BY Barbara Payton
I Am Not Ashamed, first published in 1963, is the absurdist tale of a forgotten movie star’s unnerving decline. When sleazy journalist Leo Guild arrived at Barbara Payton’s flophouse Hollywood apartment, he was surprised to find that the thirty-five-year-old former actress was working as a prostitute to support her alcohol addiction. He brought her cases of cheap wine, turned on the tape recorder, and she began to speak . . .
Surreal and often depressing, I Am Not Ashamed is an anti-memoir: as Payton reveals intimate moments of her life, she slides down and down the wormhole of her memories and watches her life in numb horror. Unable to recover or make any changes, Payton remains locked in admiration of her brief Hollywood fame. A self-proclaimed “con girl in specialized areas of living,” Payton is pathologically self-destructive. Her favorite topic is men – how she used men to get ahead, and how they used her. In its bizarre frankness, I Am Not Ashamed follows in the autobiographical tradition of Jack Black’s You Can’t Win and Liz Renay’s My Face for the World to See, and the literary tradition of Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s Notes from Underground and William S. Burroughs’ Junkie.