Sunday, December 30, 2012


R.I.P. Artie Shaw who passed eight years ago today at age 94, and whose music is with us still.

Artie was my second cousin. He attributes his musical gift to his uncle, and my maternal grandfather, Moishe, who was a cantor.

I dreamt of meeting Artie as a little girl when I heard family stories about what a proverbial black sheep he was. While living on Beverly Glen in Los Angeles in the late 1990's, I met and had drinks with a music critic who told me he interviewed Artie. I managed to get him drunk enough, and got Artie's phone number from him after swearing never to tell Artie how I got his number.

A few weeks later, I called Artie for the first time after hearing that Allen Ginsberg died as I knew Artie was a big fan of literature. We started talking and we never stopped. We spoke for about an hour, and then arranged to meet at the Allen Ginsberg memorial service in Westwood. The first time we saw each other face to face (I was in my forties, he in his late 80's), Artie's eyes filled with tears. There was no denying we were related to each other. We were friends from that point on.

In early 2002, I gave Artie my screenplay about the Sylvia Beach story---the woman who was the first to publish James Joyce's "Ulysses" which was then 144 pages long. He took a pencil and wrote in the margins, helped me cut it down to 122 pages long. I kept the copy with his marginalia. I begged him to show it to Robert Altman who was a friend of his, "I wouldn't waste Altman's time with this," he said. Altman didn't respect the script as a written work. He would have rejected "Lincoln," too. Artie spent many hours screaming at me, "why do you want to have anything to do with those morons in Hollywood? why don't you write a book? a mind like yours is wasted on those people. write a book."

Little did I know at the time that Artie was going blind, and my screenplay would be among the last things he was able to read. Artie knew that. I didn't.

When last I saw him at his home in Newbury Park, back in 2002, he was the same handsome, feisty fellow who broke so many hearts.

Here's looking at you, kid.