Missed Pitch #1: Alexander Salkind

(Paris, 1986) Curtis was a nice enough guy – even if he had been hitting on my girlfriend, calling her “his earth mother” – and was the personal assistant to the wife of film producer, Alexander Salkind. Mrs. Salkind, he said, wanted to produce an adaptation of Euripedes’ Medea, the Greek tragedy of a mother murdering her children.

I wrote a brief scene – Medea desperate on the rocks, blood on her hands – and headed over to the Salkind’s sprawling apartment for my afternoon appointment. Salkind’s wife wasn’t there, off having lunch with a Count and didn’t return until the evening, intoxicated, and acted out Medea’s anguish, crawling beneath the grand piano, for her husband.

Salkind hated the idea. “There are three things people never want to see in movies: suicide, AIDS and this.” And then he turned to me. “And what do you have to say?”

“Uh, well, I see your point, but…”

“Ah.” He waved me off and left the room.

His wife stayed under the piano, worn out from her performance, as I went into the kitchen and got drunk with Curtis. “You’re a sneaky rat bastard, that’s what you are.”

I didn’t understand why he kept saying that, but the tequila was good.

The Suicide of Robin Williams

Robin Williams was a talented actor whose characters touched a common thread of compassion and understanding, well remembered in such films as Dead Poet’s Society, Mrs. Doubtfire and What Dreams May Come. Robin WilliamsHowever I struggle with the accolades and reverence being expressed at the moment. As much pain and torment as he might have suffered, his suicide could steer many in the wrong direction.

Some years ago, I lost a student the same pointless way, a most empathetic and delightful young man – much like Mr. Williams – and was privileged to offer these words at his funeral:

Recently I was at concert of Ladysmith Black Mambazo, a South African a capella group. Ladysmith Black MambazoTheir voices really are something, eight voices singing together in unison, long deep notes, short happy ones, all of these singers singing in unison. I thought a lot about B. while I listened to this music, because as beautiful as it was, I didn’t feel very good. I was off. Something was missing. I wasn’t just sad; I was uncomfortable. I wasn’t myself. And it came to me. One of the singers was gone from my life. Notes were missing. A voice was gone. I had lost B’s voice, that laugh, that insane guffaw, that wild energy exploding out, all of those over-reaching concepts, so many of them now not realized.It makes me quite upset thinking about it, not just sad, but angry too. I don’t know why I had to lose this voice.

As much as we want to debate our beliefs in this world, there is one thing we cannot dispute: this life is all we have. And I wish Mr. Williams thought more about that.