Friday, February 25, 2005
Cat blog Friday #4
I had this ideal concept of snapping Kuro delicately sniffing the newly opened amaryillis. But, of course, like Howard Hughes and clouds in "The Aviator," you could wait around all year for that. Amaryllis is a rather amazing plant. Or, is it a legume? Or berry, or nut? I have the least green thumb in the world and yet I have luck with these delicate things. I once laid an amaryllis on my friend, dancer Frances Nealy. She was near death, and I gave her one that was also almost ready to expire. Please don't get me wrong here; I am in total accord with Katharine Hepburn who believed that "They just throw you in the ground, shovel some dirt over you, and there's nothing to worry about anymore." But I'll be goldarned if that thing didn't spring back to life even as Frances was in the process of buying the farm. . .or as writer Eve Babitz once described death: "The very last word in your friends having fun without you."
Frances' best friend was actress Cora Lee Day. She was one of the stars of Julie Dash's terrific film, "Daughters of the Dust." Not long after Frances died in 1997, I was driving to the grocery store, saw Cora standing on the sidewalk and pulled over to chat. Mostly, we talked about Frances. Cora Lee, who was the last person to her alive, told me that Frances had tapped out a time step on her (Cora's) palm and then passed. I got so verklempt when Cora told me the story that day that I had to turn around and drive back home. I'm all better now, thank you.
I was always astonished by the fact that in all of her 79 years, every penny Frances had earned had come from show business, especially as a fairly big (perhaps "respected" is the better word) fish in smallish pond of tap dancing. As for Cora, for a brief, mercurial (and hysterically funny) moment in time, she was also a professional jazz singer, but I'll save that one for some other time.
Frances Nealy was the classiest and most dignified creature you can imagine; the sort who never took the garbage out unless she was dressed to the nines. That's the way old troopers were.
Not long before she died, I happened to look out on her terrace and see an American flag stuck in one of the pots. I had never known Frances to be unduly patriotic, and so I asked:
"Why do you have that flag out there?"
"Oh, honey," she said. "That's pot. But if I stick a flag in there and anyone happens to come snooping around they won't pay any attention to it."
Twilight of the gods, I tell you. Twilight of the gods.
Posted by Bill Reed at 9:09 AM