Crazy cat lady is a label many of us wear with pride. Gina Gershon, star of great cinematic fare like Bound and Showgirls is no exception. In The Search for Cleo: How I Found My Pussy and Lost My Mind, Gershon engagingly and humorously recounts returning from the Cannes Film Festival to discover that her assistant, Cassandra with a Star (because she always signed her first name with a superscripted star at the end) has lost Cleo, the author’s domestic short-haired black cat, while transporting him to the groomer’s in West Hollywood. Yes, Gershon’s first question to her assistant was, “Why were you taking my cat to the groomer in the first place!” Cassandra with a Star has no legitimate answer. Thus begins the desperate search for Cleo.
Gershon recounts how she spent two months combing the alleys, bushes and streets of West Hollywood at 4:30 every morning looking for Cleo, armed with a can of tuna and a knife for her own protection, calling out to him in song. During these early morning sojourns she makes friends with a colorful cast of characters (because who else is out at 4:30 every morning in Hollywood). Looking for guidance she visits psychics, shamans and a Santeria priest; hangs flyers, sleeps with her door open, and begins to take strange comfort in television preachers. She is also “reunited” with several false Cleos and has to rehome them.
Each journey Gershon undertakes to find her beloved feline triggers an event in her childhood or young adulthood, focusing on her relationship with past pets, ostensibly exploring the nature of the strong bonds we form with them and how animals can be our greatest teachers when it comes to human interaction. Past and present are reflected upon with equal doses of sweetness, wisdom and self-deprecation. There are many laugh-out-loud moments as she recognizes the insane measures she’s undertaking to find Cleo (one involves urine and Tropicana bottles).
And in a pleasantly surprising turn, In Search of Cleo also tackles tough metaphysical issues as the hunt for the elusive feline brings up issues of life, loss, death, and the realm of unexplainable phenomena. Does Mr. Cleo return home? You’ll have to read this highly enjoyable book to find out.