Before she became the legendary Mama Cass—one quarter of the mega-huge folk group The Mamas and the Papas—Cass Eliot was a girl from Baltimore trying to make it in the big city. After losing parts to stars like Barbra Streisand on the Broadway circuit, Cass found her place in the music world with an unlikely group of cohorts.
The Mamas and the Papas released five studio albums in their three years of existence. It was at once one of the most productive (and profitable) three years any band has ever had, and also one of the most bizarre and dysfunctional groups of people to ever come together to make music. Through it all, Cass struggled to keep sight of her dreams—and her very identity.
Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language; Strong sexual themes; Drugs; Alcohol; Smoking; Nudity
Booklist (April 15, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 16))
Before she was Cass Elliot of the Mamas and the Papas, she was Ellen Cohen, whose parents ran a Baltimore deli and fostered her love of music. French graphic novelist Bagieu (Exquisite Corpse, 2015) tells Cass’ pre-fame story from the perspectives of many who knew her. Her little sister says it was her arrival that made Ellen eat and eat to please their parents. A classmate believes Ellen when, the day they met, she tells him she’s going to be a star. Later, Michelle Phillips wishes Cass saw her as a friend, not a rival, while John Phillips insists Cass has no place in their band—a fight he loses when a record executive declares it’s Cass who makes their sound complete. This testimonial approach—a woman’s story told by everyone but her—works, thanks to Bagieu’s fascination with her subject. Her pencil-sketched characters are distinctive and emotive (and occasionally high and big-eyed), while their lively world is storybook-cute and highly referential to the music Cass made so familiar. Have headphones at the ready.
Library Journal (June 1, 2017)
Ellen Naomi Cohen (1941-74), the self-dubbed Cass Elliot, spread her beautiful contralto and extravagant personality across the pop music scene of the 1960s and 1970s as part of The Mamas and the Papas and, later, as a solo act. Here, Bagieu (Exquisite Corpse) packs in all the relationship drama, body shaming, and bouts of intoxication (in multiple senses) that fed into Elliot realizing her dream to be a superstar. Large in body and personality as well as in vocal charm, Elliot gained fan adulation more readily than friendship or love. Today, her persistence and self-confidence encourages women-and men-to mobilize their talent despite setbacks. Narrating from the viewpoints of those close to Elliot, Bagieu drew the entire story in free-spirited black pencil that metaphorically references the spontaneity of those decades. The sassy, fluid art creates a slightly fictionalized yet paradigm-shifting portrait of the star as she might have wanted to be remembered. VERDICT Elliot’s story will charm boomers who remember the original songs as well as younger ages who can easily identify with Elliot, her starry eyes, and her struggles.
About the Author
Pénélope Bagieu, (born 22 January 1982 Paris), is a French illustrator and comic designer.
Penelope Bagieu graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Economic and Social studies, she spent a year at ESAT Paris, then at the National School of Decorative Arts in Paris and then at Central Saint Martins College of Art & Design. Multimedia and entertainment, where she graduated in December 2006.
Her website is www.penelope-jolicoeur.com.
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