LOSING SARGENT SHRIVER

He was a great, generous, full- of- life man. I knew him when he was the U.S. Ambassador to France and I was living there and then, later, during some of the Special Olympic Games that his wife, Eunice organized. What a family! Right? I am sad at this loss. Although he was ill with Alzheimer’s for quite some time but one is never prepared when death comes. I am sad.

I am also tired. Sunday there were the very fun Golden Globes and parties that followed, and yesterday, our day off, I ran lines for 4 hours, did my acupuncture therapy session and such, went out to dinner with friends and then couldn’t go to sleep. As a result, rehearsals today started off rocky. I forgot my lines and was generally out of it.

Still–and interestingly–I learned a lot about better ways to approach certain moments, moments that I was never fully happy with during our New York run. I feel– and Samantha Mathis, who plays my daughter agrees- that our relationship in the play is way stronger. This means that we clash more, which makes the resolution stronger.

All of us in the cast, the understudies and stage managers and, of course, our writer/ director, Moises Kaufman, get along so well. There is lots of laughter during rehearsals. Samantha had everyone over to her house to eat and watch the Golden Globes together. They said it was really fun. All of us agree that Ricky Gervais was waaaay too mean, though.

Today, I remembered a story that Katherine Hepburn told me while we were filming “On Golden Pond”–actually Michael Jackson was with me then and she was mostly telling the story for his benefit. She told of seeing the greatest American stage actor, Laurette Taylor, in “Glass Menagerie.” She said that it was a transcendent performance unlike anything she had ever seen. 15 years or so later, Taylor reprised it. Hepburn was there to see it and she told us, “The magic was gone. The problem was, she’d lost her hunger.” (what an important lesson for young, rising film star Jackson, who had just done “The Wiz”..”don’t lose your hunger, don’t phone it in…ever!”). Well, I am reprising my role in this show and I have to make sure I am still hungry.

And so, to bed, to sleep, perchance to dream…but staying hungry.

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24 Comments
  1. I CANNOT remember IF you endorsed McGovern back then, but suspect you did!

    I was still six years away from voting age…WORRIED like crazy about being shipped off to ‘Nam, and YOU were my alpha & omega…as well as THIS DUDE: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yer4L1Uhayc

    And i’ve been TRYING to live UP to y’all since i first came up from Jamaica!

  2. Thanks for taking the time out Jane, I was feeling the Shriver effect. I don’t anyone around me understands want a great person he was. I forget that he was U.S. Ambassador to France about the same time you were living there, that must have been interesting. It is the funest thing , that you should tell that story about American stage actor, Lorette Taylor. I eather seen or read about her , Now I recall it was a radio show talking about her. The Actor – The Free Information Society http://t.co/nR0cNU9 I think this is it was interesting . radio show talking about acting with some very great ones.
    with love and care Jane

  3. Love the updates!
    Have to disagree about Ricky, he did what he does.
    The powers that be knew his work.
    He did make me cringe a few times, but so do most great comedians.
    Chris Rock, Don Rickles, Whoopi and others.
    Good luck with the play!

  4. Thanks for your thoughts about the Shrivers, Jane. Small point: It’s KathArine Hepburn, not KathErine.

  5. with hope you slept well at last, here from This Hard Land (Bruce Springsteen)..’stay hungry, stay alive if you can’

    Hey, Frank, won’t you pack your bags
    And meet me tonight down at Liberty Hall
    Just one kiss from you, my brother
    And we’ll ride until we fall
    We’ll sleep in the fields
    We’ll sleep by the rivers
    And in the morning we’ll make a plan
    Well if you can’t make it stay hard, stay hungry, stay alive if you can

  6. Thank you for a special remembrance of Sargent Shriver. You were lucky to know him personally and, as with your story about Katherine Hepburn and Michael Jackson, it is really something to see them through your eyes.

  7. Jane,

    I have the same problem going to sleep some nights. Have you tried melatonin?…a natural, mild sleep remedy you can find in health food stores…works for me!

    • Roberta, yes, the melatonin sublingual spray. It is helpful

  8. I saw you recently on Oprah and I taped it because you are so inspiring to me. I have been in therapy for 25 years or more now…time flies so these days.

    I am 65 and have lung fibrosis and on oxygen. I certainly need TV shows that are worth watching with people who have something to say.

    I have been working on myself for all those years so I totally related to your life. I am so grateful for a great mentor/therapist. She does not charge me since I have been ill (2 years). I am ordering your chair exercise DVD and am grateful that you made it. Thanks for your journey Jane….I have watched your growth for all these. So happy that you are doing so well and I am grateful you are such inspiration.

  9. You are sooo right about Alz. death; lost my husband four years ago to that dread disease and seven years before that saw his gradual decline. I was with him as he was dying and the nurse told me to keep talking close to his ear because he could still hear. I could ‘feel’ his reaction to what I was saying! During his last year, he couldn’t speak, so one day I was reading a poem aloud to him and as I showed him the page, he began speaking the words!! The MD couldn’t explain it.
    Also, at the Golden Globes, I agree that Ricky G. was too mean and felt uncomfortable as he ‘performed’!! You looked fantastically fit, happy and beautiful!!! Thanks for being such a great example for the youth around us.

  10. Once again – (many times over, in reality) – you are an inspiration!

    An advantage of our lives (those of us who are wringing the life outta life), is our multi-faceted reflection, which you’ve shared in this missive, which ‘once again’ I relate to and find an appreciated empathy with.

    With heartfelt wishes for a refreshing breeze to envigorate and stir your soul with a continued hunger that is so contageous.

    An asset for me – while I’m not longer to stride with your pace – is healing sounds that are extraordinarily beneficial as I fall asleep, awakening far more rested than with any other option.

    Wishing you refreshing vibrations!

  11. Well –

    My Mother In Law thinks your still hungry, due to the fact that I have purchased tickets for myself, My Mother In Law and husband” the 8:00 p.m. opening night performance. She is a big fan…
    We are flying in to see you, if that gives you an idea of how much she likes you… You are a pro and I am confident that your performance will be fantastic – I need some points with (Mother In Law)….

    Get some rest and I look forward to seeing your performance on the stage….

    Michele

  12. Hello there Jane – I met you in during early 1970’s when you spoke @ my College & more recently, at one of your book signings, and from all I’ve seen of you… you will stay hungry forever, even when the lid is being nailed shut.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts & LIFE with us. 🙂

  13. You were the most beautiful one at the Globes.

  14. Jane, just my 2 cents that if you’re playing a scholar then try to hold off on the emotion. Actors tend to be very emotional people and this usually works great for their roles. However, what I observe from working in academia is that scholars tend to be at the rational end of the rational-emotional spectrum. Along similar lines, actors tend to be “people people” but scholars tend to be more like Marie Curie, who said in her autobiography that she and people like her were much more curious about things and ideas than about people. Anyhow, I saw your play in NYC and I loved it (especially the theme), and this is the only major weakness I noticed that I thought could be improved on.

    • Anon, thank you for your insight. It is helpful

  15. I have worked with dozens of Alzheimer’s patients and the disease is so hard on the family. My heart goes out to the Shrivers. You are correct – one can never be prepared for the end.

  16. I loved seeing you as a presenter on the Golden Globes! You looked beautiful as always. You are the “classy” Hollywood! And yes, Ricky Gervais was quite mean-spirited.
    As for Hepburn saying one needs to not lose that hunger, that is so true . . . . as long as the hunger doesn’t make you devour yourself! As you have said many times, one should not seek perfection, but instead seek to become whole. (I can’t quote your exact words, but it is something along those lines.)Both your words and Hepburn’s words will help me in my own profession, a teacher. I can’t lose that hunger, the hunger to teach our children. If I lose that hunger, the children lose as well. Also, I will never be the “perfect” teacher, but the heart of teaching can help me become whole.

  17. You are a class act, Ms. Jane!!

  18. it’s so sad he’s gone from this horrible disease of Alzheimer, who has done so much to help people in difficulties.
    he is at peace now

  19. I thought Ricky Gervais was spot on- made a very dull show, very funny. Hollywood needs to learn to take itself a little less seriously, as we in the hinterlands have learned to do. If people were more honest, then there would be less of a problem. It appears that Hollywood was more upset than anyone else,though the people Gervais made fun of deny that they were irritated. So, off we go to a new GG next year, dull and boring as always.

  20. As much as I love the story and philosophy of Ms. Hepburn’s story, it does not ring true.

    Laurette Taylor made her last stage performance in “The Glass Menagerie”, when it opened on Broadway in 1945. She gave what is considered the greatest performance seen on the American stage. She passed away in December 1946. Ms. Hepburn may have seen Miss Taylor, who suffered from alcoholism, appearing in a revival of one of her earlier plays, but not “The Glass Menagerie”. (who I once heard Maureen Stapleton say “It’s a performance that made me stop drinking….almost”)

    P.S. Which Williams character appealed to you the most? Would have loved to seen you do “Maggie”!

  21. Good Luck with the play!!!!

    My Dad died from Alzheimer’s and we are currently caring for my husbands mother who has Alzheimer’s/dementia.

    It is indeed the “long goodbye”. I hope every day an effective treatment will be found.

  22. Hello Jane,

    The story about K. Hepburn seeing Laurette Taylor in Tennesse Williams’ “The Glass Menagerie” is off. Laurette (not “Lorette”) debuted in the play in March 1945, and it was considered a great comeback for her after years of alcoholism.

    She died less than two years later, in December 1946, so Hepburn’s tale of seeing her revive the part 15 years later (“the magic was gone… she’d lost her hunger”) is inaccurate and disrespectful to Laurette’s memory.

    Is it possible Hepburn was telling a story about another actress, and in retrospect you conflated it with Laurette’s story?

    –Edward Marvin

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