Book Club newsletter: Life after Mayberry and Opie-shaming

Ron Howard and his new bride, Cheryl, with Henry Winkler at their wedding on June 7, 1975, in a photograph from "The Boys."
(Courtesy of Ron Howard and Clint Howard)

Good morning, and welcome to the L.A. Times Book Club newsletter.

In their new memoir, “The Boys,” Ron and Clint Howard open up about what it was like to grow up on some of the most popular TV shows of the ‘60s and ‘70s. At age 6, Ron became a familiar face on “The Andy Griffith Show” and later moved on to “Happy Days,” while Clint appeared on many shows, including starring opposite a giant brown bear on “Gentle Ben.”

In advance of book club night, Oscar-winning director Ron and character actor Clint talked with L.A. Times reporter Michael Ordoña about their lives as child actors and why they finally decided to write about it.


Here are a few nuggets.

Helpful advice: Ron had been approached over the years by publishers seeking an autobiography, but he hadn’t wanted to do it. Frequent collaborator Tom Hanks told him: “‘You probably should, but focus entirely on your childhood. That’s what everybody’s curious about.’ And he was right,” Ron says.

Their acting coach: Their dad, veteran actor Rance Howard, coached his sons on their scenes not as if they were child actors but just actors: He didn’t teach them to play cute for the camera but to listen and respond. He took them to movies such as “The Wild Bunch.”

Memorable moment: Clint was 7 when he appeared as Cmdr. Balok on the original “Star Trek” series. “I look none too happy to be fitted for a skullcap, but it beat having my head shaved,” he recalls.

In this photograph from "The Boys," Clint Howard is fitted with a bald cap for his role as Cmdr. Balok on "Star Trek."
In this photograph from “The Boys,” Clint Howard is fitted with a bald cap for his role as Cmdr. Balok on the original “Star Trek” series.
(Courtesy of Ron Howard and Clint Howard)

Life After Mayberry: One of the book’s surprises is that Ron got in plenty of fights as a kid, facing down bullies looking to take Opie down a peg. “I watched Ron navigate being ‘Opie-shamed’ and picked on,” Clint says.

On Oct. 15, Ron and Clint Howard will join Times columnist Mary McNamara for first the first in-person L.A. Times Book Club night since February 2020.


Get tickets on Eventbrite to attend the 7 p.m. event and enjoy a cocktail at L.A. Live’s Rooftop Terrace. You also can connect virtually to watch from home.

What would you like to ask Ron and Clint Howard? Send your questions and memories of watching their shows in an email to

Photos of Ron Howard, left, and of Clint Howard flank the cover of their new memoir, "The Boys"
Filmmaker Ron Howard, left, and actor Clint Howard will discuss their new memoir, “The Boys,” with L.A. Times columnist Mary McNamara.
(Jay L. Clendenin/Los Angeles Times; ‎ William Morrow/JeanPaul San Pedro)

November book

Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones will join us Nov. 30 to discuss her upcoming book, “The 1619 Project: A New Origin Story,” with Times executive editor Kevin Merida.

“The 1619 Project” expands on Hannah-Jones’ New York Times Magazine project that reframed American history to place slavery and its continuing legacy at the center of our national narrative. The book includes expanded essays as well as new fiction, poetry and photography that explores the legacy of slavery in present-day America.

Contributors include Michelle Alexander, Reginald Dwayne Betts, Jamelle Bouie, Nikky Finney, Vievee Francis, Yaa Gyasi, Terrance Hayes, Honorée Fanonne Jeffers, Robert Jones Jr., Ibram X. Kendi, Kiese Laymon, Darryl Pinckney, Claudia Rankine, Jason Reynolds, Danez Smith, Tracy K. Smith, Bryan Stevenson and Jesmyn Ward.

Next month Hannah-Jones also is publishing a companion children’s book, “The 1619 Project: Born on the Water.”

This Book Club-Ideas Exchange event will be at the Montalban Theatre in Hollywood at 7 p.m. PT Nov. 30. Get tickets.

Photos of Nikole Hannah-Jones and of Kevin Merida flank the cover of Hannah-Jones' book “The 1619 Project."
(James Estrin/One World; Kirk McKoy / L.A. Times)

Justice, climate change collide

Journalist Jaime Lowe joined book clubbers Sept. 28 for an eye-opening discussion with Times columnist Erika D. Smith about “Breathing Fire: Female Inmates on the Front Lines of California’s Wildfires.”

If you missed it, you’ll want to watch here.

And stay tuned for an upcoming Times documentary by video journalist Claire Hannah Collins about what happens to inmates who try to pursue firefighting careers after getting out of prison.

Times columnist Erika D. Smith, left, and journalist Jaime Lowe
Times columnist Erika D. Smith, left, and journalist Jaime Lowe discuss Lowe’s book “Breathing Fire: Female Inmates on the Front Lines of California’s Wildfires.”
(Los Angeles Times)

Keep reading

S is for Say What? Santa Barbara author Sue Grafton vowed she’d never sell her bestselling alphabet series featuring private eye Kinsey Millhone to Hollywood. She died in 2017. “Many of you also know that she was adamant that her books would never be turned into movies or TV shows, and in that same vein, she would never allow a ghost writer to write in her name,” her daughter Jamie Clark wrote at the time. “Because of all of those things, and out of the deep abiding love and respect for our dear sweet Sue, as far as we in the family are concerned, the alphabet now ends at Y.” This week, A+E Studios announced a TV deal for the mystery series, with Steve Humphrey, Grafton’s husband of 40 years, as executive producer.

Finding an off-ramp: “A venerable friend stops by one day to recommend a poem. He’s on his way to fish the Colorado River, which runs between our houses, but instead steers his old truck into our gravel driveway, apparently with a singular purpose.” So begins author Martin J. Smith’s essay about leaving Southern California for a quieter life “by the side of the road.”

Notes of a native son. In his new collection, “Inter State,” José Vadi unravels California from the inside. “I marveled,” writes Sophia Stewart in Alta Magazine, “to see California captured with such specificity: the tradition of Disneyland grad night; the special hell (and occasional bliss) of the freeways; the refuge of the Getty and the record stores on Telegraph; communing over late-night In-N-Out or scarfing carne asada quesadillas near Lake Merritt.”

Reading the West: Alta compiles a roundup of 13 books for October. New releases include UC Irvine professor Claire Vaye Watkins’ pseudo-autobiographical novel “I Love You But I’ve Chosen Darkness.” “It’s a beautifully arranged tackle box of everything Watkins does best — cut-through-the-bone narrative of family apocalypses; custom blending of the historical, the unimaginable and the impossible; enchanting, terrifying encounters with the American West,” Hillary Kelly writes in The Times.

From struggles to screen: In 2019 Stephanie Land’s memoir of life as a single mom, “Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother’s Will to Survive,made Barack Obama‘s Summer Reading List. This month “Maid” debuted as a Netflix series, with Land as an executive producer.

American road trip: Novelist Amor Towles returns with “The Lincoln Highway,” an old-fashioned, meandering tale of two orphaned brothers in search of a future.

Book prizes: On Thursday Tanzanian writer Abdulrazak Gurnah won the Nobel Prize for literature. Discover his work with these five books. Earlier this week, novelists Lauren Groff, Anthony Doerr and Hanif Abdurraqib are among the named finalists for the 2021 National Book Awards.

Murals capture our stories: Mike Sonksen, a.k.a. Mike the Poet, writes about 12 SoCal public art projects that explore race and marginalized histories, via

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