There are more. Like Tedi Thurman, the sexy, smoky voice that kept America enthralled delivering torrid weather reports all weekend on NBC’s innovative radio marathon Monitor during my high school salad days. And Billy Barnes, the Hollywood songwriter whose sophisticated revues provided satirical special material for big stars like Goldie Hawn, Danny Kaye and Cher. His fame spread when jazz singer June Christy recorded his song “Something Cool.” The rest is history. So are the worthy folks good and true I have inadvertently overlooked, but I am forced to draw the line somewhere. If I’ve left my friend and literary idol Gore Vidal for last, it’s because I will probably miss his writing the most. A profound chronicler of history and a witty, sardonic raconteur, his ilk will not come this way again. My own relationship with him, tentative as it was, began the year I played one of the leads in a disastrous movie adaptation of his sexy, totally misunderstood novel Myra Breckinridge. After his screenplay was trashed and rewritten by hacks, he had the class to tell me, “You’re the only one who can’t be blamed for this latest sinking of the Titanic.” I still have his original script to prove that the movie once had potential and he knew what he was doing. After he was banned from the 20th Century Fox lot, I used to meet him secretly and bring him up to speed on the chemically influenced activities on the set. The last time I saw him was after his performance in a one-man play about blacklisted McCarthy-era screenwriter Dalton Trumbo. He was frail and trembling, already showing signs of illness. But he was as wicked, mentally agile and intellectually curious as ever. I’ll remember him that way.
Saying au revoir to so many absent friends is about as pleasant as an appointment with a tax auditor. Let’s hope 2013 will be more cheerful. Naively, I’d like to see the immortals live forever. Idealistically, I suggest that we at least give them their deserved applause while they’re still with us, and not wait until after they’re gone. It’s a nice thought to carry into the new year.
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