HITS, HEATHENS, AND HIPPOS: Stories from an Agent, Activist, and Adventurer by Marty Essen is a fun read, and at points inspirational. It’s funny sometimes too (though not as humorous as one might anticipate given the author’s stated intentions). However, in the end, the stories included in this eclectic memoir seem akin to a how-to primer about keeping one’s morale high while surviving the typical (and sometimes not-so-typical!) ups and downs of modern day life, with a hearty helping of relationship advice from the author thrown in, as well as some political opinions for good measure. While Essen would love to have succeeded beyond all expectations as the manager of a superstar rock band, or made it big as the owner of a top metropolitan radio station or as a New York Times #1 best-selling author–even though he has not (to-date) become any of these things–his life has still been mighty fine. Married to the same life partner and travel companion for many years, the author interweaves a colorful career trajectory with detailed accounts of his appealing love story. He describes how he made certain decisions when encountering choice points on the highway of Life–such as meeting two wonderful women around the same time, yet somehow knowing that beginning to date the one who would eventually become his wife was the correct path to pursue for the best possible outcome for all concerned.
The varied stories within this book easily delight and entertain. Yet there are also certain dogmatic points of view presented which some readers may find questionable and/or offensive. For instance, Essen writes: “Our marriage could have survived one of us being a Republican in the 1980s, because back then people of differing opinions were much more likely to agree on a common set of facts. Now, if Deb began declaring Fox News ‘truthful’ and the Associated Press ‘fake,’ believed global warming was a hoax, and subscribed to the long list of conspiracy theories spewed forth by the far right, I’d probably head for the door. Not because we disagreed on political points, but because I couldn’t respect someone with the willful ignorance to believe that only ideology-tailored news sources were truthful, and that all the major, legitimate, vetted news organizations worldwide got together each day to report fake news in a unified voice. Conversely, if I was the one subscribing to The Cult of Alternative Facts, I’m sure Deb would say ‘buh bye’ to me too.” Considering how many now-verifiable news stories were suppressed in the 1940s through the present time, only to subsequently come to light at the dogged insistence of courageous investigative journalists — examples such as Bernstein and Woodward/Watergate, Eileen Welsome’s reveal of U.S. Cold War medical experimentation crimes, Gary Webb and the Contra drug scandal, Ronan Farrow’s expose regarding Harvey Weinstein’s stranglehold on various major news organizations come to mind — the author’s disdain for the concept of ‘fake news,’ accompanied by scorn for anyone who queries the legitimacy of what passes as standard, vetted, mainstream reportage which a large percentage of the public have come to no longer blindly trust, seems both ill-considered and ill-advised.
With thought-provoking explorations into making peace with family members who adhere to differing religious values, tales of his time as a talent agent, and escapades with gigantic rainforest monitor lizards–there is much to enjoy in Marty Essen’s memoir HITS, HEATHENS, AND HIPPOS: Stories from an Agent, Activist, and Adventurer.
~C.S. Holmes for IndieReader