Committed is a bold, offbeat, globe-trotting memoir that shows how the most ridiculed punching bag in high school became an internationally renowned crusader for the most downtrodden individuals of all -- animals. This irresistibly entertaining book recounts the random incidents and soul-searching that inspired a reluctant party boy to devote his life to a cause, without ever abandoning his sense of mischief and fun.
"Everyone has a tense moment in their career that makes them wonder, how the hell did I get into this mess?" writes Mathews. "For me, it was when I was dressed as a carrot to promote vegetarianism outside an elementary school in Des Moines, and a pack of obese pig farmers showed up and peeled off slices of bologna for kids to throw at me." As the irreverent force behind the colorful crusades carried out by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), one of the most effective and enduring pressure groups in the world, Mathews has strutted naked before a fur convention in Tokyo, halted GM's use of animals in crash tests by storming the carmaker's float in the Rose Parade dressed as a rabbit, and crashed a fashion show in Milan dressed as a priest. With self-deprecating wit and candor, Mathews reveals all the edgy details of his unorthodox coming-of-age and equally outrageous career.
With backdrops such as the rock scene in Hollywood and London, the inner sanctums of New York high fashion, jails in Hong Kong and Boston, and a psychiatric ward in Paris, Committed spotlights the adventures life can offer when you don't abandon your youthful ideals and imagination.
Having grown up poor and gay, with a penchant for punk rock and Lawrence Welk, Mathews, who is now campaign chief for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, had a rough start. But his camp, cosmopolitan and crass memoir is like a life lesson from the Island of Misfit Toys: a study of the unwitting heroism and adventures of an outsider dedicated to a cause. Less a treatise than a picaresque tale, his book wouldn't be complete without a bit of persuasion, whether detailing the horrors of the fur industry, factory farming or animal experimentation. But he's as willing to make fun of himself as he is of his many targets including Vogue editor Anna Wintour (who, he says, "looks as if she has constant, painful gas") and deli-meat hurling Iowan children. Then again, this is a man who dresses up regularly in a carrot costume. Aided by humor, luck and friends like Pamela Anderson and Morrissey, Mathews makes clear there is savvy to his controversial methods. "The flair you bring to a protest is as important as the issues themselves if you want to reach beyond the small core of whoever might care about an issue." Those at odds with Mathews's ideals are bound to find him irritating, but open-minded readers will discover a charming polemicist.