Excerpt: 'The Legs Are the Last to Go'

For decades, actress Diahann Carroll has been a staple in television and film. She's banked a Tony Award and Golden Globe for her efforts as well as Emmy, Oscar and Grammy nominations.

The entertainment veteran was the first black actress to star in her own television series in 1968's "Julia" and in the 1980s the multitalented star garnered a new generation of fans when she starred in the popular nighttime soap opera "Dynasty."

Now, Carroll has a new book chronicling her experiences called "The Legs Are the Last to Go: Aging, Acting, Marrying, and Other Things I Learned the Hard Way."

Her autobiography shares her life's story with surprising candidness. Read an excerpt below and check out more from "Good Morning America's" library.

Diahann Carroll

Chapter One

Upon the Wicked Stage

Call me crazy, but I understand Norma Desmond, the silent- screen diva who the world passed by in Sunset Boulevard. Norma Desmond drives a Rolls- Royce. Norma Desmond has a penchant for spending lavishly. She knows the magic of makeup and the thrill of casting spells over millions. She is a character who remembers what it's like to be adored when young. She also knows the savagery of show business.

And so do I.

Not that I've had it bad. How many actresses receive a call at fifty to play an overdressed black bitch on an international hit show like Dynasty? People still manage to keep me in mind, even now, twenty years later. I get my share of calls to sing in lovely venues, and still know the plea sure of standing on a well- lit stage performing. Sometimes, I am invited to accept an award. But that doesn't mean there aren't plenty of days when I feel completely passed over and passed by. Well, I imagine that's how many people feel when their high- powered careers slow down. Performers, of course, have to deal with droughts and doubts all the time, even when young. It's a tough field. You're in, you're out. You're right for something, you're wrong. You have to learn to live with rejection and curdled ambition on a daily basis, especially if you happen to be female.

Norma Desmond took her discomfort to an epic level. Yet what actress of a certain age would not cringe at the famous Rolls- Royce scene? Norma has finally gotten the call she's been longing for from an accomplished director. She prepares for weeks for her meeting with him—massages, facials, exercise—everything she can do to set back the clock and dazzle when she returns to the lights and cameras. When she finally arrives on the set, in all her glamour and glory, she is quietly hit with the terrible, insulting news that the movie studio has only called her because it wants to use her car, not her, for a movie. It has come to that. Her car is more in demand than she is.

When, in 1994, my agent called to tell me I'd been invited by the producers to audition for Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber's Sunset Boulevard, I was familiar with the rhythms of a life in which the phone didn't ring as often, at least not with offers for major roles. I was, after all, in my sixties at the time, and fully aware of the limited shelf life of any acting career. Happily, my emotional footing was far more secure than Norma Desmond's. I knew I wasn't being handed the role. I'd have to work to get it.

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