North of Hollywood

In his forties, after startling good fortune as an actor/playwright (he’s had plays performed in New York and on PBS; played leading roles in films, on television and stage with some of the greatest stars in Hollywood history), Rick Lenz finds it all falling apart. One evening in North Hollywood, standing alone, naked—not only metaphorically—on the stage of a tiny equity waiver theater, it hits him that his career has dropped out of frame and into helpless freefall. North of Hollywood is the story of his rise, fall, and rehabilitation, thanks to the faithful support of one woman.

A spectrum of hardboiled fame, floodlit failures, hilarity and heartbreak, small and staggering successes, and self­-discovery, North of Hollywood ​is a memoir of one actor’s journey from a shadowed childhood into the spotlight of Hollywood and into the heart of humanity itself. A critical success noted for its gentle and irreverent narrative, North of Hollywood has won nine national awards.

Book cover for 'North of Hollywood', slightly angled with a faint shadow behind the bottom right corner of the book.


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“Most people don’t know the simple truth that Lenz reveals in this captivating autobiography: Actors are real people, and acting is a real job … We’re enthralled by the glamour, but Lenz helps us focus on the real point: The hardest part of a glamorous life, of any life, is to find one’s feet and stay standing. Lenz is still standing, and North of Hollywood is a warm credible account of how he found his place in and out of the limelight. … The earned wisdom of a seasoned veteran.”
— US Review Of Books, a Recommended Review

“Creative, entertaining, polished — a truly professional effort. Several steps above professional, actually. The writer does a masterful job with taking a linear narrative and circling back, jumping ahead, then coming back to a step past where he was. Not an easy trick, but it works. Instead of dumping all the information on the reader at once, he hints at something (his parental issues, for instance), then returns to it later. In less talented hands it could be a mess, but it layers the book and elevates it above a simple memoir.

It would be easy for the book to devolve into self-absorbed whining, but the writer manages to be funny and interesting as he battles a lifetime of existential and personal crisis. Through it all, he weaves several sub-themes — Ann Stuart, Dixie Thorpe — that hold the book together.

The snapshots of celebrity are just right — with humor, humility, sarcasm and a needle as needed. Alan Alda is the guy we hoped he’d be. Lauren Bacall? No surprise. But the writer isn’t dropping names; he makes it clear how well he knows people and even what his take says about himself.

As with the celebrity reveals, his own struggles and those of his family are made hugely readable by the light and subtle writing style. He gives the reader credit for having a brain and nowhere does he overdo it or collapse into the wordiness less confident and talented writers do.

Applause? Standing ovation.”
— Writers Digest

“An essential book for anyone who has ever said they want to be an actor and anyone who was lucky enough not to. Compulsively readable! … perceptive and poignant wisdom …”
— Michael Kahn, artistic director of the Shakespeare Theater in Washington, D.C.; former head of drama at The Julliard School

“What a book!! I respected this actor’s work and wanted to read anecdotes of his career etc. and what a surprise! I got more. A superb writer who can so articulate his feelings—his emotional and mental journey through his life and career with ironic and witty humor and a piercing honesty—an actor’s internal memoir with none of the ego we connect with an actor’s recounting. No self-pity. He lets us into who he is by how he tells of his story. It will inspire. Not just a showbiz story, but a universal one. I couldn’t put it down.”
— Joseph Sicari, Actor

“An actor’s intimate, sometimes hilarious, sometimes touching, and always honest account of making a living while living next to Hollywood legends.”
— Publishers Weekly

“I was totally engaged with ‘North of Hollywood’, start to finish. Sometimes it felt like Rick Lenz wasn’t just ‘opening the kimono,’ as they say in the business, but was actually peeling off his skin. I admire his courage in telling it.”
— Scott Campbell, author of Touched and Aftermath

“… An overwhelming sense of peace, the type gained through experience and reconciliation, pervades the novel from the very first few chapters. … A scattering of movie references provide readers with enough chronological anchors to highlight the memoir’s kaleidoscopic form without breaking the rhythm of Lenz’s poetic prose. The effect is beautiful, as if the reader were experiencing Lenz’s life from the perspective of every camera that ever filmed him.”
Forward Book Reviews

“A touching, bittersweet remembrance of a workaday career in acting … He writes with self-punishing honesty … documents a career longevity that is breathtaking. … His story is more about self-acceptance than glory, and readers will cheer as he reaches that realization himself.”
— Kirkus Reviews

“Talent to burn.”
— Lauren Bacall

“I greatly admire Rick Lenz’s thoughtful and well written book.”

“Lenz’s storyline is alluring … atypical memoir approaches that make it stand out from others in its genre…Tongue-in-cheek style … Powerful prose.”