TO MY HERO, WILLIAM GOLDMAN, THANK YOU
My hero, William Goldman, died earlier today. Let me tell you a story about how he befriended a sick girl who wanted to be a writer and gave her hope.
When I was sixteen, I stopped wanting to do my cystic fibrosis treatment. I refused to do it. I was sad and confused and didn’t want to be sick anymore. One afternoon, I was working as a birthday clown at my friend’s little sister’s party, and at the end, we all watched The Princess Bride. That movie changed my life. I watched it every day for months. I read the book, and then William Goldman’s other books (The Silent Gondolier being my favorite). I did treatment every night with my mom while watching The Princess Bride.
Around that time, to cheer me up, my mom had signed me up for Make-A-Wish (because cystic fibrosis is a terminal, childhood disease). I only wanted one thing— to meet the man who wrote my favorite movie. Make-A-Wish reached out to Bill Goldman, and the way he tells it, he was totally confused. A sixteen-year-old girl wants to meet me? For what? –She loves your movie. She’s a writer too. He agreed.
My parents and I flew to New York to meet him. I had my first little movie I’d written in a notebook with me (the star of the movie had CF and it ends with a talent show). I’d typed it up and emailed it to him the week before. He hosted us for tea in his amazing apartment and gave us a tour of all of his Princess Bride memorabilia, and gave me signed copies of all his books. Then he sat with me, for an entire hour, and talked about my movie. He gave me my first set of real Hollywood notes. He treated me like a peer. Then we all went to lunch.
I remember we sat at the fanciest restaurant I’d ever been to, and when it was time for dessert, they rolled a cart of sweets out for us and said, pick one! He was the most interesting man and told us amazing stories. He asked me more questions than I asked him— what’s your favorite current movie? Who’s your favorite actress? I said Sandra Bullock and he said she was in his top favorites— that once, he’d been at a meeting with her and some executives in an LA restaurant, and unbeknownst to everyone at the table she’d covered the bill even before they all sat down. What I most remember, though, is how encouraging he was. He really wanted me to write. He told me I was talented. He asked a lot of questions about CF.
And then, after that trip was done, he stayed in touch with me for years. I would send him an email when I liked a new movie. I told him when I went to college on the East Coast. We went to dinner a few more times after that, when my parents where in town. He’d email with my dad. I emailed him that I got into grad school for playwriting. He didn’t always have time to write back, but when he did he was encouraging. It was just this amazing thing he did for this little sick kid, staying in my life all that time. A few years ago, he stopped emailing back and we let it go. The last time we’d seen him, he had been pretty weak. This picture is from that last time. I’d told him I was dating a director from my grad program, and he said, “a director? why?” He told me that his friend Harlan Coben had just shown him at lunch last week how Twitter worked.
I had a nice afternoon reading through his old emails. He was a good man, and a generous man to keep emailing with a little writer like me. Here are some of my favorite takes (by the way, Estate of William Goldman, no clue if it’s all right for me to post these? I’m just a sad wee little writer, and he made a big difference in my life. Okay thanks!)— here they are.
I’m sixteen, trying to convince him to get a dog:
THE THING ABOUT A DOG, KIDDO, IS I WOULD HAVE TO WALK IT
THAT IS NOT SOMETHING AT WHICH I EXCEL
TRUST ME ON THAT
Apparently, I used to send him American Greeting e-cards on holidays:
i am the worst jew you ever met — yes i celebrate christmas
He asks me if I like the play Doubt by John Patrick Shanley. I do.
Me: I did go to doubt, and it was AMAZING. and i met cherry jones! we stayed after the show to meet her backstage, and she was so nice. she said she received and read my letter and kept meaning to write back (she never did), but she said she was sorry and iwas duh its ok you’re cherry jones! she was really nice, it was pretty much amazing.
so glad the play got to you
i am a friend of shanley as i must have told you and saw it before rehearsal and off off broadway and on and it kept getting better and better
what i loved especially was not just that it was brilliant but also that IT WAS SHORT.
less is more, kiddo. never forget that
His college advice to me:
remember kiddo, somebody will want you
On “the youth”:
— if there are any movies you and your friends are desperate to see, please let me know — i probably won’t go but i am interested in what appeals to your generation.
I sent him a ten-minute play I wrote called “the holidays.”
i hate complimenting you
all i do when your writing comes up, is gush
so what do i say about the holidays
BURKE — I LOVED IT!
the last line rocked me
How he describes his own writing:
i am just goofing around
but all is very well
His last email to me, after I wrote to him about Princess Bride the Musical rumors, and how excited I was that my dairy restriction was lifted so I could eat chocolate cake again. (pb = princess bride)
pb is indeed cool
but so are you, kiddo
whenever you;re in town, call me so we can dine
all the chocolate cake you can lift is yours