not only Lucille Ball, but an array of stars from Sophie Tucker to Judy Garland and Johnny Carson. Part crime story, part showbiz history, and part love story, this is a crackling novel about personal demons and dangerously suppressed passions that spans thirty years of gay life–the whole tumultuous era from the Kinsey Report through Stonewall and, finally, AIDS.