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Sunday, November 29, 2009

Juliette Ideler White 1922 - 2009

Juliette Ideler White
1922 - 2009

Juliette died this afternoon a rich and full year after her lung cancer diagnosis. In that year she went through the Panama Canal, explored Mexico, checked out the Hermitage, and went to a lot of parties in her honor. Nearly to the end she was entertaining guests in her little house on Albion Ridge, taking care of us as much as if not more than being taken care of. Juliette lived until she died.

Two of Juliette's granddaughters kept a blog of her final days that will have a eulogy and any further information. I've posted a Facebook tribute page (Juliette Ideler White Tribute) with a treasury of her photographs (with more to come) and a video friends posted of photos with Juliette playing the soundtrack.

Juliette Ideler White and Paul Festa
portrait by Greg Gorman, 2009

The last letter I wrote Juliette captures something of what I felt for her and feel for her memory:

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Dear Juliette,

Aren’t we cute? You with your chanterelles, me with my Amanita calyptroderma. I cleaned and chopped them all Sunday night when we came home and yesterday James made a year’s supply of mushroom cream sauce. I sautéed more for lunch with leftover beef and Brussels sprouts and some chicken sauce and penne pasta. Three intact caps await stuffing. Sarah Silverman said that when God gives you AIDS, make lemonAIDS, and contemplating what she would say about mushrooms – on second thought maybe I’d better not. Meanwhile, despite excellent digestion after eating these now for four days in a row, I remain creeped out by the Chronicle story people keep forwarding me, about the Lodi family that wound in a hospital waiting for new livers after harvesting Amanita phalloides last week. The story carries a picture of the offending mushrooms and they look just like these. Was it your book or one of the Websites I looked at that added that the Death Caps are delicious?

Speaking of death, I got Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead out of the library and wouldn’t you know it, the musical tragedians (of which I am one) have not one single fucking line. But I signed on. Doing Twelfth Night two years ago was outrageously fun and this is a reunion of that cast and director.

I loved our last weekend together, being with you and your family, having you at the party, vertical or horizontal as the case may have been – it occurs to me that I might not wait until my final illness to order my bed put in the dining room. My last weekend with you was like all the rest in a crucial respect, because, odd as it might sound (to some, but not to me), despite the circumstances it was fun, and it was fun because even in dying you still know how to live, and you’ve taught that by example to me and to everyone around you. I couldn’t be sad in your presence. Back home, awake with my new insomnia, much different story. But with you I was happy, and you were so much more alive than dying, though you were and are teaching, by example, how to do that too. Like putting the bed next to the dining room table, by the window looking out on the rhododendrons and the tree whose name you taught me last visit and which I can’t remember now – some lessons stick better than others.

Fun with photos and mushrooms and granddaughters and a garden party – too much fun to want to interrupt it with sentimental declarations but I’ll risk one now. I was always happy in your presence. Twenty or thirty years of happiness, of carting my friends and boyfriends and parents and husband up the coast to share it, like showing them where the chanterelles come up. I think it was Saturday night that I dreamed I was in the forest at dusk and the place was alive with the sentient spirits of mushrooms. It wasn’t the mushrooms themselves but the spirits of them, in the redwood canopy winking light and communicating something to me that was joyous and exalted. While you’re still here to read this I have to thank you for all the joy.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Incoming! Karen Hartman

Playwright and Apparition of the Eternal Church star Karen Hartman is headed to San Francisco, Stanford, and back home to New York for readings of her new play. Here are the details - I'll be at the Tuesday night show directed by Cal Shakes director (and George's son) Jon Moscone.

Goldie, Max, and Milk

A comedy about learning to do what comes naturally

Max, a single lesbian, just gave birth. She’s unemployed, with a house that’s falling apart, an ex on the loose, and no clue how to nurse her four-day-old baby. Can Goldie, an Orthodox Jewish lactation consultant, guide Max into motherhood? Or will conflicting family values get the better of them both?

Monday, November 9, 7:30pm at Stanford University CERAS Hall
Contact David Goldman for more information at

Tuesday, November 10, 7PM
ACT's Hastings Studio, 30 Grant Street, 6th Floor
Free. For reservations:

Thursday, November 19, 4PM
New York 11/19, 4pm, directed by Leigh Silverman.