|I don't know about you, but my image of the "typical" male rock star is based on some combination of reality, fantasy, wishful thinking and Hollywood.
It didn't take Chuck Panozzo long to realize that he didn't fit that image. It took him much longer to come to grips with that fact, and to tell even his family, friends, fans and fellow Styx members that he is gay.
The public image of someone who was born and raised on the South Side of Chicago and went on to form a successful rock band is, it turns out, not the real image of Chuck Panozzo. "I didn't want to live in denial anymore," writes Panozzo about his decision to 'out' himself at a Chicago Human Rights Campaign Dinner in 2001.
"My best friend was in denial about being HIV positive, and he died of AIDS. I didn't want to be that person. I didn't want to be a coward about this thing anymore."
The Grand Illusion (also the name of a 1977 Styx album) takes us from Panozzo's Italian Catholic upbringing through a brief time in a seminary, a stint as a high school art teacher, through the founding (with his twin brother, John and Dennis DeYoung) of the band that went on to crank out four consecutive platinum albums and sell more than 54-million records. All of this is set against the backdrop of Panozzo's struggles to deal with his homosexuality, and his eventual battle with HIV.
Published by AMACOM BooksFor Styx fans, the book offers a fascinating "insider's view" of the formation and evolution of the band. Panozzo hopes it will serve a larger purpose, too. "On the surface, it's the story about one gay man's struggle to come to terms with himself. But it is really about anyone struggling to come to terms with a troubling aspect of his or her life. If I can make one person question why he's hiding his authentic self -- or living in any kind of denial -- and give him courage to make a change, then I've succeeded."
This is a "tell all" book, but it is about himself that the author "tells all" in a way that gives a new perspective on a band that we just thought we knew everything about.
This is a "must read" for anyone who is a Styx fan, or who can appreciate a true life story of someone who privately battles his personal demons even as he is publicly enjoying professional success.
|Review By David White for Classic Rock|