Have you ever had a mischievous cat go MIA on you? For an hour, a day, or longer? If so, you can relate to Gina Gershon’s recently released book, In Search of Cleo: How I Found My Pussy and Lost My Mind.
It’s the true, titillating, twisted tale of how the actress’ beloved black cat went missing while in the care of a clueless cat sitter — and how Gershon spent two months tirelessly following up on every lead from every crackpot (each more convincingly film-noirish than the last), going to impressive lengths to retrieve him. (It’s not a spoiler to say Cleo makes it home, especially when that info is proudly placed right there in the subtitle.)
But to call this simply a book isn’t entirely accurate. Sure, In Search of Cleo is full of pages, 162 of them, covered in paragraphs of type as well as photographs and illustrations. It’s more like the transcript of an entertaining one-woman show, in which the narrator talks to the reader one-to-one, telling her hard-to-believe story in a conversational style like one friend giving another juicy gossip on the phone.
And that, she tells Catster, was her goal.
“I really wanted to keep it like I was telling a story, to make it seem like you’re right there, but I didn’t want to depend on some fancy ghost writer,” Gershon says. “It was a strange balance.” By the end of the book’s last chapter, one wishes there were a few more to laugh through. “I’m so glad you weren’t my editor!” the author says with a laugh, adding, “I didn’t want to stretch it too much.”
Throughout, memorable characters, from psychics to psychotics (including, memorably, an obsessed fan who poses as a dental technician), drop in to give Gershon leads. Some are quite helpful, others less-so, but the sum total yields an eye-opening life lesson about love, trust, and letting go — whether you’re a cat person in search of a lost feline companion or you’re just missing someone dear to you.
In fact, In Search of Cleo is less a literary book than a tour-de-force multimedia monologue, in which Gershon — whose own persona is perhaps even bigger than any of the larger-than-life roles she’s played in such cult films as Showgirls and Bound — reveals a raw, engaging dramatic voice. Plus, she plays a mean Jew’s harp. This singular talent, first displayed during her childhood in L.A., is featured in the audio version of the book, which features her musical collaboration with jazz bassist Christian McBride. “I love the book, but the audio is really fun,” Gershon says.
Gershon notes at the end of the book that a portion of In Search of Cleo‘s proceeds “will be given to these excellent animal organizations that are close to my heart: Green Chimneys, The Lange Foundation, Pets Alive Animal Sanctuary, and North Shore Animal League.” What made her select those particular groups? “There are a zillion I could’ve listed, and they all do great work,” she says. “But these are ones that friends of mine are working really hard with. Green Chimneys is amazing,” she adds. “It’s so incredible what they do with animals and kids.”
In Search of Cleo also reveals another of Gershon’s talents: Drawing. Several of her line drawings are reproduced in the book, and her self portrait with Cleo might remind modern-art mavens of Modigliani. “I’m, like, a doodler,” she says, adding that she plans to explore painting in the future. Asked whether she’s ever donated one of her artworks to a cat charity for auction, she said, “No, but that’s a great idea!”
In the department of happy endings, In Search of Cleo does not disappoint — kitty comes home in the end, mysteriously, almost magically. What does Gershon suspect Cleo was doing for the excruciating two months of their separation? “I think he was in survival mode, waiting for me to come get him,” she says. “He never really told me!”
Throughout the book, we hear of Cleo’s predilection for canned tuna. These days, however, Gershon reports, “He’s getting older — he’s 15 now — so we had to change his diet. No more tuna!” But don’t feel too sorry for this pampered puss: He still gets his choice of Chinese takeout: “Chicken with broccoli, his favorite.”