"Fifty Shades of Shirley"

August 7th, 2013

Jim Longworth with Shirley Jones If you thought Fifty Shades of Grey was steamy, just wait ’til you read Shirley Jones: a Memoir. The book is an honest accounting of Shirley’s life in total, which includes traditional biographical information on family and career. But it is also laced with racy remembrances from her years with first husband Jack Cassidy, such as the time she relented to a threesome with another woman, and the time Joan Collins and Anthony Newley allegedly wanted Jack and Shirley to get naked together.

I caught up with my friend Shirley following her exhaustive book tour, and the morning after she had been shooting a new movie until 2 a.m. The woman is a perpetual-motion machine.

JL: "Were you nervous about how the book would be received?"

SJ: "Sure I was nervous about it. When Simon & Schuster came to me and said, ‘You should write a book about your life,’ I wasn’t sure I wanted to do that. I mean, that kind of exposure was not my cup of tea. On the other hand, it was one of the things I had never done, and I have that personality to want to experience everything. So I thought, ‘Why not?’”

Once the project was under way, author Wendy Leigh was relentless in trying to get Shirley to open up about her sex life. In a separate conversation, Shirley’s current husband, comedian Marty Ingels, told me, “Wendy’s a nice lady, but she was always asking Shirley things like, ‘Don’t tell me you never slept with Frank Sinatra. Don’t tell me you and Burt Lancaster didn’t have a tête-à-tête.’”

Truth is, Shirley Jones didn’t sleep with any of her co-stars during a long and storied career in films, theater and television. Moreover, she was married only twice, and was faithful to both husbands. And while the Oscar-winning actress vehemently denies that she is the same person as the fictional, goody two shoes mom she portrayed on “The Partridge Family,” the similarities are inescapable. After all, both Shirleys had to strike a balance between having a successful career and being a hands-on parent.

Memoir is a fast read because the stories of Shirley’s life are woven together seamlessly. And yes, they are laced with honest admissions of her sexual experiences and philosophies, including a now famous confession that masturbation can be an important component to staying healthy. I asked Shirley why she agreed to do the book at this particular time, and what she thought women her age might take away from it.

SJ: "I decided at this age, almost 80, that this is the time to talk about my personal life rather than just my career, which is what most people know me from. And I talk about having a good sex life at age 75 and 80, and how you don’t have to give up."

Thus far the book has been well received by Shirley’s fans and is selling like hotcakes. Family members have also been supportive of her first solo

splash into the literary pool (Shirley and Marty published a book in 1990 about their life together).

SJ: "SJ: Fortunately my sons knew pretty much everything that is in the book, so it’s not like they’re reading it for the first time. But my boys are really thrilled, and I was surprised. Shaun saw me on Katie Couric’s show, and said, ‘Mom, I gotta tell you, you were great.’"

Shirley Jones IS great, and she’s also great looking for a woman of any age.

Marty Ingels: "Shirley’s going to be 80 years old and she looks fantastic. She’s never had any work done, I don’t know how she manages to do it. When the book came out, the cover photo they used is of Shirley now, as opposed to other movie stars using a picture from their prime."

Marty, who is an accomplished actor, agent, and comedian, is Shirley’s biggest cheerleader. But the funnyman is not one for letting his softer side show, except for the day Shirley was out of town, and he read the last page of his wife’s book for the first time.

MI: " I don’t tear up very often, but I did when I read the last paragraph of her book in which she wrote, ‘I have found my ultimate Prince Charming, and I’m living happily ever after with him.’ That’s pretty good!"

Shirley Jones: a Memoir is available everywhere, as is the audiobook version which she narrated. Copies of Shirley and Marty, an Unlikely Love Story are also still available online.

All that’s left now, is a book about Marty’s sex life, so I asked him if HE had ever had an affair with Burt Lancaster.

MI: "Yeah, but Sinatra was better. And don’t get me started about the two children I fathered with Glenn Ford."

Look for Fifty Shades of Marty to hit the shelves soon.

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