Alan Cumming Exclusively Previews his New Book at the Edinburgh International Book Festival

28 August 2016

SCOTTISH ACTOR ALAN CUMMING EXCLUSIVELY PREVIEWS HIS NEW BOOK

AT THE EDINBURGH INTERNATIONAL BOOK FESTIVAL

“When you are authentic,” said Alan Cumming at the fastest selling event at the Book Festival, “people respect you even if they don’t agree with what you're saying. People who voted against my civil rights come to my shows in America…. and I charm them.” One of Cumming’s puckish grins followed. The impish and increasingly reflective Scottish star, theatre actor and author, appearing with his oft-Instagrammed dog Lala, added that it had taken him years to be able to “put a lot of myself into things - and a lot of myself has come out.” 

The result is Alan Cumming Sings Sappy Songs! an acclaimed old-school showbiz cabaret running at the Edinburgh International Festival, his late night Club Cumming, and the publication two years ago of a harrowing memoir about his childhood Not My Father’s Son. Continuing in the authentic vein, Cumming was at the Book Festival launching You Gotta Get Bigger Dreams: My Life in Stories and Pictures, a compendium of his adventures, celebrity encounters, and flirtations with cameras. As Cumming talked, photos from the book taken by him were displayed: pictures of beloved pet dogs, the seating plan at Gore Vidal’s memorial service “(I think I was between Cybill Shepherd and Bill Clinton”), a friend’s selfie with Oprah. It was Oprah who gave Cumming the title of his book when at a benefit honouring the talk show host a friend said it would be his dream to get a picture with her and Oprah replied “you gotta get bigger dreams”.

As for Vidal, who told Cumming when he wrote his first book that “you are not a novelist”, an even more bruising anecdote followed. During a “crazy drunk weekend” together in Milan Cumming recalled how Vidal confessed he had “never loved” in front of his partner of fifty years. “Meanness was his stock in trade, not joy,” Cumming said. On relaxed, confessional form, he revealed that Iris Apfel, the legendary New York style icon, was “a bitter old Republican” after being seated at a dinner with her and hearing her racist views on Obama. A contentious fight ensued as Cumming, never one to keep his mouth shut, took her on. “I’m good at confrontation,” he laughed.

Between ranging over subjects from his new book, which he planned to write before Not My Father’s Son but then “the memoir happened to me”, Cumming spoke about the failure of the education system in the US leading to Donald Trump’s rise. “There is a repressed rage coming out about a black man having been the most powerful person in America,” he said. “But I feel the turning point for Trump happened when he attacked the [Khan] military family.”

Ageing doesn’t bother Cumming because it has made him happier. “But I’m 51 now,” he noted, “so I go home at 3am instead of 4.30am.” The response to Not My Father’s Son, which detailed years of physical and emotional abuse from his father, has been “incredible in terms of sharing things”. Asked whether he felt more Scottish in Scotland, where he has spent the last six weeks and continues to return every couple of months, or America Cumming replied: “I feel Scottish all the time but I am an outsider everywhere, which is no bad place to be.” 

 

 

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