Brothers, entertainment heavyweights and Burbank natives Clint Howard and Ron Howard have teamed up to co-author The Boys: A Memoir of Hollywood and Family, which was released on Oct. 12.
In The Boys, Clint and Ron reflect on their childhood experiences of working in show business as young actors while growing up in Burbank. This is prefaced by the Howard family’s journey to Hollywood, which involved parents Rance Howard and Jean Howard, formerly Jean Speegle, along with Ron, moving from New York to Los Angeles in the late 1950s as Rance was seeking more acting work in television. The family eventually settled in Burbank, where Clint was born in 1959.
While Ron had been approached for years with the idea of penning a tell-all book, Tom Hanks, a close friend of Ron’s, was the one to first suggest that Clint and Ron together write a book about their collective memories of growing up in show business.
“Tom was the one that said… ‘Write this book with your brother,’ which I appreciate,” Clint said. “It’s been a wonderful experience for me.”
The process of writing the book began after Rance’s passing in 2017. Born to a family of farmers in Oklahoma, he met wife Jean while studying at the University of Oklahoma. The two wed in 1949 and remained married until Jean’s passing in 2000, after which Rance married journalist Judy Jacobson.
Rance and Jean were aspiring actors when they became acquainted in college, and soon decided to leave their midwestern roots to take a chance on chasing success in entertainment. Rance’s acting career began with performances in a children’s touring group, and he got his big break touring in the stage production of Mister Roberts alongside its principal film actor, Henry Fonda. His resume later expanded with work in a variety of films and television shows, as he took on appearances in TV programs Gunsmoke, The Waltons, and Bonanza, and films Cool Hand Luke and Chinatown.
Although their parents began the move West with a focus on their own acting dreams, during their years as child actors Clint and Ron took center stage as they consistently scored roles in iconic films and television series. Some of Ron’s roles include playing Opie Taylor in The Andy Griffith Show, Winthrop Paroo in The Music Man, and Richie Cunningham in Happy Days. Clint, meanwhile, found memorable parts such as Mark Wedloe in Gentle Ben and Balok in “The Corbomite Maneuver,” a classic episode of Star Trek: The Original Series.
Ron would later go on to become, as he remains, one of the most accomplished directors in Hollywood, creating blockbusters such as Apollo 13, How The Grinch Stole Christmas, and Frost/Nixon. Clint would continue his career in character acting with appearances on programs like Seinfeld and My Name Is Earl, along with performances in numerous projects under Ron’s directing.
In spite of their extensive work in entertainment beginning in their youth, the Howard household was focused on typical childhood topics. Ron’s memories of being involved in legendary productions as a youngster, therefore, gave insight that Clint found himself absorbed in as he read his brother’s reflections.
“Ron and I never talked shop,” Clint recalled. “When we were kids, I really didn’t ever hear about what was going on on The Andy Griffith Show. When we got home, it was about sports, it was about school, it was about big brother, little brother stuff. It wasn’t about show business. So reading his recollections of some great stories like working on The Music Man,…I found it to be real page turners.”
As both siblings began their acting careers before they were able to read, they were coached by their father on how to perform with authenticity. Far from carrying the qualities of overbearing stage parents, however, Rance and Jean Howard allowed Clint and Ron to be surrounded by conventional adolescent environments as they were coming-of-age. The boys enjoyed their time off-set as they attended Robert Louis Stevenson Elementary School, David Starr Jordan Middle School, now named Dolores Huerta Middle School, and John Burroughs High School. Clint has fond memories of his years attending these institutions and being taught by English teacher Steve Campbell, who is now the namesake of the John Burroughs High School Library.
“Burbank played a big part in this,” Clint said of maintaining a traditional upbringing. “We did not go to private school… I went all through the system, and playing in the sports programs, it gave [Ron and me] a sense of normalcy that I think we both wanted. And my parents certainly encouraged it…We weren’t being treated with kid gloves at all. Burbank had a lot to do with the way things turned out for us, and also [being raised by] Mom and Dad.”
Memories are shared in the memoir of participating in local sports programs such as Burbank Parks and Recreation Baseball, Toluca Lake Little League, and a neighborhood Bantam Basketball League. Clint played in each of these programs, with big brother Ron coaching him and his basketball teammates for six seasons. This, Clint says, offered a strong foundation for Ron’s future directing career.
“It was a wonderful training ground for Ron to be a leader,” Clint said of Ron coaching basketball in Burbank. “Coaching a basketball team is very similar to directing. [Ron] was a 16-year-old kid when he started coaching, and Dad worked as… the general manager of the team. We were known as the Howard’s Hurricanes…we had a blast. We won the championship one year when I was in the fifth grade.”
Aside from a minimal five percent managing fee, the Howard parents set aside all professional earnings from Clint and Ron’s childhood into individual savings accounts. The family lived modestly and carried on without the help of housekeepers or nannies. Instead, both parents were completely hands-on in raising the boys and guiding them through show business.
“Dad felt like that if the kid ever got wind that he was the breadwinner, that it would just…unravel the whole family dynamic,” Clint said. “Dad was an old school guy. He was the breadwinner, Mom kept the house, Dad earned the money, and so we lived within their means, not ours.”
One humorous account from the book reflects on this humble lifestyle the Howard parents upheld for their children. When Ron was 16 years old he desired to enhance his filming equipment by purchasing a new GAF Anscomatic camera as a replacement for a Bauer Super 8 camera. This warranted an unfavorable response from mom Jean, who questioned his spending. Later, the family would look back and find ausement in her hesitance following Ron’s incomparable success as an Academy Award-winning filmmaker.
“[Ron] just felt like he wanted to upgrade and have the whistles and bells of a [new] camera, and Mom put up a hell of a fight, [saying] ‘Why are you doing this, wasting your money on that camera? You’ve got a perfectly good camera,’” Clint said. “And Mom lived long enough to where we could all joyfully celebrate how wrong [she] was, because $3 or $4 billion dollars later, it was a good investment.”
Clint’s wife, Kat Howard, spoke of the captivating variance readers can find between Ron’s and Clint’s distinct authorships as they delve into the book.
“They definitely put their best cards on the table, story for story,” Kat said. “[They write from] each end of the spectrum, and it’s a beautiful combination…In their tone, I would say Ron’s voice is more a symphony, and Clint’s voice is more rock’n’roll concert. So that’s a good contrast.”
Clint and Kat together live in Burbank and are active members of the community. Most recently, they attended the annual Mayor’s Tree Lighting Ceremony in Downtown Burbank on Dec. 4. Their daughter, 12-year-old Rafa’ella Erlinda, will soon carry on the family tradition of attending Burbank schools as she will be studying at Dolores Huerta Middle School. The positive memories and charm of the city are what have made the family decide to continue calling Burbank home.
“I’ve always loved the camaraderie of Burbank,” Clint said. “Kat and I have the ability to be able to go travel around and maybe move somewhere else, but I find it sorta hard pressed to live anywhere else.”
After finding a home for the memoir at HarperCollins publishers, Clint and Ron wrote The Boys over the course of a year, which included collaborating with author and lyricist David Kamp and HarperCollins editor Mauro DiPreta. Along with hardcover and ebook versions of the memoir, the Oct. 12 release included an audiobook experience. Clint and Ron also carried out a three-stop book tour to celebrate the memoir, which took place on Oct. 12 in New York City, Chicago on Oct. 13, and at LA Live in Los Angeles on Friday, Oct. 15.
Out just in time for the holidays, The Boys comprises ingredients that are engaging for a wide audience of readers: formative memories of childhood, work and family life, and the fate of a tight knit family who together was able to find serendipitous success in Hollywood from their simple beginnings.
“[The book is about] family, it’s nostalgia, but it also I think teaches a lot of good lessons about how [Dad] and Mom, without a lot of education, were able to do something that is unparalleled,” Clint said. “To navigate show business, [it’s] very tricky waters…and also to navigate their children through show business. And they had no designs for it. I believe them thoroughly, that Mom and Dad did not have one ounce of an idea that they could get their kids into show business. It was just dumb luck. Right place, right time.”
Never ones to rest on their laurels, the Howard brothers put their best foot forward with each account provided in The Boys. Anecdotes throughout the book range from reminiscing about memorable moments living on Cordova St. in their formative years, to Ron falling in love with his wife Cheryl Howard, formerly Cheryl Alley, whom he met while both attended John Burroughs High School, and the boys learning the ins and outs of show business as they were surrounded by industry leaders on legendary Hollywood sets.
“When Ron and I agreed to do this book, it was a wonderful celebratory moment for us, and then the second thing is, well we’re gonna kick ass,” Clint said. “Ron doesn’t make movies to fail. I don’t act to be mediocre. And we don’t write to just turn something in. We’re gonna kick ass, and we’re gonna dig up some good stuff.”