So, my brother called me this morning to tell me about the death of someone we don't know. I'm kinda bummed out now.
The sad story is about the actress Adrienne Shelley, who apparently killed herself by hanging last night. Not exactly a household name, I know, but I've always had a fondness for the "indie actress" ever since I first saw her in the Hal Hartley movies Trust and The Unbelievable Truth (you know, back when Hartley made good movies). She was a talented actress who also directed some indie films.
Okay, I admit it: I used to have the biggest crush on Ms. Shelley. I mean, look at this photo. She was gorgeous.
It's weird that the death of a film actor can affect us in this way. I mean, putting the "crush" aside for a moment, I'm sad that I won't be following her career anymore. I am looking forward to seeing Factotum on DVD (missed it in the theater, natch). but I wanted to see that anyway, because I am a fan of the book by Bukowski (I love that drunken bastard!).
I suppose that we can become attached to the characters that actors play, and attribute the character's qualities--good or bad--to the people who play them. We feel like we know the actors personally because we've seen them vulnerable.
I did not know Adrienne Shelley at all. I did have one personal encounter with her, though. It was back in 1993 (or so). Just after moving to Los Angeles, I was back in New York, visiting friends, when some of us went to a performance at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe on Avenue C. Honestly, I don't remember what the performance was--it was a reading of an unproduced screenplay--but I do remember that there were a few familliar faces in the cast of readers, like Frank Whaley and, of course, Adrienne Shelley.
Probably the reason I don't remember the content of the reading is that I spent the whole time staring at her. I don't know if I was starstruck or just drooling.
Maybe it was my imagination, but before the performance, I was upstairs waiting on line for the men's room, when I first ran into her. She was just hanging around in the 'loft' area, waiting for the show. The loft is small, so I was standing right next to her, trying not to look at her. But, she was looking at me.
I'm a shy guy. Less so today, but still pretty quiet around groups of people. By 'groups' I mean more than two or three people. Back then I was much worse--especially where beautiful women were concerned. So there I was, standing next to Adrienne Shelley, sweating bullets, averting my eyes, waiting to pee. Finally I did look up, she was smiling, I kind of gave her a goofy grin and an inaudable, "hi."
Then the bathroom opened up and I fled.
When we sat down to watch the show, my friends and I lucked out with front-row seats. When the actors came out, they all sat down in a row of chairs that were set up in a line, and they went though the script, each reading a different role. Though I don't remember the script, I remember enjoying it, and I remember that Adrienne Shelley's seat was right in front of me.
How could I not stare the whole time?
ANYWAY, that's it; the whole story. I didn't really see her after the show--she was hanging out with the actors. Not that I would have talked to her. For a long time afterwards, I fantasized about what might have happened if I'd just opened my goddamned mouth. Would she have let me buy her a drink? Would we find a common ground for a conversation--or more? COULD I HAVE DATED ADRIENNE SHELLEY??!?!?!
It's stupid. I've had that same experience in dozens of bars with pretty women, not famous, who I also did not have the nerve to speak to. But because of that connection we feel with the personalities we watch on the silver screen, this particular episode has always stayed with me. When I've seen the infrequent film freaturing Adrienne Shelley, I've always smiled inwardly. I've smiled at my own goofiness and shaken my head at how memory can build up such insignificant moments as those spent waiting for the men's room with a girl you don't even know.
The details of Ms. Shelley's apparent suicide are pretty awful, and those who know her can't believe she did it. They say she was a happy person; they're shocked. It's impossible to know what goes on in other people's heads, and events like this drive that point home. I certainly know nothing about the inner Adrienne Shelley, but I'm shocked too. What drives people to do such things?
I still want to see Factotum,, but I know it will make me sad. Here's a random thought: wherever she is, maybe Adrienne's hanging out with that ole barfly, Charles Bukowski! If so, buy her a drink for me, Chuck! I should have done it when I had the chance!
Now, back to work...