excerpt from the blog “You’re Only Old Once” click for complete article

33 Variations, the play that brought Diane to Los Angeles in early January, ended its limited run on March 6 and there was, as is traditional after final curtains, a party. The cast and crew hugged and kissed, speculated about rumored productions in London and Sydney, drank a little too much, said their sometimes teary goodbyes, and promised to keep in touch. But before this ritual played out, Gloria Steinem appeared like a mystery guest and saluted the seven actors and Diane, who had played Beethoven’s Diabelli Variations at each performance.

The reason for this cognitive dissonance was a fund-raiser for the Women’s Media Center, about which more in a moment. Several dozen of the center’s supporters had just seen the last show and now filled the Grace Salvatori Salon of the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, applauding as the cast gathered around Steinem, Jane Fonda crouching in front, like the batboys in team photos, had batboys been in their early seventies and worn boots up to their knees below black mini-skirts.

Less than an hour earlier, Fonda had slowly died of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig’s Disease) for the second time on this Sunday–as she had eight times a week for the past month-plus, and for even longer on Broadway in 2009–playing a musicologist racing against the illness to discover why Beethoven had become so obsessed with an “insignificant” waltz by the Viennese music publisher Anton Diabelli. Now she had transformed into her movie star self, her laugh energizing the room, her ALS collapse replaced by a pine-tree posture that made her look fit enough do fifty crunches on the spot.

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