Barbara Payton was born in Cloquet, Minnesota, in 1927. She starred in her first film in 1949 and soon after took the lead role in Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye, co-starring James Cagney. When her acting career began to decline, Payton appeared in low-budget films and on the covers of tabloid magazines, and later became destitute and increasingly dependent on alcohol and pills. In 1961 she was evicted from her apartment, and she was arrested for solicitation in 1962. She worked with the journalist Leo Guild on her memoir, the camp classic I Am Not Ashamed, in 1963. Four years later, Payton died from alcohol-related causes at the age of thirty-nine.
I Am Not Ashamed is more than just tawdry memoir. It is a book that
also possesses an unforeseeable transcendence within.--Heather
A few years earlier and a studio would have hidden her excesses from the press; a few years later and she would have beaten Jayne Mansfield at her own game. But Barbara doesn't wallow in what-ifs. She dishes out a few excuses, most of which so weak you know even Barbara didn't buy them, but she's not asking for forgiveness. She's telling you her story, and the least you can do is listen.--She Blogged By Night
But here's the thing, Payton's drunken ramblings and recollections (who knows how much are true or truer than you could ever imagine?) melding with Guild's jazzed-up pulp speak becomes something of a minor masterpiece (though minor is not exactly the right word here...). A dime store (in the best sense of the term) Notes From Underground--the bellowing of the underground woman, telling us there is something wrong with her looks (and most certainly her liver), filled with regret, self doubt, black humor, pride and touching reassurance that it might work out one day knowing damn well it won't.--Kim Morgan, Sunset Gun
She wasn't the first starlet to come to a disreputable end, and there have been more since (although few suffered quite such a vertiginous decline in fortunes). Ultimately, there's a lot to be said for the lack of regret or hypocritical self-flagellation which normally characterises the Hollywood exile's memoir.--Minor Literature[s]