Columbia College Chicago Theatre Dept. Alum Launches New Book ‘With Love, Mommie Dearest’ May 7 with Events in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Chicago

A. Ashley Hoff (Photo: Atila Sikora)

Columbia College Chicago Theatre Department alum A. Ashley Hoff, who majored in the Theatre Department’s BA Program in Theatre, is the author of the highly anticipated new book With Love, Mommie Dearest: The Making of an Unintentional Camp Classic, which will be published May 7, 2024, by Chicago Review Press.

The book, which includes a foreword by Emmy Award-winning comedy writer Bruce Vilanch, chronicles the behind-the-screen story of Mommie Dearest, the 1981 movie version of Christina Crawford’s bestselling 1978 memoir about growing up as the adopted daughter of screen icon Joan Crawford, in which Faye Dunaway starred as Crawford. An excerpt from the book was recently published in People magazine. To read the People article, click here.

Hoff, a noted chronicler of Hollywood film and TV lore, launched his entertainment-industry career as a student at the Columbia College Theatre Department when he was a student intern at the Harrise Davidson and Associates talent agency headed by Harrise Davidson, then a Theatre Department faculty member. “[This] led eventually to my becoming an on-camera agent (commercial, industrial, TV and film, though I also booked a few actors in mainstage legit theatre at the Goodman and Steppenwolf) at the Baker and Rowley Talent Agency,” Hoff says, “before moving to Los Angeles and working in the commercial department at Abrams Artists Agency for six and a half years. After taking career advice from [the singer] Charo, I turned to my real passion of writing.” In 2019, Hoff published his first book, Match Game 101: A Backstage History of Match Game.

“What I had always appreciated about Columbia is that all the teachers were teaching based on their real experiences, rather than simply teaching out of a book,” recalls Hoff. “All the teachers worked in their respective fields. [Faculty members] Brad Mott and Barbara Robertson were instructive because they were currently working as actors in town. Harrise Davidson taught her class about surviving in the business because, as head of a Chicago talent agency, she knew her business. . . .
“There was an advantage to being in downtown Chicago: you were not simply confined to a pretty, ‘safe’ campus removed from the city, or locked into a conservatory atmosphere removed from the realities (and downsides) of the business. Having come from a somewhat more suburban background, the grittiness of day-to-day city life, coupled with the genuine competetiveness of Columbia’s curriculum, proved both eye-opening and enlightening. I really am grateful for the experiences I had there, the learning experiences, invaluable contacts, and truly lifelong friendships formed there.”

Hoff will formally launch his book with an event at Fabulosa Books in San Francisco on Tuesday, May 7, hosted by drag performer Peaches Christ, host of San Francisco’s popular Midnight Mass movie series.

And on Friday, May 10, Hoff will join actress Ann Maguson for a Q&A at Book Soup bookstore; for more information, click here. Magnuson calls the book an “outrageously entertaining expose [that] brilliantly disentangles the glamorous mess of Hollywood narcissism without ever losing sight of the abused child at the center of it all.” And on the LGBT website, entertainment critic Michael Musto writes: “With Love, Mommie Dearest: The Making of an Unintentional Camp Classic . . . meticulously dissects the making of the film and why it ended up as ill advised as a nice dress on a wire hanger.”

On Tuesday, June 4, at 7 PM Chicago’s Music Box Theatre will host a screening of Mommie Dearest followed by a Q&A with Hoff moderated by Chicago film critic and screenwriter Richard Knight, Jr. For more information on that Pride Month event, click here. For tickets, click here.