Wednesday, January 23, 2008

R.I.P. Heath Ledger

I know this video isn't of Heath Ledger, but the actor's death at age 28 marks - in my opinion - the most significant loss of a young actor since the great River Phoenix. With all due respect to Brad Renfro. And Jonathan Brandis.

Heath's death struck me deeply because I respected him immensely as an actor. Beyond gay cowboys, or Bob Dylan in my #1 movie of 2007 I'm Not There, or even his upcoming and highly anticipated role as the Joker in The Dark Knight, Heath will no doubt be remembered for his enormous ability to play complex and varied roles.

But beyond fandom, his death struck me on a personal note, and I will tell you why. It is particularly painful because for the past two years Heath has been integral to a small though complex lie that I've been telling a lot of people. His death compels me to come clean with it.

See, it was about two years ago when I was shopping in a trendy men's clothing store on Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn, just a few blocks from the brownstone in which Heath, his then-wife Michelle Williams, and their daughter Matilda were living. It wasn't uncommon to hear reports from neighborhood friends that they saw Heath at this place, or Michelle at that place. And while they were trying to keep a low profile with the paparazzi - searching for some semblance of normalcy by living outside the bustle of Manhattan - they made presence in the borough known by lending their names to a local fight against the construction of a stadium and highrise apartment development not far from where they lived.

The store I was shopping in was a tiny hole in the wall, but it had some great clothing -- antique-style working jackets and expensive handmade neckties. It was fall, and like many fellow Brooklynites, I was in the market for a sweater. The sweater I chose was a nice seafoam colored cardigan, and I found myself checking out my silhouette in the mirror, because, really, it might take you more than a few minutes to ultimately decide that you absolutely must have that seafoam colored cardigan. I digress; but the truth is that I was completely oblivious to the fact that Heath and Michelle were not only in the store with me, but they were the only other people in the store besides my shopping partner and the cashier, and they were standing right the fuck next to me and talking to each other in Australian accents. I must be blind and deaf or inordinately smitten by my own image, because I didn't realize this until I left the store with my seafoam cardigan and my then-shopping partner, who slapped my arm and asked me: "Did you notice Heath Ledger and Michelle Williams were in the store with us?"

No, I said.

If you had been there and seen my proximity to the couple, I assure you, you'd be silently judging me. "You must be either pleasantly jaded by celebrity or a raving fucking lunatic asshole narcissist not to to recognize Heath and Michelle on Atlantic Fucking Avenue in Boerum Fucking Hill in Brooklyn." I assure you, dear reader, it is certainly not a case of the former. And I just can't live with the fact that I might actually be a raving fucking lunatic asshole narcissist.

So herein lies the lie. After the encounter, what is referred to by air traffic controllers as a "near miss," I started telling everybody that not only did I see Heath, but that he complimented me on my seafoam cardigan and wanted to buy one for himself. Unfortunately for him, I was buying the store's last one. Mind you, that story also includes at least two other minor personal fantasies: (1) that I have taste envied by the stars, and (2) that Heath and I wear would wear the same size cardigan.

Well, Heath, I don't really wear my seafoam cardigan anymore. It's nice, but the color looked rather dull just one season later. Plus, I've probably gained a few pounds since I bought it, so the sweater sort of stretches around the torso in a moderately unflattering way. So I just wanted to let you know that if I could bring you back by giving you my seafoam cardigan, I totally would. You were great, and will be missed deeply by us all.


ellen lubin-sherman said...

I read the entry and heard the voice of an authentic writer. I love the way it combines self-deprecation with self-awareness. Please don't stop -- give us more! An authentic voice is as rare as the white-billed woodpecker.

Lavish said...

Do you reckon it was a good thing that you didnt realize straight away.... because if it had been Me and I have realized whilst standing next to them I might Freak out..
What were they like?