Blake’s Memorial Service

That’s Blake Edwards.  Who died at the end of last year but didn’t have a public funeral.  Last night’s celebration at the Directors Guild was his official send-off.

Funny how you know these people but you don’t.  Like Blake’s wife Julie Andrews.  You’re standing there talking to her and you know her but she doesn’t know you and you tingle…

But you don’t tingle for everybody.  You tingle for the originals.  The creators.  Those who were not afraid to test limits, who followed their vision and ended up legends.

And speaking of legends, the reception was full of them.  But the funny thing is actors get older too.  You remember their visage from the film, from the TV show, they’re frozen in your mind but in real life, time marches on.  It’s not a crime to get old, but it’s tough if you’re famous.  Do you get plastic surgery or age gracefully?  Let your hair go gray and gain a few pounds or do your damnedest to look like a facsimile of who you once were?

And after the hors d’oeuvres and the chitchat we assembled in the auditorium for a presentation.

Taylor Hackford, President of the DGA, kicked things off.  But the most riveting were those who worked with Blake, who told stories about who he really was.

This was a guy who loved to play practical jokes.  Who had the federales round up an actor in Mexico for cohabitation.  All fake, but Sam Jones nearly had a heart attack.

A guy who loved Laurel & Hardy and wasn’t afraid to work in the most basic genre of physical comedy.  Which elicits hysterical laughter when it works, and scorn when it doesn’t.

Sure, Blake had help from Peter Sellers.

But someone had to write these scenes.

And Blake did.

He wrote, directed and produced.  He was like a classic rock musician.

It was truly stunning to see these images.  Which we know so well, but rarely see on the big screen anymore.  I was reminded of the power of the movies.  Of going so much in my youth.  Of filmmaking being the king of media as opposed to lowest common denominator dreck made to scarf up money around the world.

They showed an extended clip of "Days Of Wine & Roses".

It reminded me of seeing Lee Remick at Greenblatt’s, eating deli late one Sunday night.  I couldn’t take my eyes off her.  It wasn’t only that she was still beautiful, but she was the actress in that role!  What was it like to be in the movie business back then? What was it like to be in the music business in the late sixties and early seventies?

Can you imagine a director pitching a film about alcoholism today?  He’d be laughed out of the studio.  Told to take it to TV. Where the budget would be cut, but he might get a chance to make it at HBO, Showtime or Starz.

And Bo Derek told the story of being cast in "10".  Of a friend reading the notice and telling her to audition, despite her complete lack of experience.  Bo went to meet Blake at MGM and he offered her the gig on the spot.  He had a feeling, he was running on instinct.  Can you say he was wrong?

And it’s fascinating to see Bo Derek all these years later, but we’re truly enamored of the filmmaker, the one who came up with the idea.

And that’s what’s wrong with the music business.  We don’t have enough Blake Edwards’s anymore.  Enfant terribles who not only write, but perform.  We’ve got producers and talent, residing on either side of the glass.  And it’s only about money.  Is it ever enough?  Can it ever be about art?  About bringing a vision to life?

And Blake didn’t suck up to the studio.  If you don’t think the studio is ripping you off, you’ve never had a successful movie.  The artists of yore were part of a community existing outside the front office.  The front office were enablers at best.  Today, in both music and film, the front office is king.  It’s like asking the CEO of McDonald’s to concoct a new menu item.  It’s a different skill. And there’s no Mickey D’s without burgers, and there’s no music business without music.  Think about it, do you want to hear today’s hits tomorrow?  Hell, you don’t want to see today’s movies either!

And Blake LOVED music.  It figured prominently in all his productions.  He was a fan of the art, not of the dollar.

And in the classic rock era, there was more money in music than there was in movies.  Warner Music built the Warner cable system.  Music was the golden goose.  And if you don’t think they killed it…

Movies are about storytelling.  And storytelling will endure, no matter what the medium.

Music is about energy.  About penetrating the soul.  It’s not something you describe so much as feel.  And it’s this intangible quality that scared the business.  It’s easier to sell a good-looking idiot than an ugly person who’s talented.

And speaking of stories, after the lights came up we were regaled with tales by George Schlatter.  He was in the Weintraub documentary.  He told a tale of Jerry stopping by his house late at night with Krispy Kremes…  Listening to George it was not a stretch to believe this was the guy who created "Laugh-In".

And sightings included Michael Nouri, who got his gig in the Broadway version of "Victor Victoria" after picking up lunch at Toscana, Blake’s producer Tony Adams came up to the register and asked him, "Do you sing"?  And Tom Skerritt.  And Lesley Ann Warren, who played against type in the film version of "Victor Victoria".  And there were media people like Patt Morrison and Michael Jackson.  And everywhere you turned there was another person who’d come into your living room, yet was now live in person

But it left me with a good feeling about Blake.  That if he’d been there, he’d have cracked a joke, would have had a good time. Made me think this is the way you should do it, have the funeral months after the death, when the pain has receded.

And it made me feel left out, that I’d missed it, that I hadn’t been in Hollywood before TMZ and cell phones, when illicit shenanigans were the topic of conversation and creative talent could make as much money as bankers.

And it made me want to test limits myself.

That’s what’s great about a truly gifted artist.  The art lives on.  We’re inspired by it.  And the key is not to redo it, to remake what has gone before, but to use it as a jumping off point, to create something new!

The Beatles could all sing, they were road-tested, and their songs had bridges.  Why not start there?

I’m not saying you can’t do something brand new, but do you really have to throw out everything that came before?

I felt I could hang with Blake.

But I knew I never could.

He had people skills I do not.  He could hang with everybody, get them energized and be a leader.  I’m more of an iconoclast.

But that doesn’t mean I don’t wish I had the chance!

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