|Ben Stiller, circa 1976|
Ben Stiller’s mother, actress and comedian Anne Meara died on Saturday, the day after the 25th anniversary the death of Anne Greenberg, my mother.
Anyone who knows me reasonably well knows that Ben Stiller is the biggest name I can drop, having been cabin mates at a Maine summer camp in 1976. He was a bit of a ball of energy. I remember him laying in his bunk, belting out “Bohemian Rhapsody” but, more than anything that summer, I remember when his mother came to visit.
At 11, I was already well into what would become a pretty long geek phase — yes, my glasses did break that summer and yes, I did bind them back together with a thick wad of masking tape. But I was also deeply in love with movies and just beginning to recognize my calling as a writer.
I wrote movie reviews for the camp newspaper. On parent’s weekend, Ben Stiller pulled his mother over to me and said “Mom, mom, this is the guy who wrote the movie reviews!” She smiled at me and said “You’re good.” That’s it, two words but, when you’re young and impressionable, two words can make a difference. It wasn’t because she was a celebrity, it was more that she was an adult, a stranger and unmistakably genuine.
Obviously, I remember the moment, nearly 40 years later and not merely because it involved famous people. I remember the moment in 4th grade that two teachers told me that I should be be in the advanced creative writing workshop that was reserved exclusively for 5th and 6th graders.
My mother was my English and Drama teacher in high school. I remember when she really liked a story that I had put a lot of hard work into. I remember the writers she introduced me to — Harold Pinter, Edward Albee, Eugene Ionesco, Tom Stoppard — they are my biggest influences.
Ben Stiller doesn’t remember me. Why should he? But today, I am thinking of him, remembering his mother and mine.