12/16/2013 04:21 pm ET Updated Feb 15, 2014

Lucy Grealy, a Friend Remembered


Portrait of Lucy Grealy, 46 x 37 inches, oil on canvas, 1993

Today is my birthday. It is also the death anniversary of a dear friend, Lucinda Margaret Grealy, Lucy to her friends, who died at the age of 39 in 2002. For the past year I have been thinking that on this day this year I want to memorialize her, one of the best friends in my life. She often called me her first fan. I was that, and I was also among the many people she blessed with her amazing love and friendship.


Lucy was an American poet and memoirist. Her book Autobiography of a Face was published in 1994. The book describes her childhood and early adolescence experience with cancer of the jaw, which left her with facial disfigurement. In an interview with Charlie Rose conducted right before she rose to the height of her fame, Lucy stated her book was primarily about "identity".

She died on my birthday and I still feel guilty I was not there to stop her, to have that one conversation that might prevent her from going to extremes. She was often desperate. Her brilliance and wit were a treasure to all her friends and readers, but sadly were no help to her.

I remember Lucy in many ways. She posed for me several times. She was a wonderful model and we had great conversations about art and painting, which she knew a lot about.

One time we travelled to Province Town together and walked to Norman Mailer's beach house. It was 3:00 a.m. and I dared Lucy to yell with me at the top of our lungs "Mrs. Mailer, Mrs. Mailer, can Norman come out and play?" She was game. To our surprise Mailer did not open the window and did not invite us in for coffee to have a long talk about art. We tried.

Lucy was above all fun, and game for anything. She beat all the boys at pool and she could drink me under the table. Lucy was a poet in the highest sense; she lived a great life, a poetic life. I remember her and I hope more people remember and rediscover her writing. Her writing and her friends were her life, and she knew those would endure!