The Twisted Library — April 16, 2014 at 10:55 am

Ethel Merman, Mother Teresa… And Me



Behind every face there is a story waiting to be told, and people realize that life may not always be filled with roses. In the new memoir Ethel Merman, Mother Teresa… And Me, author Tony Cointreau brings readers on an emotional ride that shows people his childhood and how he became the man he is today.

Tony Cointreau is the heir of the famous Cointreau liquor family, but as readers learn, there is no amount of money that happiness can buy. Taking the journey of reliving Cointreau’s life, people are introduced to his parents and individuals that impacted him, including his cold-hearted grandmother. Maman Genevieve, the matriarch of the family, treated people with no respect and unfortunately, Cointreau was not spared from her personality.

One summer afternoon he recounts the moment when he and his grandmother were in the field of her chateau in Paris looking at rabbits. “My grandmother asked which one was my favorite,” he writes. “When dinner was served that rabbit was on my plate.” Cointreau was shocked and disgusted and refused to eat his meal. “There were ten to fifteen people around me, including my parents, and no one defended me because she had the power and money,” he said.

The negative treatment from his grandmother continued throughout his life, but that did not turn Cointreau into a bitter person. “I had two things sensitivity and great courage,” he said. “Those two things are very powerful.”

He was not someone that had a normal childhood with actively present parents showing affection, but had a nanny. She would always make sure he and his brother looked perfect every time they saw their parents, because mother wanted perfection all the time.

Discussing how he handled being gay in an era where it was not embraced and describing his horrific experience of getting raped by his teacher, Cointreau puts his emotions on each page. Readers should not be surprised to find they cry at the difficult moments of his life, but also laugh and smile at his most cherished memories.


While traveling through his path in life, Cointreau is introduced to people that brought joy to his life. Lee Lehman, Ethel Merman and Mother Teresa were three women that gave Cointreau unconditional love and guidance and were considered his “other mothers.” The countless memories with the iconic Broadway star, philanthropist and living saint all culminate together making each story unforgettable. Jim Russo, Cointreau’s partner of 48 years, is another individual that has given him endless love and stood by his side throughout his life.

From a world traveler and attending some of the swankiest parties, Cointreau explains that the highlights of his life took place during his work at Gift of Love, a hospice for patients living with AIDS in New York. Within those years of volunteer work, he shows how compassion and a caring soul can help those in need. His days were filled with washing the stairs, taking care of the patients and being a friend to them in a time where no one wanted to be around people with AIDS.

Throughout the pages it is clear that Cointreau has become a strong person and does not define himself for what he has, but for what he can offer to others. Even though it is the story of his life, Ethel Merman, Mother Teresa… And Me is a different kind of memoir that allows you to reflect on your life and find new appreciation in what you have.

Twisted Talk: What’s the last memoir you read? Have you read this book? How did you like it? Discuss below!

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