It was 7:45 on an Oscar morning and my phone was ringing. It was my friend Holly Palance who has been my best friend (and still is) since we were teenagers.
"Oh my God," she said, "he just put on his tuxedo and it split right up the back. I don't know what I'm going to do....he says he's going to wear a cowboy hat..."
Her father Jack Palance had been nominated for an Oscar for his performance in City Slickers and he had asked her to be his date.
The day went on like that filled with missives like, "He won't let me call Armani..." "He wants me to wear a western outfit so I match him..."
When she finally picked him up in the limo, he opened the door and he was wearing a shiny silver suit like something The Miracles wore when they backed up Smokey Robinson, something so shiny you could see your reflection in it.
"What is this?" she asked him.
Always a man of few words, he replied, "This is the suit I'm wearing, Holly."
His pants were so tight, she thought he was going to split them.
They drove downtown in silence in the back of the limo until somewhere in deepest, darkest LA, he announced he wanted to stop somewhere so he could get a ginger ale. Getting a ginger ale in deepest, darkest L.A., is not as easy as getting a sprite or a coke, so that occasioned three stops but they finally found one.
And then somehow, they were sitting in their seats. Billy Crystal gave his opening remarks, at which point, Jack whispered in Holly's ear, "I'm getting out of here, if I win, could you just go up and get it for me?"
She grabbed his arm, "I'm begging you Daddy, not to leave." And since "Supportng Actor" is almost the first award, as she was still holding onto his arm, his name was called.
And the next she knew, he was on all fours. And the audience was laughing hysterically.
I was laughing, too, at home, but not for the same reason they were, I was laughing because I knew that Holly was sitting in the audience dying because it was her father up there on all fours...until Tim Dalton turned around and said to her, "It's okay, Holly. It's fabulous."
And it was fabulous, partly because Billy Crystal understood how great it was and Billy loved him, and because it was about breaking the glass ceiling, in a way. Not the push-ups, but the award itself. It wasn't an award given for a body of work, it was about a performance, Curly, given at an advanced age that was brilliant and captured everybody's heart. And a brave performance because, in a way, it was a send-up of his own performance in Shane, the brilliant performance that he'd first earned fame and recognition for.
But that was Jack's gift, a gift he passed on to his family, his extended family, and his friends, making us believe that anything was possible, that tomorrow was another day and who knew what it would bring, that it was okay, sometimes, to act on impulse, particularly when you were acting, that you could reach the brass ring, that it was okay to be a little "out there", to be fearless and vulnerable at the same time, and a feeling that we always had, that no matter what any of us did, he would always love us.
I miss him.