Valley of the Dolls Fifty Year Anniversary, and, Valley of the Dudes
There have been several pieces written this year celebrating the fifty year mark for the pop culture classic, Valley of the Dolls.
With 31 million copies sold to date and 30 foreign editions that place the book in the best-selling ranks of “To Kill a Mockingbird” and “Gone With the Wind,” “Valley” is hardly obscure.
It’s a coming-of-age story that follows Anne, Jennifer and Neely, friends who contend with pretty much all seven deadly sins on their path to fame, from 1945 to 1965. The cult 1967 movie version starred Barbara Parkins, Sharon Tate and Patty Duke, and their big-haired, Pucci-swathed looks and melodramatic lines are frequently invoked by entertainment and design professionals to this day.
“I’ve got to leave something on this earth before I go, and I don’t want it discovered after I go,” Jacqueline Susann wrote in her diary on New Year’s Day, 1963. She would fulfill that ambition three years later with the publication of her second novel, Valley of the Dolls. By the time Susann died of breast cancer in 1974, it had sold 17m copies, spawned a hit movie and made her the favorite punching bag of a literary world that surely envied her success.
And still, fifty years later, the book is resonating with readers from all over the world. People re-read it constantly. I’m not exactly sure why that is, but one reason could be the fact that it helped define an era, especially with regard to the sexual revolution. And it’s still selling copies.
When I was asked to write the parody, Valley of the Dudes, I decided to do it for several reasons, one of which has to do with the fact that The Gay Liberation movement was just getting started about the same time Valley of the Dolls came out and gay fiction was on the far fringes of publishing. Gay readers had no content readily available to them. Unless they lived in a city where they could find small book shops that carried a limited amount of gay fiction, they had to read books like Valley of the Dolls and imagine what it would be like if the characters were gay. And that’s what they did.
Many things have changed for LGBTQ people since Valley of the Dolls was released fifty years ago, however, gay fiction still isn’t mainstream. Of course thanks to the Internet and technology, not to mention digital publishing, gay readers can now find more gay fiction than ever before in the history of publishing. And my goal was to parody a heteronormative cult classic with all gay characters, with the kind of erotic romance readers didn’t get fifty years ago. It might not be for everyone, and I fully realized that at the time I wrote it, and I realize that now, but it has resonated with some people who read gay fiction…at least according to some of the Amazon reviews I’ve had.
Here are three short excerpts from three reviews I’ve had, verbatim…
Let me start by saying, I have not finished this book yet. I started it last night and it has drawn me in, just like the movie valley of the dolls.
So naturally i devoured this book. It follows the original story pretty well, only with a twist. I just can’t get enough dolls, or dudes!!!!
Ryan Field has given a new meaning to the word–Dudes, in this story. He created six powerful characters who made me mad, laugh, and cry. Ryan held nothing back, he let it go and came up with a wonderful story about six friends who meet in their twenties and go through life together.
So with all this said, we’ll be re-releasing Valley of the Dudes this year with Riverdale Avenue Books, with a few minor additions to the original book, and a brand new cover. And this time I wrote an in-depth introduction to the book that I will post here on the blog eventually. I don’t do these parodies anymore because they tend to be more difficult to write than original stories, like Unabated, or my most recent, Uncertainty. In fact, they take too much thought sometimes and they tend to receive too much criticism. But I think the most important point I’d like to get across is that Valley of the Dudes was written with an LGBTQ goal, but it was still a humble effort that was never designed to compete with, or take from, the original book. In a way, it is a tribute to the original book and to Jacqueline Susann. The story isn’t identical, and the narrative and dialogue are completely original for a gay parody of this kind.
This is the story of several talented young gay men, of their fight for recognition, and of the unexpected price they will pay for getting the fame they so desperately crave. Their lives are charmed in many ways, the secrets they keep hidden rule them, the sex never seems to end, and the gay lives they lead appear magical on the surface. However, beneath all the orgasms and glamour, are the addictions to alcohol, pills, and substances that help them survive in this jungle of ecstasy and fortune…the “Dudes” of the stars. They are the real secrets to success and exploitation and survival in the Valley of the Dudes.