Jan 31, 2013
I don’t want to step on the blogging toes of my friend fellow writer and blogger Sheldon Bull who did a post about Elaine May on his blog Elephant Bucks, but I just happened to meet the iconic Ms. May last Sunday. And not only did I get to say a brief hello, I got to grab some footage of her talking about her controversial film Ishtar. Okay, maybe it’ s not controversial, not in the real sense, but it’s been widely discussed since its release in 1984. In fact May herself says if all the people who have criticized it had actually bought tickets it would be a financial success.
I had never seen the film, despite the fact my writing partner and friend Paul Williams did all the music.
Last weekend, The Museum of Moving Image had a retrospective of some of Paul’s work. The closing night was Ishtar with a surprise visit from Elaine May.
Now for those of you don’t know much about May, I suggest reading the article on her and Mike Nichols in last month’s Vanity Fair. She is a comedic genius. And while deeply respected and still working at the age of eighty, she is not as prolific as one might imagine, she does what she wants when she wants. But more surprising, at least to me, she is very shy and stays very clear of the press. In a career that has spanned over fifty years she has given three interviews. Go online. There is next to nothing by her, on her, about her. She does not appear on Jon Stewart. She doesn’t blog for the Huffpo or any site that would keep her name tossed into the mix. She has remained a legend by staying out of sight, only relying on her staggering talent to keep her working and part of the dialogue.
Elaine May is so shy or so not needing of attention she arrived at Sunday’s screening of her film unannounced, after the film had started, and she sat in the very last row with her partner of many years the legendary director Stanley Donen.
In fact she only came down to the stage when Paul invited her. I think if he hadn’t said anything she and Donen would have slipped out of the theatre as stealthily as they entered. But Paul did get her to come down and talk briefly about Ishtar. Something that I have never heard of or seen her do.
Go ahead, I dare you, surf You Tube for hours. You will find nothing.
So, Sheldon, I am sorry to blog about her the same week you did, but I must share this brief but rare little bit of film; badly shot, you will see my finger for a second as I grab a still while holding my iPhone. But it does give a glimpse of someone we never get to see, talking about a film that has been spoken about quite a lot.
Watch the video here:
Stanley Donen, Elaine May and Paul Williams.
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