"A hero is someone is simply someone who rises above his own human weaknesses for an hour, a day, a year, to do something stirring."
-- Betty Deramus.
Hello little blades... I am dedicating this blog entry to two of my heros. My beloved acting teacher, Freddy Kareman who taught me -- who taught many -- in Carnegie Hall before passing away a few years ago. And Joel Siegel, my beloved former boss -- who took me on as a kid when I was interning for him at GMA and hired me as a personal assistant freelance.
Both of these men represent New York to me -- and thus, when I was there, I missed them both dearly.
I came to Joel as an undergraduate at Barnard. I remember wearing these business-y outfits -- welp, the only one I had probably and then, some dressy dresses. I was like this kid from Jersey who had never had a professional job -- albeit an internship. I'd been a lifeguard and that suited (no pun intended) me just fine...
Now I was working for this man whom every one would come around and say to me, "Has he made you cry yet?" Yes. Truth be told -- Joel was hard on me -- on all of his interns -- at first. And then, he was lovely. The juiciest and deepest and most giving heart. I feel honored that he took me under his experienced and inspired wing and had me watch The Perils of Pauline. I met Morgan Freeman through him. I went to Shun Lee in midtown. I hopped into cabs he'd paid for and I;d hit Upper East Side stationary shops for stationary for friends of his. He'd pack up all the toys that were sent to him through movie companies and he'd send them to children's hospitals. The pediatric ward of Memorial Sloan-Kettering.
Dinosaurs from Jurassic Park. He once gave a girl who wrote in a personal note the business address of Brad Pitt's manager in Beverly Hills. So the girl's letter would get to Brad. He had me deadhead his flowers on his penthouse gardens just so he could "employ" me. I played Willie Nelson and drank fresh OJ from Zabar's. Honey from Rancho Cucamonga. Had rows of lush Molton Brown products in his bathroom. I attended his son's briss. I worked for his super cool artist wife Ena. I went to screenings in dark, privileged rooms during bright summer New York days. I stayed at his penthouse while he was away. He offered up his country home.
And one of the last things he said to me was, "Don't give up."
He passed away within 2 months.
I pray for him every night.
Joel wrote a lovely book, which I highly recommend called, Lessons for Dylan. He started to write it once he was diagnosed with cancer. He wrote it for his baby boy Dylan; he wanted to make sure that Dylan would know who his father was, what he stood for, what he so deeply believed in, how achingly he loved him, once he was gone.
My father is a reader. A voracious reader. He prefers World War II biographies and anals of the war. But when I gave him this book for Father's Day a few years ago, he devoured it. And afterwards told me, "Wow. What a wonderful book, Kief."
Joel marched with Martin Luther King, Jr. during the Civil Rights Movement. Met him at UCLA. Led the students there in the march. He knew The Beatles. Dated the same woman whom Paul had dated at one point. Had a thank you card from John for his Rollingstone review.
He hailed from the West Side of Los Angeles and swore to never go back. He sooo loved New York.
And I so loved him. Feel eternally for him. It was he after all who compelled me unknowingly to become an actor.
And so, I dedicated this blog to you, Joel. May you be listening, reading, watching over me, seeing how you are missed and loved.
I am coming back to New York soon. And I shall continue to honor you.
Tomorrow, I shall write of Freddy.
I am taking a break from my lists for the rest of the week, my blades. And letting things come to me. Breathing. And letting my thoughts settle.
I send you all love. May you all have a mentor and a father-figure, a beloved friend as generous and inspiring as my Joel.