Very much alive.
Ben Gazzara has a birthday today. I won’t say how old he is because that would jinx it. I commemorated Jules Dassin and Richard Widmark and they promptly croaked. Gazzara’s had enough of that sort of thing.
Remember when Ben Gazzara was dead? It lasted years.
I visited my old friend Lawrie one time and offered to screen THE BIG LEBOWSKI for him — he had an on-off affection for the Coens. I told him who was in it.
“Ben Gazzara? But Ben Gazzara’s dead!”
“Perhaps you’re thinking of John Cassavetes. John Cassavetes is dead.”
“John Cassavetes IS dead. But Ben Gazzara’s definitely dead.”
And as he spoke, a strange thing happened. I remembered that Ben Gazzara was dead. In spite of the fact that I knew he was alive, and I held a recent film he had appeared in to prove it, I could recall a recent time in which I had been just as sure as Lawrie was that Ben Gazzara was as dead as John Cassavetes. Deader, if anything. He always LOOKED deader, anyway.
I wouldn’t go so far as to say I remembered where I was when I first heard that Ben Gazzara was dead, but I definitely remembered a number of places I had been during the time that I knew Ben Gazzara was dead. It was a bit like the strange double memory a couple of characters have in Ursula K. LeGuin’s novella The Lathe of Heaven, after history has been rewritten by a dreaming man with divine powers to reshape reality.
So, the call goes out? Now that Lawrie has gone to join John Cassavetes, and Ben Gazzara has come back to join us, does anybody else remember back when Ben Gazzara was dead?
Does Ben Gazzara?