“The Dakota Winters” is a story of historical fame and privilege, told through the eyes of Anton Winter. Anton is the son of Buddy Winter, a famous talk show host who is attempting a comeback after having a breakdown on his own show and simply walking out. The Winter family lives in the famous Dakota, a cooperative apartment building in New York City, where parts of Rosemary’s Baby was filmed.
John Lennon and Yoko Ono lived in the Dakota and they play a significant part in Anton’s story. At the beginning of the book Anton has returned from Gabon on the West Coast of Central Africa, where he almost dies from malaria and a variety of other maladies. He is convalescing at his parent’s apartment in the Dakota. We learn that Anton has a sister, Rachel, who finds the whole fame and fortune thing an inconvenience, and brother, Kip, who is a great (but not great enough) tennis player. Kip and Rachel are really just side stories.
The Winter family live a privileged life although money is running out since Buddy walked off his talk show. Anton’s mother had been an accomplished actress and when we meet her she is helping Joan Kennedy with Ted Kennedy’s presidential race.
The family takes a trip to Lake Placid for the Winter Olympics and the efforts to get Buddy back on television begin in earnest. Throughout this process we learn how dependent Buddy is on his son—for his material, his connections and intense moral support. Anton has issues with this dependence.
The book has three pieces—getting Buddy back on television, Anton’s relationship with John Lennon and the death of John Lennon. All three are wrapped up together.
Anton and John become friends and John invites Anton to join him on a cruise on his boat to Bermuda. During the journey the boat is hit by a storm that they almost do not survive. John and Anton become close from the experience.
Finally, Buddy gets a new talk show, a once a week event on Friday nights. The show is precarious and Anton is in the process of getting John, Paul, Ringo and George together on the show (everyone has agreed except George), when John is killed. Everything speeds up from there.
The book is well written and the historical references interspersed throughout are interesting. I really enjoyed the portions focused on John Lennon and the Beatles, but I found Anton’s angst over wealth and privilege annoying. At one point he comments that “Being famous seemed like a curse, something you couldn’t escape. It followed you everywhere and you could never decide to suddenly be anonymous.”
The thing you get from the book is that absolutely everyone, regardless of fame, fortune or position, has problems and personal issues, but in Anton’s story, those problems and issues seem to me indulgent and unsympathetic. The angst Anton describes revolves around a life of luxury, where the characters never worry about having a roof over their heads or a glass of Dom Perignon in their hands, but seem to worry over the emptiness and potential loss of privilege. This was not my favorite book but I think others less cynical will enjoy the story. You can reserve this book at the Cuyahoga County Public Library by clicking here.