Saturday, November 27, 2010

Norris Church Mailer

Norris Church Mailer died this past week. I just saw the headline.

Did y'all know I met her once?  Really, I did.  I had this wonderful friend who was an English professor at Concordia College in St. Paul, and she was tapped to organize a conference for the International F. Scott Fitzgerald Society and she called a bunch of her friends to be on the planning committee.  Which I did for a bunch of months, and it was wonderfully planned and mostly I just sat an was awed by all the wonderful ideas that my friend came up with and that she actually made happen.

One of the events for the conference was this great Reader's Theater performance of selections of letters by and between F. Scott,  his wife Zelda, and their frenemy Ernest Hemingway.  Even better were the actors--George Plimpton was divinely suave as FSF, Norman Mailer was appropriately grouchy as Papa Hemingway, and Norris Church Mailer was her gracious Southern self as Zelda.

They were all staying at the Saint Paul Hotel after doing their Reader's Theater performance, and I was Mr. Plimpton's driver.  (Dare I call him "George?") 

At any rate, I had toddled down to the hotel to take him to the airport, and Norris wanted to come out and have a picture of the two of them with the statue of FSF just across from the hotel.  Since there was no reason for me to be in the picture, I was the photographer.

And she was so delightful!  So full of fun and life--and so unlike cranky and grumpy old Norman, who was probably suffering from arthritis as well as a hang-over, if what I overheard was correct.  But Norris was gracious, and generous, and swept even reserved George Plimpton into posing with the statue.  She wanted several shots, and was so obviously enjoying herself and engaging everyone around her. 

I was pleased to see she had a new book out, but then this seemed so sudden.  Nothing I had seen around the book publicity said anything about ongoing battles with cancer. According to the article I saw in the Washington Post, it had been going on for something like eleven years.

So now all three of them are no longer with us, which kind of shocked me.  She was so much younger than her husband and George Plimpton, she should have been around for decades.  I'm rather sad, as she was such a wonderful personality, so delightful to be around, and now she's gone and the world is just that much dimmer without her.

Photo by Christina Pabst from NYT.

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