Actor Harry Hamlin's memoir, reviewed by Stephen Lowman

Wednesday, November 24, 2010; 3:49 PM

Full Frontal Nudity: The Making of an Accidental Actor

By Harry Hamlin. Scribner. 275 pp. $24

We know Harry Hamlin is a heartthrob (the authority on these matters, People magazine, named him "Sexiest Man Alive" in 1987), but who knew the man famous for playing an attorney on "L.A. Law" was such a scofflaw? His "sordid life of crime" began at the tender age of 4, when he routinely went outside the house to pee in the food bowl meant for the family's Dalmatian. Then, in the fourth grade, he was kicked out of school for writing a book report on "Mein Kampf." Later, while studying theater at U.C. Berkeley, he was busted for possessing drugs at San Francisco's airport. He spent several days in jail, where he was assigned toilet cleaning duty. His fellow inmates would miss the bowl on purpose.

Hamlin's frustrations with his genitals bookend "Full Frontal Nudity." It opens on an awkward bathroom encounter with a nursery school teacher that leaves him disturbed and insecure. It ends with him taking a role in "Equus," a play requiring him to drop trou and put his insecurities on full display night after night. This is a hormonal coming-of-age story.

Hamlin rarely talks about his wife, ex-wives or fatherhood. He doesn't reflect on the craft of acting. The words "L.A. Law" never appear. Instead, his focus is his college years, and he only serves up stories about the good stuff: sex, drugs and the friendships that helped to define him as an adult. Like an out-of-the-blue e-mail from an old buddy who wants to fill you in on all the crazy stuff he's been up to, "Full Frontal Nudity" is irresistible, funny and surprisingly affecting.

lowmans@washpost.com

- Stephen Lowman


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