If I am being completely honest, I have been waiting for this book of essays from Bruce Campbell for two years now. I have read his showbiz memoirs (If Chins Could Kill and Hail to the Chin) as well as my personal favorite effort of his, Make Love the Bruce Campbell Way, which is completely meta and a terrific parody on the actor’s persona and career, not to mention laugh out loud funny. His 2019 paperback release of Hail to the Chin, the Requiem for Ash edition resides in my personal collection as well. The actor added 50 pages devoted to his life beyond Ash Williams, the character he inhabited for close to 40 years in the Evil Dead franchise. Plus, it gave heartbroken fans the reason why he chose to walk away from the iconic role. It’s hard to watch your heroes grow older and to see them as human beings. It’s even harder when you begin to realize that they aren’t the roles that they inhabit on screen.
Perhaps why I enjoy Campbell so much as a writer is his ability to engage his audience. You never feel like you are reading sterile narratives or boring accounts of his life on set. Anyone who has read his books knows that he makes you feel as if he is having a conversation with you. His trademark wit is ever present and he has no pretense or airs about him. What you see is what you get, literally. He speaks his mind and isn’t afraid to give an unpopular view on the industry that he has devoted four decades of his life to. His autobiographies while filled with humor are also personal. There is no “sugar coating” on some of his experiences. He lets you see him, warts and all.
So, I was beyond thrilled when I was given the chance to take a “sneak peek” at The Cool Side of My Pillow. It is an easy read. If you think summertime, beach fare you would be spot on. For me, I sat down, dove in and finished it in one sitting. Something very important to note about Bruce’s compilation, it only mentions Evil Dead at length once and is done in reference to an entire segment entitled, “Ode to Stephen King,” where he thanks the author for endorsing Sam Raimi’s original film and for saving his “professional hide” with Evil Dead II. So, if you go into this collection of essays thinking that they are dedicated to his years being covered in blood and gore, you are going to be disappointed. This is an intimate work that will take you inside the mind of Campbell. If you ever wanted to get a sense of who he is as a person, then you will absolutely fall in love with his latest venture.
The Cool Side of My Pillow opens with the actor’s take on the COVID-19 crisis and how it affected him personally and professionally. He also talks about the pandemic on a larger scale and how it will alter our current landscape as we know it. This is a man who is introspective. That may be hard to believe because it is rare when we get a glimpse into his opinions and thoughts on current events. A natural showman, he knows how to control what image he projects to his fans but within the confines of his book, all of the larger than life persona is stripped away. One could imagine that his essays are discussions that you might have with him in a dive bar somewhere.
If you want to get a sense of who the real Bruce Campbell might be, that is revealed in two sections: “A Little Effort Goes a Long Way” and “To Tell the Truth.” In the former essay, the actor recounts two instances when he was growing up where he learned that hard work and the ability to meet potential problems head on will serve you well when you enter adulthood. Here is a guy that definitely doesn’t sit and wallow in the mire. Instead, he figures out ways to overcome challenges. This determination and drive are present in the way that he handled all the obstacles he faced with Sam Raimi and Rob Tapert while making Evil Dead. He never gave up. For anyone who has ever had doubts about their direction in life or pursuing their dreams this particular chapter provides sound advice and even more importantly, hope.
“To Tell the Truth,” was a segment that really resonated with this particular reader. Campbell talks about speaking out on social media back in 2016 on the “Samara Weaving incident.” When a certain political party used a makeup continuity photo of the actress from Ash vs Evil Dead and tried to insinuate that she was an innocent conservative protester beaten up at a liberal rally, the actor sprang into action and called this blatant falsehood out. In this day and age, it is sometimes hard to speak up when faced with unethical practices but this is something that Bruce feels compelled to do. It is clear that he isn’t enamored with deceit of any kind and won’t hesitate to point that out to offending parties. In recounting a moment from his youth, he tells of how he took care of a gossip in a theater group he was involved in at the time. His remedy included a cleverly planted rumor and then making the girl read the definitions of dishonesty, pettiness, gossip and deceit on a “date.” I don’t want to explain any further details because it is one of the many highlights in this book that future readers need to experience for themselves.
Some of the other areas that Bruce addresses are social media which he has titled, “The Princess Di Factor,” “Politics” (which is a sight gag and a hysterical one at that), and one of my favorite moments, an epic rant entitled, “Shut the Fuck Up.” In this humorous essay, Campbell doesn’t hold back how he feels about noisy dogs, people on cell phones, car radios and many more items.
There are anecdotes involving his brushes with greatness, an audition he did for Mel Brooks, a running joke with Walter Koenig on the set of Moontrap, and his moment of Zen where he puts his faith in the universe to take care of a pesky travel situation with surprising results. The Cool Side of My Pillow is a thoroughly entertaining book filled with heart, insight and humor from Bruce Campbell and is definitely worthy of adding to your collection. For information on the release date and how you can purchase a copy of The Cool Side of My Pillow bookmark his website at bruce-campbell.com.