Reviews & Press


This collection of essays doesn’t strictly qualify as a memoir but it will make you feel as though you are sitting in on a celebrity-filled 12-step meeting. The authors don’t get lost in the drama of their drug and alcohol-fueled pasts, instead focusing on the relief found on the other side of them.

It’s an important reminder that no matter how successful or famous you are, addiction can bring us all to our knees. It’s reassuring, too, for people with addiction to know that even people who seem to have everything may have shared their struggle. Above all, these essays gleam with hope, reminding us all that however bleak things may be now, recovery is possible…

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In “The Harder They Fall,” publicist Gary Stromberg and author Jane Merrill write stories about twenty-one celebrities and their experiences with addictions. Stromberg begins with his own story about how he got addicted and how hard he had to hit bottom before he could climb up on top again…

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THE HARDER THEY FALL by Publishers Weekly

The celebrities interviewed here–from Ann Lamott to Alice Cooper–are all in recovery from addictions to alcohol or drugs that originated in the 1960s and ’70s. Among them are athletes, musicians, actors and even a member of Congress, Jim Ramstad. With the assistance of veteran writer Merrill, Stromberg, who ran a P.R. firm for musicians and produced films (Car Wash), provides a brief introduction to each subject before eliciting his or her first-person story. Stromberg, a former abuser of heroin, cocaine and alcohol, also shares his spectacular success in the 1970s and his equally dramatic drug-addled fall in 1980, when he lost his home, lover and career. Like many of those he interviewed, he became sober through traditional rehab and recovery programs. But Pete Hamill found his path to sobriety alone by deciding “to live my life without anesthesia, and that meant accepting the pain along with the laughs.” Top jockey Pat Day describes how he was saved from drug and alcohol dependence through a commitment to born-again Christianity. The strength of these always honest and affecting anecdotes is, in fact, their variety of paths to recovery; the diversity should help this excellent volume appeal to a wide audience.’

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From ALA’s Booklist

Film folk (Mariette Hartley, Malcolm McDowell), musicians (Dr. John, Alice Cooper), athletes (Gerry Cooney, Dock Ellis), and comedians (Richard Lewis, Richard Pryor) as well as one politician (congressman Jim Ramstad) proffer heartfelt as-told-to tales of personal ruin and redemption in this occasionally overamped, dreadfully sincere collection. Three Dog Night singer Chuck Negron kicks things off with a harrowing addict’s-progress yarn (“I started with Romilar but heroin became my love”). Slipped a peyote-LSD combo early in his career, Negron missed out, strictly by chance, on the carnage, celebrated in the movie Wonderland, that porn star John Holmes figured in. Dock Ellis tells of pitching a no-hitter while on LSD, and Grace Slick contributes her rich and varied substance-abuse history. As a publication of the famed drug-treatment center Hazelden, there is a religious component at work here, and Stromberg and Merrill leave little doubt as to their absolutist positions on recreational substance abuse. Still, this is a creditable addition to the debauched-celeb literature. Mike Tribby

‘There Is Hope’

In a new book, publicist and former drug addict Gary Stromberg reveals how he—and some of his celeb clients—got clean.

Read the full Newsweek article

Customer Reviews from

Customer Review: Exploring Addiction and Recovery From Celebrity Stories

Reviewed by Paige Lovitt for Reader Views (2/06)

In “The Harder They Fall,” publicist Gary Stromberg and author Jane Merrill write stories about twenty-one celebrities and their experiences with addictions. Stromberg begins with his own story about how he got addicted and how hard he had to hit bottom before he could climb up on top again.

What really made this book refreshing is that the stories are written about celebrities from a variety of walks of life. They are not just movie stars or musicians, they are also athletes, politicians, writers and even a cowboy. In spite of the difference in their backgrounds, a common thread runs through the lives of these people. The substance abuse usually began as they became famous. Some of these people even thought that they could use the drugs or alcohol as their muses. As they crashed and burned, they had to go into recovery. In most cases, there were relapses. Then the real healing began and as they healed their inner selves, they made peace with their demons and found a better way to live.

This book is really well written. The first thought that came to my mind as I was reading it, was that, “This is a really good book.” That is a simple statement, and I know that the authors could have phrased it much better because they write so well, but the bottom line is, I really enjoyed this book.

People who are interested in stories about celebrities will enjoy it. But, I think that a person struggling with an addiction or a person who knows someone close to them that is struggling with an addiction will get the most out of these stories. The reason I feel this is because that the underlying theme is one of hope. These people hit bottom and in many cases they also had to deal with the humiliation of having the public involved in their private lives. But they manage to overcome their addictions and rise above them to become even better, stronger people than they were before.

The authors also mention celebrities that they would have liked to include in the book, but were unable to, because they are dead as a result of their substance abuse. The most famous one was Elvis. The chapter mentioning these people provides a sobering eye opener to what can happen if you do not go into recovery.

Mariette Hartley ends her story with a powerful quote from a woman that was her spiritual advisor, “One’s deepest wounds, integrated, become one’s greatest powers.” This quote sums up the outcome of people that survive addiction and make it through recovery. I highly recommend this book.

Customer Review: A compendium of autobiographical accounts of self-help and recovery from alcoholism and drug addiction

The collaborative work of Gary Stromberg & Jane Merrill, The Harder They Fall: Celebrities Tell Their Real-Life Stories Of Addiction And Recovery is a compendium of autobiographical accounts of self-help and recovery from alcoholism and drug addiction told by a range of readily recognized men and women who range from singer and songwriter Paul Williams, to comedian Richard Pryor, to actor Malcom McDowell, to musician Alice Cooper, to U.S. Congressman Jim Ramstad, and sixteen others. All of these stories are revealed with candor, insight, humor, humility, and hope. The Harder They Fall is a unique anthology and should be available to everyone (especially those struggling with their own addictions) in the community through their local public library.

CAR WASH, Gary Stromberg and Me…