What do you do for an encore when you’ve been an iconic trailblazer in the world of entertainment for over 55 years? When you have defied the modus operandi in Hollywood, and survived and triumphed as an actress in her 40s, 50s and 60s? And now even as you defiantly strut into the 70s looking absolutely divine at 73, here’s the question one more time: What do you do for an encore?

For a living legend like Ms. Diahann Carroll, her comeback is simple. She re-invents herself again by tackling yet another strategic venture. This time around, it is the role of author to add to her long list of personal and professional accomplishments. The result is Carroll’s exquisitely crafted memoir, “The Legs Are the Last to Go: Aging, Acting, Marrying, and Other Things I Learned the Hard Way” (Amistad/Harper Collins). Like a real fairy tale, the prologue to Carroll’s book begins this way: “It was a clear evening in New York, not long ago, and I looked absolutely divine. I felt my hotel onto Central Park South. I was in town from my home in Los Angeles and had just made an appearance on a talk show with my dear old friend Harry Belafonte. Now I was on my way…” And what a way!

The dynamic singer/actress of screen, stage and TV was born in the Bronx and grew up in a Harlem brownstone. Later, her family moved to a house in Yonkers. Carroll would evolve to reach impressive and lofty pinnacles of firsts that included being the first Black female recipient of a Tony Award on Broadway (“No Strings Attached,” 1962), the first to have her own network series with the groundbreaking sitcom “Julia” (1968), being dubbed as TV’s “first Black bitch,” Dominique Deveraux, on “Dynasty.” The first… Carroll’s unique voice, intimately colors the pages of “The Legs Are the Last to Go…,” unveiling her rise to stardom.

Several familiar Harlem landscapes provided her training, such as musical lessons at the Tiny Tots choir at Abyssinian Baptist Church, along with piano lessons from Mrs. Carmen Convent Avenue. From there, Carroll auditioned and got accepted at the High School of Music and Art. As a teenager, she started modeling for John- son Publications while simultaneously training at the Ophelia

Devores Charm School in Harlem. Shortly after, she began her singing career in New York nightclubs, following which she landed the role of the ingenue in Truman Capote’s “House of Flowers” on Broadway in 1954. Carroll’s recapitulation of an experience with the acclaimed Pearl Bailey during the show is hilarious; yet it was also a learning lesson in the cutthroat world of show business, in which the actress would have to wrestle and ultimately flourish.

The candid and many-sided drama of Carroll’s life is filled with peaks and valleys as well as with luscious details and history. There are also complex characters, some who play themselves out as bad guys in a superficial driven and selfish world of the times. Amongst them are several lovers, including Sidney Poitier, the leading Black actor of the ’50s and ’60s, whose scandalous on-and-off 10-took place on two continents and destroyed her first marriage to the father of her only child.

In her own clear voice, which at times is soft and gentle, other times challenging and strong, Carroll gives us unique insights that can only come from the gritty perspective of a person who has been there and has gone through the experience. One such instance occurred on the set of “Carmen Jones” in 1954,when an older actor ordered her to take off her clothes, which she did. Subsequently, the actor left the room, locked the door from the outside and did not return until the next day. Barely in her 20s, the innocent Carroll subjected herself to this type of disrespectful treatment, which in retrospect she explained clearly stemmed from her low self-esteem. Another instance occured with her fourth and last husband, the singer Vic Damone, who was so unsupportive of her career that at the end of their disastrous marriage when she called to let him know she had just learned that she had been diagnosed with cancer, his appalling reply was, “Oh shit! What next, Diahann?” There are voluptuous moments of triumphs, such as surviving the breast cancer, breaking the color barrier in several instances in Hollywood, as well as ugly moments such as a degrading audition with Andrew Lloyd Weber for “Sunset Boulevard.”

Despite the awful experience with Weber, she ended up playing the lead in the play in Toronto while in her 60s. Throughout the book, the conflicts are real. Some are resolved, such as the challenging relationship with her daughter, which the two women have now worked out, affording Carroll the ultimate joy and wonder of being a grandmother. However, some of the conflicts remain unresolved, such as certain aspects of her relationship with her mom, who at one point was living her life vicariously through her daughter’s stardom. There are also moments of anger with her dapper father, who was a womanizer. Yet, there are equally poignant, tender, caring times with both parents.

This all plays out authentically and Carroll makes no excuses as she lays it all out on the table. Structurally, the pacing is great and the transitions to the back stories are seamless. There is also the use of strong descriptions throughout the book, making the scenes really her writing partner Bob Morris, shine brilliantly as writers. From the amusingly vain-glorious title to the last seductive page, Carroll lures her readers into her fascinating world, where she irresistibly traps us, making us stare at our own reflection, as we look at hers. No matter the age group (Baby Boomers, Generations X,XY and the Silent Generation), by the end of our mirrored literary experience, after reading Carroll’s story we emerge healed and refreshed with a new understanding about life, our life’s journey and our purpose on this earth. This is the type of empowerment that Carroll felt and expresses on the concluding page of the book: “The lady on the cover…she’s happy. I hope you like her. I do. Some people come of age as teenagers. I came of age as a senior citizen.” Within this gold nugget of truth and innocence uttered by the great Diahann Carroll is the awakening of hope for all humanity. Here in the wisdom of experience is a flowering of a universal camaraderie for women of all ages to embrace our boundless spirits as we look for directions on our journey in our roles as daughters, career women, lovers, wives, mothers and grandmothers.

This is the delightful power of Carroll’s generous, but always sincere, humorous and elegant memoir, “The Legs Are The Last To Go….” This title speaks to everyone, making it a compelling and irresistibly gratifying read for all readers. It is highly recommended, especially as a discussion vehicle for book club members. Trust me, like Diahann Carroll, “Legs…”is an unconventional winner!” For further information, please visit www.amistadbooks.com. “The Legs Are the Last to Go: Aging, Acting, Marrying, and Other Things I Learned the Hard Way” is a highly recommended “Go Get A Book In Your Hand” Reading Team Adult Book Selection. To contact the Go Get A Book in Your Hand” Reading Team, please e-mail us at: gogetabook@yahoo.com.