A few years ago, I was the speaker at a morning press event downtown. I don't remember what it was about, but I'll never forget the hour: 8:30 AM. When I walked in bleary-eyed, the first person I noticed sitting among the invited guests was Nora Ephron.
"Good Lord, Nora," I said. "You didn't really have to come at this hour. I would have understood if you didn't show up."
"Why not?" she said to me matter-of-factly. "You'd have done it for me."
She was right -- I would have.
For Nora Ephron -- who passed away yesterday at the insanely premature age of 71 -- life was something to celebrate. And explore. And bitch about. And then celebrate again. You didn't have to read all of her brilliant essays to immediately see that the woman had a titanium-strength point of view --and she was achingly funny about it.
You didn't have to go to all of the movies she wrote and directed to know that she was a romantic who was endlessly amused by the tangled tango between men and women, and that her creative eye and ear in capturing it all was unerring.
You didn't have to read all of her books to realize that her most unusual gift was her ability to lay herself completely bare on the printed page -- confessing her insecurities, touting her triumphs, microanalyzing everything -- and somehow making us believe that we were reading about ourselves.
And yet we did read all of her essays, and see all of her movies, and collect all of her books -- and our hunger for her never abated. I think that's because, somewhere along the line, we appointed Nora as our narrator for life, and we needed her to tell us how to get through the next part.
The idea that we'll now have to look elsewhere for this guidance is heartbreaking. I'll miss her clever banter. I'll miss the wickedly smart way she used to play charades. And I'll sure miss the way she made us all laugh.
When I learned about Nora's death yesterday, that old line from "Auntie Mame" popped into my head -- the one in which Mame Dennis unrepentantly declares that "life is a banquet, and most poor sons-of-bitches are starving to death." If anyone feasted gloriously from that banquet it was Nora. And as I now look back on her life and career and remember the many times I marveled at her inspiring indestructibility, I realize that whenever I was with her, a different line always ran through my head -- this one written by Nora herself:
"I'll have what she's having."
Rest in peace, dear Nora. We will miss you.
Last year, Nora participated in our "Reply All" interview series, and in memory of her, I'd like to repost her answers here. I'm sure they'll make you smile as they do me.
REPLY ALL: Nora Ephron
Checking in with the sharp-witted author, filmmaker, foodie and neck-conscious New Yorker.
If you could write a personal slogan that you live by, what would it be?
"Get over it."
What is your greatest fear?
That I will somehow become allergic to shellfish.
Which word do you most overuse?
What is your secret dream?
To own a small Monet.
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
Who or what always makes you laugh?
What is always at your bedside? In your purse?
At my bedside: my reading glasses. In my purse: my reading glasses.
What do you collect?
Etched wine glasses.
What is your obsession?
What's for dinner.
Who do you text the most? How often?
My kids -- and only when they're late.
Who was the funniest person in your childhood?
The cast of Your Show of Shows: Sid Caesar, Imogene Coca, Carl Reiner and Howard Morris.
Which of the seven deadly sins is your favorite?
What is always in your refrigerator?
When you're watching TV, what makes you want to throw the remote at the screen?
Which song would make the perfect soundtrack for your life?
"Just In Time."
What do you remember most about your first kiss?
If you were a stripper, what would you choose as your stage name?
There's actually a rule for this: the name of your dog, plus the name of the street you grew up on, equals your stripper name. So my stripper name would be Lucy Linden.
What was the most useless piece of advice you ever received?
Not to buy an apartment on East 75th Street...in 1976.
What is your current state of mind?