"Hey Meg-a-la," shouted Rosie O'Donnell, trying to get Meg Ryan's attention at, yikes, Alice Tully Hall, just after the memorial tribute to writer, director Nora Ephron. Gathering in the lobby for pink champagne, the crowd looked like a who's who of film, theater, and media: Bette Midler, Charlie Rose, Matthew Broderick, Rob Reiner, Larry David, Annette Bening, Lauren Bacall, Jon Hamm, Mike Nichols, to skim the surface of a very long list, including too Jenny Allen, Halley Feiffer, and Ilene Beckermann, writer of the book on which Love, Loss, and What I Wore was based. And then of course her husband Nick Pileggi, and ex-husband Carl Bernstein; marriage to him was the basis of her novel, Heartburn. The book was so popular, even Paul Bowles living in Tangier wrote to me about how it made him laugh.
Carol Kane chatted with Meryl Streep, Rita Wilson remembered Nora attending a show of Rita singing rock in May, maybe the last public appearance before Ephron, below the radar of everyone except for immediate family, succumbed to a rare kind of leukemia. Not telling anyone seemed an elegant way to exit for a smart, funny woman who hated to complain. From the podium, Streep said she felt pissed and privileged, and holding back tears summed up, "It's stupid to be mad at someone who died."
As if the many essays she wrote, and movies we can all recite by heart didn't give enough of Nora Ephron's worldview, one by one the eulogizers offered life-changing advice she gave them: Nora's sister Delia opined, the world is now bereft of opinions, and then spoke about Nora's helpful advice on the break up of Delia's first marriage, Richard Cohen spoke about her opinion on sink sprays, Martin Short on chocolate ("hazelnuts are what's wrong with Europe," although it is still not clear whether this one belongs to Nora or Delia). Whatever, Nora was always right.
Tom Hanks and wife Rita Wilson, playing a version of Nick and Nora, spoke about her insistence on 60-inch round tables for 10 people for dinner parties. She loved dinner parties and loved to cook, so each program included a recipe: mine was for Potatoes Anna. Aside from the usual steps, she editorializes about drying the potato slivers out, round by round. "This may be boring but it pays off." In Heartburn, she abandons Anna for mashed, the ultimate comfort food.
Most of all, her advice included a hand me down from her mother: everything is material. And her six-word autobiography: Secret of Life: Marry an Italian. In homage, I promptly left Lincoln Center and had Igor at Barney's massage my neck, even though, in truth, I feel bad about my knees.
A version of this post also appears on Gossip Central.
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