Saturday, February 15, 2014

Philip Seymour

Since his death several weeks ago I’ve been writing something in my head about Philip Seymour Hoffman. After he died the Washington Post headline was, “Electrifying actor of moments great and small.” Yep, he was that and more. Everyone kept saying, “Such talent—such a waste.” But I am so strangely crushed and disappointed in him that I can’t add another word to what already has been written and said about him. So I’ll write nothing.

Weeks have gone by since his death yet still I’m shocked. It’s not like I knew him or even saw him in person. The closest I ever got to him was when I passed the theater on Broadway where he was playing Willy Loman in Death of a Salesman. I saw his name on the theater marquee. I was going to another play—an excellent play, but not the one with Philip Seymour Hoffman.

I remember where I was when I heard that Elvis had been found dead in the bathroom at Graceland. What a waste to lose Elvis, the king of rock and roll, the boy from Mississippi whose voice defined a generation. I was driving on Chain Bridge Road in McLean, Nathan was in the back seat, and I was almost at the stop light at Westmoreland Street when I heard it on the radio. I remember where I was when I heard that Marilyn Monroe was found dead, nude, in her bed in Hollywood. That sweet, sexy blonde—what happened to her? And such a waste that she died so young. I heard the news on a summer afternoon. I was sitting on the sofa watching television at a house in my neighborhood where I was supposed to be babysitting that unfortunate boy Michael Anderson. I was a terrible babysitter. And Philip Seymour Hoffman? I was driving my car, passing the town center at “the compound” where my mother lives. I heard the news flash on the radio. I stopped at a stop sign, so stunned that I couldn’t move the car. People probably thought I had a stroke.

Why have I had this gut-wrenching, visceral reaction to Philip Seymour Hoffman’s death? He was found in the bathroom with a needle in his arm. I think of someone I know and love who is addicted to heroin. He too has been found passed out in his bathroom. Luckily he survived. He has been in and out of treatment more times than I can count. Now he’s in treatment again. I pray that he never again puts a needle in his arm. Don’t die like Philip Seymour Hoffman. Such a waste.

Celebrities aren’t that interesting to me. To me Philip Seymour Hoffman wasn’t a celebrity. He was an extraordinary actor whose ego disappeared in the roles he played. That’s what I loved about him. I loved the frumpy-lumpy way he looked and I loved his cockeyed smile, and his fearlessness. I keep thinking about the priest he played in Doubt, a charming, seemingly kind and compassionate man who may or may not have had a very dark side. It seems that the actor may have had a dark side too.

It’s sad. Such incredible talent. Such a waste. And I can’t write about it.

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