Author Topic: Remembering Spalding Gray  (Read 742 times)


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Remembering Spalding Gray
« on: March 14, 2004, 07:26:00 pm »
I'm not sure how many Spalding Gray fans are here, but I was a huge fan for 15 years.  I saw him perform his monologues three or four times at various theaters around D.C.  He was smart, funny, insightful and pleasantly neurotic.  Alas, there was more turmoil going on inside.  There have been a number of remembrances of him, but I like this the best as it is in his own words.  I don't know how a person, especially with children, gets so distraught that he can't see his way out.  
 March 14, 2004
 'Life Interrupted'
 ON Dec. 15, 2003, Spalding Gray performed a monologue in front of an audience for the last time. It was at the downtown theater space P.S. 122, where he had developed many of his acclaimed solo shows, including "Swimming to Cambodia" and "Monster in a Box." The work-in-progress, titled "Life Interrupted," tells the story of Mr. Gray's trip to Ireland in 2001, in which he celebrated his 60th birthday with his wife, Kathleen Russo, two sons, a stepdaughter and friends. The getaway turned tragic when Mr. Gray was injured in a car accident that fractured his skull, crushed his hip and sent him into a deep depression.
 Still suffering from the effects of the crash, Mr. Gray appeared disoriented to several people who saw him onstage during the first performances of "Life Interrupted" last October, but he had grown stronger and more focused by the end of the run. "It was like he was performing his own recovery," said Mark Russell, the artistic director of P.S. 122. Originally titled "Black Spot," the monologue, which he had been working on for two years, was scheduled to return to the same theater in April. But on Jan. 10, Mr. Gray disappeared. His body was found in the East River last Sunday. He was 62.
 Mr. Gray never committed "Life Interrupted" to paper, relying instead on an outline with certain key words ("morphine," "addiction") to help him remember his stories. In fact, the play was to be the basis of a full-length memoir to be issued by Crown Publishers. The following excerpt, which begins after the accident, while Mr. Gray is in a hospital in Ireland, has been transcribed from an audiotape of a performance at U.C.L.A. in early 2002.  
 The nurse comes in the following day, after they take me off the morphine, and I feel a depression coming on. And I didn't know how to talk to the Irish about it. I didn't know whether or not they'd acknowledge the word depression, if they recognized it. It's like a fish swimming in water. Does a fish know what water is? I don't know.
 The nurse said, "How are you today, Mr. Gray?"
 "Well, I'm feeling a bit blue."
 "Oh, and why would you be blue, Mr. Gray?"
 "Well, just about two days ago I didn't have a titanium plate in my right hip. Now I feel like a bionic man. It's a shock for a narcissist like me. A real shock."
 "Oh," she says, "an Irishman wouldn't give that a second thought. He'd just go on about his business then. I think you Americans are too health conscious."
 She says: "Perhaps I should take you to the spinal ward. There you'll see something, Mr. Gray. There you'll see something you'll remember."
 She was the same nurse who caught me eating raw spinach out of the bag. Kathie brought it in because I wasn't getting any greens at the hospital.
 "Eating raw spinach, are you then? Now I've seen everything."
 At last Kathie got permission to take me out. The boys would come with her. They were staying at a hotel nearby, and in the afternoon we'd play Scrabble.
 Kathie insisted that I have a TV. I got a single room because all the TV's were driving me crazy. Everyone now watches television. It's destroying the Irish gift of storytelling. Television is sucking up all the stories. Now there's American television. Judge Judy. Ricki Lake. And "Survivor" dubbed in Gaelic.
 The only thing I was watching occasionally was Wimbledon tennis, but I couldn't stand seeing those perfect bodies in motion, lying there in bed. But I did have a TV and I did watch "The Simpsons." That's the only thing that gave me any spirit and hope.
 So that day Kathie took me out in a wheelchair and that was a great outing. We went out with the boys. I had been in the hospital for two weeks. We were in a construction zone, with all these huge cranes around, and it was depressing as all get out. But for me it wasn't. To me, I saw the clouds at last, the horizon, the sky ?? I had been looking out on an air shaft ?? and a bird flew across. It was a hopeful moment.
 We went back to the room and the pinnacle of pinnacles, it was just such a treat, such a surprise, that on comes the television and it's "The Simpsons." It's the show where Marge is yelling off-camera to Homer, who's in the bathtub, "Hey, Homer, listen, the Reynolds have just arrived with two extra tickets to see Spalding Gray." And he goes, "I don't want to see that."