A Poet from Hollywood: Love, Insanity, Stephen Gyllenhaal, and the Creative Process // Chapter 15
“I Thank My Mother for Choosing My Father”
[IN WHICH STEPHEN FAILS TO RECOGNIZE JAKE’S SCREEN FATHER]
You’ve probably gotten the idea that I was a little intimidated by Naomi Foner. Nothing could be further from the truth — I was terrified of her. Women of her class and Ivy League education have always terrified me, and hearing stories around Hollywood of Naomi’s insistence on perfection and her daunting ability to control any situation didn’t make it any easier. As one acquaintance told me from experience, “There’s just no pleasing that woman.”
What rid me of my terror of Naomi once and for all was a startling discovery I made a little over a year after our non-encounter at Stephen’s first reading: We worked in the same building in New York at the same time in the early 1970s. The building was One Lincoln Plaza, right across the street from Lincoln Center — you know, with the big fountain you see in the movies.
I was a solfeggist on the seventh floor at ASCAP — the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers — while she produced programs for the Children’s Television Workshop, which had its headquarters on the fourteenth. Specifically, she was the producer of The Electric Company. Remember in chapter three my telling you about the PBS show my friends and I used to watch while we got high? And just two years later there Naomi and I were inhabiting the same city, in the same era, quite probably dining in the same Upper West Side restaurants at the same time. Naomi, were you that chic woman with the blonde flip eating lunch with Bob McGrath from Sesame Street in the cafeteria under Lincoln Center? I was the little Asian teenager in a red kerchief at the next table having a BLT, which was what I always ordered along with a Coke and a kosher pickle. If I went back in time and waved to you, would you wave back?
Realizing (as I did in chapter thirteen) that I was probably in the same crowd on the street as Stephen watching Francis Ford Coppola direct The Godfather II wasn’t as much of a jolt as uncovering the criss-crossing of my life with that of Naomi Foner. I tallied up our similarities: We were more or less of the same…