Chandler’s memoir focuses on her brother and father
Erin Chandler is many things: an actress, a writer, a producer. She is also a Chandler – granddaughter to former governor, U.S. Senator and baseball commissioner A.B. “Happy” Chandler; first cousin of former Congressman Ben Chandler; and, it should be noted, first cousin to Woodford Sun publisher Whit Chandler. In her memoir, “June Bug Versus Hurricane,” Chandler writes about all these people and a bit about her acting career, but primarily, it is an account of her relationship with her father, Dan, and brother, Chan. The book’s title is a line from the Lucinda Williams song, “Car Wheels on a Gravel Road,” and Chandler said it’s a reference to the way her brother lived life on the edge. “I’m thrilled to have it out,” Chandler said during an interview while she was being driven from San Francisco to Malibu, Calif., for a book tour of sorts. “I’ve been working on it for 10 years, so …” she said with a laugh. Chandler said the manuscript served as her thesis when she was working on her master of fine arts degree from Spalding University, where actors brought some of her recollections to life. Chandler agreed that there’s a good deal of sadness in her memoir. “A lot of it, especially the hardest part … about Chan (who died in 1993 at the age of 30) … they’re such giant figures in my life, my brother and my dad. And putting them as characters, and writing these scenes, I was able to remove myself enough to just make it so the reader could understand the scene and where we were and whatever time frame. “So, it does make me sad. I think about them a lot of the time anyway, and … I started writing it because I was coming to terms with how crazy Chan and I were most of our lives …” she said. When Erin and Chan were young, their parents, Dan and Lynne, divorced. Much of their childhood was spent in Las Vegas, where their father, Dan, was a casino host, paid to attract high rollers and mingle with them – some of whom gambled with funds obtained illegally. Chandler calls the book “a look back at the insane life we led, and for the most part, I feel like we did a pretty good job.” Chandler said she believes had Chan not died (his death was ruled a suicide by the coroner in Las Vegas, a designation Dan Chandler tried unsuccessfully to change), he would have gotten his life together. He was about to go through drug and alcohol rehabilitation again, and, when sober, was a polite, charming man, she said. “He never could let go of the fact that our parents got divorced and he was taken away from Kentucky, where he was so happy with his cousins, and felt safe with the grandparents and everything. Even though he had an amazing life, and made friends everywhere we went, it was like, ‘This is not what we’re supposed to be doing,’ because my Dad was always drumming into us that we’re supposed to be in Versailles, supposed to be in Kentucky. And I never bought into it, but Chan did …” she said. Dan Chandler outlived his son by a little more than a decade, passing away at age 70 in his hometown, the year after Erin and her then-husband left the famous Chandler “cabin” after a sometimes-unhappy attempt to share it with him. She admitted her father wasn’t the greatest “babysitter,” often parking his children in a casino while he worked. Some of her father’s friends were criminals, at least one was shot to death, and many were not sterling examples for a child. Though the three main characters of “June Bug Versus Hurricane” spent much of their lives away from Versailles, Chandler knows many long-time residents remember them well. Everybody loved her dad, she said. “He just loved to live life. That was sort of what he drummed into us …” she said. Others may recall the times they dropped by the cabin to party, or the day Chan was arrested and taken to the old Woodford County Jail, where Chandler said he charmed fellow inmates and jailers alike. “A lot of them remember it, and they all have fond memories, unless, you know, he beat them up or something …” she said with a laugh. “For the most part, I always hear good things.” As for Chandler, she’s back home and living in the cabin (which she inherited but later sold to her Uncle Ben to help pay for a house in Los Angeles), and seeing old friends like Tracy, with whom she put on shows as a child. “We had a dance to every song on the “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” album, and we would charge people five cents to see our little show on Elm Street,” she said. Chandler said she’ll spend the next three to six months promoting her book. On Monday, when she was interviewed by The Sun, she’d just dropped off copies at the famous City Lights bookstore in San Francisco and was headed to Book Soup in Los Angeles. “June Bug Versus Hurricane” is also available on Amazon.com and, Chandler said, will soon be on Kindle. She also has promotional trips and readings scheduled in North Carolina and one in Berea at the end of the month. She also hopes to do readings at the Woodford County Library and Joseph Beth Booksellers in Lexington. “I have some friends who I’m trying to get it to Oprah – that’s my dream, of course, and I was like, ‘Just get it to Oprah,’” she said. Chandler said she doesn’t know how long she’ll stay in the cabin, but already has plans for two new books – the first composed of Hollywood stories, some of which were originally in her memoir, and another inspired by her relationship with an aunt stricken by Alzheimer’s disease. These days, Chandler said, she is “really, really well. I’m really happy. A lot of the darkness in ‘June Bug Versus Hurricane’ was just sort of like, I was doing scenes of the dark part. I was actually very happy most of that time. It’s just that I am emotional, so every once in a while, I get emotional, but I’ve grown up 10 years past what those times are … “I feel really happy to be back in Kentucky. I’ve kind of got the Los Angeles out of my system … and I kind of feel like I’m just starting to have the life that was meant to be …” she said.