Dearest All of You!
Walking unsuspecting through that stage door, with my wife Marilee walking behind me in case I fainted when I saw what lay ahead, was nearly a metaphor for Death and Transﬁguration! But once she steadied me and I passed between your hands I kept wishing that my lap were wide enough to crowd all of you onto it at once in the tightest, most inclusive embrace the screen world has ever seen. Two weeks later the aftershocks continue and the mental snapshots of you all – all those endearing faces in the crowd that I could name and those just as endearing that I couldn’t, are with me still, coming and going like ﬂoaters on the delighted eye of time.
You can’t imagine what it has been like morning after morning to come downstairs and wade through all the tokens of caring and aﬀection that you heaped on me, from those coded messages scribbled on the back of a gigantic Peter Pan, to the cards and little pencilled drawings you took the time to pick or make, the books to read or journal in, the bottled wine libations, the twisty tasty home-baked cookies to hoard beneath my pillow, the toy parade of elephants for Count Nicholas to whistle “Up!” so ﬂaccid sphyncters could only rumble “Truth!” All these and so much more, all strung out like mermaids’ seaweed on a beach in Neverland that still shows the boot prints of Hook’s charge-and-parry ﬁght with that dearest of windmill stabbers, the Great Don Q Skerritt trying to act mean but last seen scampering through the Never-trees carrying a hug in each hand. I catch a glimpse of my smallest class, the fabulous Nine, minus Three tonight – all joined at the hip in their study and careers, churning out ﬁlm after ﬁlm to make the world better, prowling this city and much of the earth to ﬁnd stories with something to say. And I think, with love, of all who could not be here.
More ﬂashbacks of you swirl as I see that the party’s ending and class is done. There’s the Queen of SIFF Deborah Person over there, talking to my treasured wife. Some members of the Board are saying goodnight. Lyall Bush, friend and brilliant leader of Film Forum, others whose presence and hard work have made this evening an enchanted one. My amazing assistant, calm center of my classes, Lucy Hart, beloved by me and my students, always steps ahead in granting gifts that even I don’t know I need, and other earlier loyal helpers.
As he packs up the whole production, after hosting it with his usual immaculate charm, style, grace – and ﬂowing hair that I want to snatch oﬀ his head and put on my own – I notice that John Jacobsen, is walking around exhausted and in agony from a hurt foot, heels bare to the ﬂoor to cool them. That’s style, John.
Last to leave is the evening’s great producer. Skilled in almost everything theatrical Lee Ryan has not only found or made every prop, placed every ﬂower and balloon, cued the beautifully played music for the pianist, run every lighting eﬀect but also designed an earth and grass green colored Neverland cake, complete with blue sea, white surf for mermaids to play in and, waiting in a frosting-lathered cave to do in Captain Hook, the ghastly Crocodile.
After the applause, Lee packs up in a hurry, hugs me goodnight, and leaves. She must report to the hospital tomorrow morning to prepare for gallstone surgery later in the week. Most of the crowd don’t know. With my eternal thanks to all of you, mentioned or not.
Excuse me, now, but I gotta ﬂy!