When it comes to reading, I’m no snob. Serious political tome? I’ll take it. Fizzy show biz memoir? Count me in. “Live Wire” by Kelly Ripa, of course, is in the latter group. Think of it as dessert, a lightweight break from more substantial reading. Now, I haven’t watched Ripa’s morning show in years, since the Regis Philbin days, and wouldn’t have counted myself among her fans (I’m not a “fan” of anyone, really, with the possible exception of a few great drummers—Dino Danelli, I mean you). But I’m a fan of this book, which is seriously funny. While I sometimes cringed at the more intimate disclosures (details of her husband’s bedroom skills), all in all, this chatty book, like a gabfest with a girlfriend, won me over. “Live Wire” isn't a chronological account, but more like a free-ranging conversation. Subtitled “Long-Winded Short Stories,” it flits from one thing to another as the author—who, unbelievably, is in her 50s now—dishes on her career and co-stars, her marriage and kids, and—most entertainingly for me—her New Jersey roots. As a proud New Jerseyan (nee Pennsylvania), I laughed out loud at her description of the Garden State identity crisis, in which people up north think of themselves as New Yorkers, and those down south are an extension of Philadelphia, with Trenton as our Mason-Dixon line. I totally got Ripa’s full-throated defense of South Jersey versus North (I’m down south, and yes, Kelly, we do have the best tomatoes, corn, peaches, hoagies and custard. I would also argue that our soft pretzels are better than Philly’s, and our sports teams—Iggles, Phillies, 76ers and Flyers—really beat the Giants, Yankees, Mets and Knicks.) Anyway, Ripa wrote the book herself, sans ghostwriter, and her goofy, scolding, assertive, effervescent voice shines through on every page. A couple times, I was almost annoyed at tales of her high-flying lifestyle: the entourage, the Hamptons digs, the fabulous travel, the famous friends, the glittering awards shows. But she skewers that lifestyle in the same breath, which takes the “grrr” out of my envy. For example, in this passage from Chapter 1, she and husband Mark Consuelos are caught in a logjam, heading for their place on Long Island. As Ripa writes: “In case you’re wondering, Long Island is how entertainment-industry types and those with enough money and good fortune refer to the Hamptons because it allegedly sounds more relatable and less asshole-ish than, say, Southampton. Even though, everyone knows you’re not sitting in traffic to go to Levittown.” You can take the girl out of Jersey, but you can’t take the Jersey out of the girl. And this Jersey girl, while rich, fairly famous and oh so New Yorky, is as level-headed, as a Jersey girl should be, and outspoken and and a whole lot of fun. Jersey officials should reconsider naming the Cheesequake rest stop after Jon Bon Jovi (what a travesty) and name it for Kelly Ripa. Except it’s north of Trenton, so that’s a nonstarter. Full disclosure: I sometimes hide frivolous books under the “smart” ones. But I enjoy both. So enjoy “Live Wire,” as I did.
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