How was the memorial reading of David Rakoff's novel, Love, Dishonor, Marry, Die, Cherish, Perish? Well, it was a lot of things. Packed. Polite. Emotional. 62 readers, so many of them fine...some of them family. (How did they get through it?)
And then there was this:
As it happened, Ira Glass was two people ahead of me in the readers' line, and he joined the line late, and he was fiddling with a mini iPad until he got something right. And then, in the middle of Ira reading David's work, he hit something on the iPad...and it was David, reading David's work.
This is what our age will be, among other things: we will never be able to forget the sound of a beloved's voice. A man will tap on a small screen, and a big room will fill with the slight rasp of a dying man reading a passage about another dying man.
And because everyone in the big room has come to hear David's work, hearing his actual voice? Just plain slays us.
Holy hell, that's a long title for a short book, David.
It's a short book, barely a hundred pages, covers a hundred years in the U.S., not Canada (hey David, what's the deal with that?). It reminds me of novelist Robertson Davies, another eccentric Canadian, and Walt Whitman, another gay man who adored New York and could not be categorized...and who was committed to a religion of kindness.
I am guessing that if you are reading my blog post, you probably know who David Rakoff is. If you don't, go away and Google him, and then come back. Listen to his This American Life interview with Ira Glass about "Who's Canadian?" Read his oddly touching essay about going to a new age spiritual center to hear Steven Seagal speak. Then come back and watch this. And if you are in New York, please join us at 7 p.m. at the Barnes and Noble in Union Square. Bring your Canadian flags and your cranky kindness.
David Rakoff Love, Dishonor, Marry, Die, Cherish, Perish
Author Reading Celebrating David Rakoff: Henry Alford, Melissa Bank, Augusten Burroughs, Charles Bock, Simon Doonan, Ira Glass and Sarah Vowell do a dramatic reading from the posthumous release of Love, Dishonor, Marry, Die, Cherish, Perish, Rakoff's novel-in-verse. Wednesday July 17, 2013 7:00 PM
Union Square 33 East 17th Street, New York, NY 10003,
And here is David's last public performance. Watch the whole thing. Right to the end.
Besides the fact that he's from Pittsburgh, went to CMU, scared me as Sylar, crushed it as Mr. Spock, and did a dyno-mite job in the revival of "Angels in America."
Now: He and his rescue dog Noah (who appears to have a British accent) are starring in a short film about dog adoption. And the project, directed by Sian Heder (who! wrote! for Men of a Certain Age, my favorite series of late), is blowing up on Kickstarter, which will also raise awareness about adoption, and feature pound dogs. Enjoy, and spread the word.
I'll have more to say about the book, The Lost Dogs, which is deeply moving. In the meantime, take a listen to this Fresh Air interview with author Jim Gorant and some of the principal people involved in this remarkable rescue.
The rescue team expected to save, maybe four dogs.
In the end, only one was euthanized, another passed away from injuries, and 47 were saved.
Okay, I'm NOT a photographer. I'm just a writer, and a dog person, and I didn't bring my good camera, just my phone. So, let me say in advance--Bernadette Peters is BEAUTIFUL, even if my camera is shaky and pixelated. She is beautiful, even sitting down on the cold floor of the Public Theater beside all manner of theater dogs trained by the glorious Bill Berloni--the latest Sandy, the lovely bulldog Chloe of the musical Legally Blonde, the feisty Chico also of Legally Blonde. Also beautiful: Orfeh, the gifted singer/performer/comedienne, and her bodacious husband Andy Karl, who steal Legally Blonde whenever they are onstage.
Most beautiful of all: the reason for why these people and dogs are together--to honor Bill Berloni's book, written with Jim Hanrahan, "Broadway Tails," which tells all kind of amazing stories about rescued dogs (and a few cats, lambs, pigs and rats) who find their salvation with Bill and stardom on the stage. The book party was also a fundraiser for Petfinder and the Humane Society, also beautiful, and Bill gave a shoutout to Broadway Barks, the pet adoption/theater event in Shubert Alley--founded by Mary Tyler Moore and the beautiful Bernadette Peters. (Bernadette herself has also written a really fun kids' book--complete with CD--about the event, called Broadway Barks.) In the pictures below, Bernadette is petting the current Sandy. So buy the book! Because it is beautiful! (P.S., welcome all the visitors from the Bernadette Peters site...Bill features some wonderful stuff about Bernadette in his book and GYPSY...so...did I mention that you should buy it?)
One of the most fantastic gifts I've received since I've begun to love dogs, and love writing about them, is learning about (and recently MEETING!) Bill Berloni, who has specialized in training dogs, cats, and even the occasional rat for the stage. Bill also does movies, too, but as he started out as a theater actor, it is his first love.
Bill "discovered" the dog who originated the role of Sandy in "Annie," and, along the way, discovered how many perfectly good animals are abandoned, or dumped in shelters. Training an animal to do the same thing eight times a week amidst the chaos of a Broadway show would be enough. But Bill does more--nearly all of his animals are rescues--coming from shelters and rescue organizations. He doesn't just train animals. He saves them, from the very first Sandy to the musical "Legally Blonde"'s Bruiser and Chloe.
Now, Bill, along with his co-author Jim Hanrahan, has put his terrific story into a book, Broadway Tails. If you're a theater fan, you'll love the gossip. If you're an animal lover, you'll cry at the stories of redemption. And if you're both--well, it's theater maven/dog freak heaven. It's beautifully written, and deeply moving.
Monday, June 23rd, at the Public Theater in New York City, 6-8 p.m., Bill, Jim, and assorted two-legged and four-legged pals, will be celebrating the book's publication. Come on down and buy a book--it will benefit the Humane Society! Four paws up!
This is Bill with Pi, one of Bill's most remarkable discoveries--Pi's even danced in the ballet. Click on the picture to get the full effect of his cuteness.
BEA is short for BookExpo America, which is sort of what happens when you cross books with Las Vegas AND Woodstock. It occurs in the Borg the Javits Center, which is so west in NYC that you can feel the big ol' building lurching into the Hudson.
Anyway: it is a trade show on steroids, where even university presses give away things like branded matchboxes, as if they were an Irish bar they didn't want you to forget.
And I love it.
So here's one of the things I learned this year:
Christopher Hitchens, witty Brit atheist maniac, who is always a little puffy when he appears on television, is Dead Sexy when he is Live on a panel, despite/because of being lit by horrible fluorescent lights.
I wasn't the only one who thought so. Because I got to his panel late, I was squooshed by the only door, and counted EIGHT women who barreled past me, after whispering: "Where IS he?"