The memorial to Nora for 800 of the ticketed chosen in Alice Tully Hall of Lincoln Center was brilliantly produced, like a great Broadway opening happening at 11:30 in the morning, last Monday. Nora had established what and who she wanted and she got it all.
I was missing Nora so much throughout that I wished the memorial would go on and on after it started in a low-key manner with “It’s a Beautiful World” and “As Time Goes By” playing softly before anyone spoke.
The delay of a few days between Nora’s untimely death and this week allowed those who participated time to travel to New York and hone their heartfelt performances. You just knew that each one was different from the others and each was doing their stuff only for Nora’s judgment and benefit. These remarks were loving, some of them very funny, all trenchant. I won’t really be able to repeat much of the brilliance because I was laughing, crying, remembering and feeling so much and I didn’t take any notes. If this memorial was recorded it would sell out in an instant. Nora fans would love it!
Especially touching were Nora’s sons, Jacob and Max Bernstein and she would have been so proud of these handsome young men and their loving, sensitive renditions.Martin Short opened the program and was also touching and funny. Likewise, Delia Ephron, who described how Nora took over her birth and life at age 3 and ran it ever after. Her wit and sorrow were palpable.
Longtime Nora pal, Richard Cohen was unexpectedly amusing and wonderful as a person whose chose Nora as his career advisor. He mentioned Nora again as the Mark Twain of our times and this made me rejoice. Mike Nichols was his usual surprising self, emphatic, impressive and brief. Meryl Streep delivered with memorable dexterity. She seems to be off the cuff but you can’t believe that because she offers so much. She noted that she and Nora had made a pact after too much and too many tributes to one another that they would never ask each other again. But Nora had already planned her leaving and so she was one up on Meryl.
Tom Hanks especially showed his acting chops discussing the couple, Nora Ephron and Nick Pileggi, doing a superb imitation of the latter. Wife Rita Wilsonwas visibly moved in her remarks on Nora. But Tom is a revelation once again.
Rosie O’Donnell read Delia and Nora’s words from their play about fashion that has been seen the world over. Love, Loss and What I Wore. Rosie got a laugh with her aside: “As you know, fashion is my life.” Then Nora’s longtime assistant, J.J. Sacha introduced clips from some of Nora’s films and I was thrilled to see that dirty angel John Travolta wearing his wings in Michael,one of Nora’s films that slipped under the radar.
The gathering of Nora’s admirers after afforded elbow rubbing with the various — Annette Bening, Diane Sawyer, Martin Scorcese, Stephen Spielberg,directors Jack O’Brian and George Wolfe, gay activist Larry Kramer, and I’ll stop because there were so many of the famous — only adding that Meg Ryanof “I’ll have what she’s having” fame, is more beautiful than ever!
It was my privilege to be a friend of Nora’s for 40 years.
She was a unique talented and fabulous human being.
I will spend the rest of my life trying to live up to her. I will always miss her laughter and her standard to me, “Oh, Lizzie, I love you and you are such a sap.”
Oh, yes, when I opened the memorial booklet I burst out laughing for in each one was a torn out page from one of Nora’s collection of recipes. Mine was for some kind of pâté. But at the gathering after, Sherrie Westin of the Children’s TV Network, came to me offering her own from her booklet. It read “Liz Smith’s Biscuits”. This was so unexpected and exactly like the serendipitous Nora tapping me on the shoulder. I will print this silly recipe a little later. Enough for now.
“Love is the world’s infinite mutability; lies, hatred, murder even, are all knit up in it; it is the inevitable blossoming of its opposites, a magnificent rose smelling faintly of blood.” is the quote from the genius playwright Tony Kushner that opens novelist Gillian Flynn‘s new mystery love story Gone Girl.
Maybe I liked this book so much because it’s a modern today’s-Internet- destroying-a-world-of-print story.
The attractive star couple of this fiction punctuate their relationship with references to old movies (like knowing that the cat inBreakfast at Tiffany was named CAT) or recognizing the suicide theme music to TV’sM*A*S*H*
Protagonist Amy Elliott is one of the chosen ones — her parents got rich writing about how amazing she was in a series of young teens books. She is rich, smart, beautiful and she meets her match in disappointed writer named Nick Dunne — not the late famousDominick Dunne, in case you’re confused. (Or maybe it’s vice versa; Nick meets his match.) I honestly don’t want to give you too much of a clue as to what happens when this perfectly melded couple gives up their miracle life in New York and move to a Missouri town on the Mississippi near Hannibal to care for his infuriated Alzheimer-riddled father and his dear mother who is dying of cancer.
The story proceeds from their diaries and inner thoughts and these are fretted with fascinating details like the fact that Nick finds the locals infuriating when they refer to “the hoi polloi” and he can’t bring himself to notify them that “hoi” already means “the” and stuff like that.
Nick is abetted in his problems with Amy by having borrowed the last of her trust fund to open a local bar with his unique twin sister, nicknamed “Go,” who is one of the great modern “characters” of today’s fiction. (I had lots of fun casting “Go” for the movie — Helen Mirren? Tilda Swinton? Cher?)
And if you are a Scavenger Hunt fan, you’ll adore the Amazing Amy’s “Treasure Hunt.” The mystery crime part of Gone Girl we shall say no more about. Get the book from Crown and have yourself a lot of surprises right to the end. Meantime, as you are transfixed reading and guessing and solving and changing your mind a lot, you will also be getting the author’s various philosophies of our life and times.
Ms. Flynn can really write and she analyzes women who work and who don’t have to … men who acquiesce and become “dancing monkeys” … the contented “also rans” of a competitive world … the modern use of the word “surreal” to suggest something that is merely “unusual” … and this following which struck me as incredibly true: “It seemed to me that there was nothing new ever to be discovered again. Our society was utterly, ruinously derivative (Although the word ‘derivative’ as a criticism is itself derivative.) We were the first human beings who would never see anything for the first time. We stare at the wonders of the world , dull-eyed, under-whelmed. Mona Lisa, the Pyramids, the Empire State Building, jungle animals on attack, ancient icebergs collapsing, volcanoes erupting. I can’t recall a single amazing thing I have seen firsthand that I didn’t immediately reference to a movie or TV show.”
Buy Gone Girl and don’t settle down for a long winter’s nap or any kind of nap. I read it in two days, nonstop, useless for anything but my own incredible pleasure.
This column originally appeared on NYSocialDiary.com on 7/11/12