I Am Not Ashamed by Barbara Payton
Trade paperback, 216 pages, with afterword by ghostwriter Leo Guild and a chronology of Barbara Payton’s life. Free domestic shipping.
“A dime store (in the best sense of the term) Notes from Underground – the bellowing of the underground woman.” — Kim Morgan
I Am Not Ashamed, first published in 1963, is the absurdist tale of a forgotten movie star’s unnerving decline.
When sleazy journalist Leo Guild arrived at Barbara Payton’s flophouse Hollywood apartment, he was surprised to find that the thirty-five-year-old former actress was working as a prostitute to support her alcohol addiction. He brought her cases of cheap wine, turned on the tape recorder, and she began to speak . . .
Surreal and often depressing, I Am Not Ashamed is an anti-memoir: as Payton reveals intimate moments of her life, she slides down and down the wormhole of her memories and watches her life in numb horror. Unable to recover or make any changes, Payton remains locked in admiration of her brief Hollywood fame.
A self-proclaimed “con girl in specialized areas of living,” Payton is pathologically self-destructive. Her favorite topic is men – how she used men to get ahead, and how they used her. In its bizarre frankness, I Am Not Ashamed follows in the autobiographical tradition of Jack Black’s You Can’t Win and Liz Renay’s My Face for the World to See, and the literary tradition of Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s Notes from Underground and William S. Burroughs’ Junkie.
Barbara Payton was born in Cloquet, Minnesota, in 1927. She starred in her first film in 1949 and soon after took the lead role in Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye, co-starring James Cagney. When her acting career began to decline, Payton appeared in low-budget films and on the covers of tabloid magazines, and later became destitute and increasingly dependent on alcohol and pills. In 1961 she was evicted from her apartment, and she was arrested for solicitation in 1962. She worked with the journalist Leo Guild on her memoir, the camp classic I Am Not Ashamed, in 1963. Four years later, Payton died from alcohol-related causes at the age of thirty-nine.