Many years ago I had the opportunity to sit down with you in a diner and tell you this face to face. But, I blew it. Just freaking blew it. And, it has haunted me ever since.
I want to finally thank you for making the movie, The Razors Edge and exposing me to the work of W. Somerset Maugham. After watching the movie I went to the library and checked out, The Razor's Edge. Then I went on to read everything W. Somerset Maugham had ever written that I could get my hands on.
So, here's the moment I missed telling you this so many years ago the way I would have preferred, face-to- face.
It was cold. A winter in the city kind of cold. I'm a native of the Gulf Coast of Florida and I don't do cold well.
I was in New York for the very, first time with Cousin Deb for the weekend adventure to visit fellow playwright Nancy Hasty. Nancy had offered to open her door to us for a visit. Adventures in the city ensued including almost getting robbed on the streets but then - When your cousin shouts at the top of her lungs in a southern accent, "Look, It's Radio City Music Hall! Mama said we should come see that!" you are just asking for the guy leaning on the wall watching you to get off the wall and begin to follow you into a deserted street. But, that's not the story at hand here. It's all about thou.
So we get up early one morning and decide to take off in search of breakfast. We do what one does in Manhattan - we walk. And because Cousin Deb was in a rush we didn't put on make-up, or get polished up worth anything. Sloppy hair, sloppy clothes. Not even gloss on the lips much less a full monty on the face.
After hoofing in the cold for awhile we look up and see a diner that looks promising. We cross the street and step inside. The place is crazy busy. Absolutely packed. The guys behind the grill are slammed solid. We spot the only empty seats in the place. Two along the wall in the back, left corner. In the process of getting there we have to squeeze through a few tables, one of them being yours. Only at the time we didn't know it. A four-seater, plenty of room, and you are sitting there alone as we jostle the chairs, bump them into the table. I can feel you looking at us as we bang and rattle every chair and finally pass by and sit down only a few feet from you and facing you.
I look at you. You look at me. I whisper to Deb, "Don't say anything, and don't look now but that is Bill Murray."
She looks. She says something. She says it loud enough for every diner in the place to hear.
"No FREAKING way!" Only freaking was not in vogue then so she just went old school. She went old school again, and again, then added FREAK ME!
We ordered. We ate. I tried not to look at you after such a charming entrance and Deb's public acknowledgement of you being so - ummm - genuine and starstruck.
And starstruck we were. It's cute but unfortunate in this case for two reasons. We really wanted to respect your privacy or at least what was left of it at this point. And, did I mention we weren't wearing make-up? Which being older now, needing make-up so much more, I wouldn't care one twit if I bumped your chairs, had on no make-up, was dressed like a bum. Given the opportunity I would take the moment over. I'd tell you exactly what I had thought from the beginning about The Razor's Edge, about how much I loved your performance and appreciated your taking the time and risk to make the movie. (A remake from many years before but one that deserved to be remade and remade well.)
I wanted to tell you that sometimes the things we do that are good and right and that should get more attention, be an obvious success, often go on to achieve things we may never know or realize.
Case in point. I wrote a novel years ago titled, The Gin Girl. A smokey, moody murder mystery set in the Everglades. When I first landed an agent she thought it would get a six-figure deal and an instant contract for a movie. Didn't happen. It was finally published by an unknown Indie, and for the most part other than a few great reviews, went undiscovered. Years of work down the drain. All my expectations and hopes for that great novel dried up to dust.
A few years ago I received an email. One that began, "I doubt you'll ever read this but if by chance you do I'm writing it anyway."
It told the story of this young woman who had to be committed to a psychiatric ward one night and how her mother had brought her something to read, my novel The Gin Girl. She went on to say how much those characters helped her get through that long, dark night. How she didn't feel frightened when she began reading it because she felt they were right there with her and that she wasn't alone. Then she said some other nice things.
I sat there after reading that and thinking - If it was all for only this, this one letter, then it was worth it.
I don't expect my letter to make you feel the same way about making, The Razor's Edge. But it's important to me that I say them. It's my simple thank you for not only doing excellent work in supporting the power of story, but opening up an entirely new world to me, of exposing me to an author that I may have otherwise missed entirely.
I wish I could replay that cold day in New York. You had the most beautiful leather coat, and leather messenger bag. I watched you stand, put on the coat, pick up your bag, and put on your hat as you walked out the door. The entire time that small voice inside of me saying, "Tell him now. Get up. Go tell him now. Stop him now before he leaves. Tell him now. Go after him. Go after him down the street. Stop him on the sidewalk."
I let you - and the moment slip away.
But not this one.
Thank you for the film and the inspiration and Godspeed on your current and future endeavors.
But - Fair warning - Make up or no, next time I bump into you at an empty table I'm pulling up a chair and sitting down. There will be some stories told. Without apology.
*Had to repost the love in honor of Groundhog Day (and Bill of course)