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YOU ARE AN INSPIRATION
Melissa Rivers to Joan Rivers
On Sunday, 7 September 2014, crowds gathered outside Temple Emanu-El on New York's Fifth Avenue in order to pay their respects to the recently departed Joan Rivers. Born in Brooklyn in 1933 to Russian immigrant parents, Rivers was an outspoken comedian who had been a household name since the 1960s thanks to her numerous television projects. Many speeches were made in memory of Rivers that day, including one by her daughter, Melissa, whose spare room Rivers had stayed in sporadically over the years while filming in Los Angeles. To the delight of all gathered, after saying a few words, Melissa read out this letter, written to her late mother the year before.
I received the note that you slipped under my bedroom door last night. I was very excited to read it, thinking that it would contain amazing, loving advice that you wanted to share with me. Imagine my surprise when I opened it and saw that it began with the salutation, "Dear Landlord." I have reviewed your complaints and address them below:
1. While I appreciate your desire to "upgrade" your accommodations to a larger space, I cannot, in good conscience, move [thirteen-year-old son] Cooper into the laundry room. I do agree that it will teach him a life lesson about fluffing and folding, but since I don't foresee him having a future in dry cleaning, I must say no.
Also, I know you are a true creative genius (and I am in awe of the depth of your instincts), but breaking down a wall without my permission is not an appropriate way to express that creativity. It is not only a boundary violation but a building-
code violation as well. Additionally, the repairman can't get here until next week, so your expansion plan will have to be put on hold.
2. Re: Your fellow "tenant" (your word), Cooper. While I trust you with him, it is not OK for you to undermine my rules. It is not OK that you let him have chips and ice cream for dinner. It is not OK that you let him skip school to go to the movies. And it is really not OK that the movie was Last Tango in Paris.
As for your taking his friends to a "gentlemen's club," I accepted your rationale that it was an educational experience for the boys - and you are right, he is the most popular kid in school right now - but I'd prefer he not learn biology from those "gentlemen" and their ladies, Bambi, Trixie and Kitten. And just because I yelled at you, I do not appreciate your claim that I have created a hostile living environment.
3. While I'm glad to see you're socializing, you must refill the hot tub after your parties. In fact, you need to tone down the parties altogether. Imagine my surprise when I saw the photos you posted on Facebook of your friends frolicking topless in the hot tub.
I think it's great that you're entertaining more often, but I can't keep fielding complaints from the neighbors about your noisy party games like Ring Around the Walker or naked Duck, Duck Caregiver.
I'm more than happy to have you use the house for social gatherings, but you cannot rent it out, advertise as "party central" or hand out T-shirts that say "F- Jimmy Buffett."
In closing, I hope I have satisfactorily answered your complaints and queries. I love having you live with me, and I am grateful for every minute Cooper and I have with you. You are an inspiration. You are also 30 days late with the rent.
I KNOW, MOTHER, I KNOW
Anne Sexton to Linda Sexton
Born in Newton, Massachusetts, in 1928, Anne Sexton battled mental illness for much of her adult life, the births of her two girls in her twenties only serving to deepen and complicate her mental anguish. It was on the advice of her therapist during a stay at hospital in 1955, two years after the birth of her first daughter, Linda, that she began to write the poetry that would keep her suicidal thoughts at bay and give her family and friends hope. While travelling in 1969, two years before she won the Pulitzer Prize for her book, Live or Die, Sexton wrote to Linda, then fifteen, with a message for the future. Five years after this emotional letter was penned, Sexton finally took her own life. She was forty-five years old.
Wed - 2:45 P.M.
I am in the middle of a flight to St. Louis to give a reading. I was reading a New Yorker story that made me think of my mother and all alone in the seat I whispered to her "I know, Mother, I know." (Found a pen!) And I thought of you - someday flying somewhere all alone and me dead perhaps and you wishing to speak to me.
And I want to speak back. (Linda, maybe it won't be flying, maybe it will be at your own kitchen table drinking tea some afternoon when you are 40. Anytime.) - I want to say back.
1st, I love you.
2. You never let me down
3. I know. I was there once. I too, was 40 and with a dead mother who I needed still.
This is my message to the 40-year-old Linda. No matter what happens you were always my bobolink, my special Linda Gray. Life is not easy. It is awfully lonely. I know that. Now you too know it - wherever you are, Linda, talking to me. But I've had a good life - I wrote unhappy - but I lived to the hilt. You too, Linda - Live to the HILT! To the top. I love you, 40-year old Linda, and I love what you do, what you find, what you are! - Be your own woman. Belong to those you love. Talk to my poems, and talk to your heart - I'm in both: if you need me. I lied, Linda. I did love my mother and she loved me. She never held me but I miss her, so that I have to deny I ever loved her - or she me! Silly Anne! So there!
'Live to the HILT!'
- Anne Sexton
I AM DANNY DEVITO'S MOTHER
Julia DeVito to Kirk Douglas
In 1973, at the very beginning of Danny DeVito's long and illustrious movie career, he was cast in Scalawag, a largely forgotten film directed by, and starring, an already beloved Hollywood legend, Kirk Douglas. It received, at best, lukewarm reviews upon release. No one was prouder of the film, however, than DeVito's mother, Julia, and soon after watching it she sent an endearing letter to Douglas to thank him for casting her son. Julia went on to star alongside her son in the widely adored sitcom, Taxi. She passed away in 1987. Kirk Douglas reprinted her charming letter in his autobiography a year later, and in 1991 Danny DeVito read it aloud to an audience of hundreds as the AFI Life Achievement Award was awarded to Douglas.
Dear Mr. & Mrs. Douglas:
I am Danny DeVito's mother, writing to thank you both for giving my son a part in your movie, "Scallywag." My family all went to see it at the Paramount in N.Y.C. it was a great movie. Some of my friends & relatives saw it in Florida, they called me up to-day, to tell me that Danny was great they liked his acting, so that made me feel so proud. Half of Asbury Park N.J. are waiting for it to come here. My daughter owns a Beauty Salon in Neptune N.J. and has a sign in it: "Scallywag Coming Soon." You see there is plenty of publicity out here.
Love to your son Michael, he spent a weekend at our house & we all love him & we also watch the Streets of San Francisco on Thursday nights.
Again, I want to thank you both for giving my son a part in your movie. It's great to have a part with a big star like you.
Mrs. Dan DeVito
SHINE, CONSTANTLY AND STEADILY
Caitlin Moran to Lizzie Moran
British journalist and author Caitlin Moran hails from Brighton, England, the eldest of eight siblings whose working-class family grew up in the English city of Wolverhampton. Since her early teens she has written for a wide audience, and at the age of fifteen was crowned 'Young Reporter of the Year' by the Observer - the first of many awards she has since received for her work. The mother of two girls herself, in 2013 she wrote this letter to one of her daughters, explaining at the time: 'My daughter is about to turn 13 and I've been smoking a lot recently, and so - in the wee small hours, when my lungs feel like there's a small mouse inside them, scratching to get out - I've thought about writing her one of those "Now I'm Dead, Here's My Letter Of Advice For You To Consult As You Continue Your Now Motherless Life" letters. Here's the first draft. Might tweak it a bit later. When I've had another fag.'
Hello, it's Mummy . . . Look - here are a couple of things I've learnt on the way that you might find useful in the coming years. It's not an exhaustive list, but it's a good start. Also, I've left you loads of life-insurance money - so go hog wild on eBay on those second-hand vintage dresses you like. You have always looked beautiful in them. You have always looked beautiful.
The main thing is just to try to be nice. You already are - so lovely I burst, darling - and so I want you to hang on to that and never let it go. Keep slowly turning it up, like a dimmer switch, whenever you can. Just resolve to shine, constantly and steadily, like a warm lamp in the corner, and people will want to move towards you in order to feel happy, and to read things more clearly. You will be bright and constant in a world of dark and flux, and this will save you the anxiety of other, ultimately less satisfying things like 'being cool', 'being more successful than everyone else' and 'being very thin'.
Second, always remember that, nine times out of ten, you probably aren't having a full-on nervous breakdown - you just need a cup of tea and a biscuit. You'd be amazed how easily and repeatedly you can confuse the two. Get a big biscuit tin.
Three - always pick up worms off the pavement and put them on the grass. They're having a bad day, and they're good for . . . the earth or something (ask Daddy more about this; am a bit sketchy).
Four: choose your friends because you feel most like yourself around them, because the jokes are easy and you feel like you're in your best outfit when you're with them, even though you're just in a T-shirt. Never love someone whom you think you need to mend - or who makes you feel like you should be mended. There are boys out there who look for shining girls; they will stand next to you and say quiet things in your ear that only you can hear and that will slowly drain the joy out of your heart. The books about vampires are true, baby. Drive a stake through their hearts and run away.
Stay at peace with your body. While it's healthy, never think of it as a problem or a failure. Pat your legs occasionally and thank them for being able to run. Put your hands on your belly and enjoy how soft and warm you are - marvel over the world turning over within, the brilliant meat clockwork, as I did when you were inside me and I dreamt of you every night.
Whenever you can't think of something to say in a conversation, ask people questions instead. Even if you're next to a man who collects pre-Seventies screws and bolts, you will probably never have another opportunity to find out so much about pre-Seventies screws and bolts, and you never know when it will be useful.
This segues into the next tip: life divides into AMAZING ENJOYABLE TIMES and APPALLING EXPERIENCES THAT WILL MAKE FUTURE AMAZING ANECDOTES. However awful, you can get through any experience if you imagine yourself, in the future, telling your friends about it as they scream, with increasing disbelief, 'NO! NO!' Even when Jesus was on the cross, I bet He was thinking, 'When I rise in three days, the disciples aren't going to believe this when I tell them about it.'
Babyiest, see as many sunrises and sunsets as you can. Run across roads to smell fat roses. Always believe you can change the world - even if it's only a tiny bit, because every tiny bit needed someone who changed it. Think of yourself as a silver rocket - use loud music as your fuel; books like maps and co-
ordinates for how to get there. Host extravagantly, love constantly, dance in comfortable shoes, talk to Daddy and Nancy about me every day and never, ever start smoking. It's like buying a fun baby dragon that will grow and eventually burn down your f***ing house.