August 11, 2004

Gerri

(Another downer post, Iím afraid. I'll try to be more cheerful tomorrow.)

Dan called me from work on Monday: a coworker had seen a news item about a film editor and passed it on to him. Geraldine Peroni, best known for her work with Robert Altman and nominated for an Oscar for The Player, died this week in her New York apartment, probably suicide.

I worked with Gerri a lifetime ago when I was an apprentice editor in New York. We worked on an indie movie starring Viggo Mortenson (who was a sweetheart, by the way). We set up a cutting room in the directorís SoHo loft. My rewind table was pushed against a wall in the living room. I ended up in a dual assistant/apprentice role and Gerri became the associate editor, cutting alongside the editor. It was a great job. The pay sucked (come to think of it, I donít think we ever got paid) but Gerri and Beth (the editor) were terrific companions. Especially sweet, cheerful, understatedly intelligent Gerri. She had a calm presence. I liked her enormously. She was in a committed relationship with a woman but had a not-so-secret crush on Viggo; we used to clown around about it. Endearing. Fun. Good times.

I left that job for a union gig on a popular TV series. Gerri called me a week into the job. Sheíd gotten on John Saylesí new movie, did I want to come? Did I ever! But I said I couldn't (out of a misplaced sense of loyalty to my new bosses) and we never got the chance to work together again.

The last time I saw Gerri for any real chunk of time, she was on location in LA for The Player. I met her in the cutting room and we went for lunch. I donít remember many specifics of what we talked about, just the lingering warmth. She was in love, I remember that. Her lover was a man, which surprised me at the time. I do remember that, the feeling of definitions shifting, of seeing her separate from her sexual orientation. I liked that. I liked her. I think Iíve said that already, havenít I? I always had a sense that she wasn't afraid to simply be who she was, sans labels.

It would be a lie to say Iím devastated by her death; New York and my life there seem so far away in space and time both. But I find myself thinking about her, wondering what her recent life had been like. Why she was so despairing. Whether she still presented a serenity in the cutting room or whether cracks showed. She was cutting an Ang Lee movie. Left it in the middle. Came home one night andÖ What led to that? If Iíd known her better, spent time with her more recently, would I have known the answer? Is it easier this way, to remember her with a gauze of fondness softening the picture? Would I have become better friends with her if I'd stayed in New York? Could I have helped her?

Even though I haven't seen her in years, I'll miss her. And I'll always wonder.

Posted by Tamar at August 11, 2004 10:42 PM
Comments

I completely relate, Tamar. Several months ago, my former boss (the one who said pack up and move 3000 miles away) did the same thing. I knew his history, I knew details, I knew a lot. It shouldn't have come as a complete surprise, but I was still stunned. He lived in a nearby suburb, one that I frequent. I knew the neighborhood. We had joked about our common LA road rage and swore to steer clear of each other's respective car models, just in case.

I, too, will always wonder.

Posted by: Brad at August 12, 2004 09:12 AM

and I'm the one who supposedly knows something about suicide, since I wrote a whole book about it -- yet was as blindsided/saddened as you when a friend, whose dark side I surely knew, hung himself two years ago next month.

Death always leaves unanswered questions; suicide *is* one.

and anyway, deaths of our contemporaries have a particular force. Big hugs while you process.

Posted by: Chris at August 12, 2004 08:27 PM

Why?

Posted by: Susan Carpenter at January 5, 2005 10:27 PM