Page Two: Hey Hey, My My
Jonathan Demme will never die
Last Friday we flew to New York City for Jonathan Demme's funeral. On Saturday in a cab on our way to St. Mary's Church on West 126th Street, Sandy noted that though I had been doing so well, I seemed to be getting very sad. I was, I admitted. I was thinking about how much Jonathan had changed my life, as he had the lives of so many of our friends. We both knew that we were together because of Jonathan.
Everyone who talked that afternoon said the same. Loving life, with an ever astounding enthusiasm and endless energy, Demme lit up the world around him.
Estoril, Portugal. One morning while watching Kaili Blues, we each kept turning away from the other, both trying to hide that we couldn't keep our eyes open. Later, as we got into the film, when both of us realized the film was 10 minutes into a long take, with no cuts, he playfully punched me. The take continued for 41 minutes. Such deliciously audacious cinema left us intoxicated and giddy.
Demme loved movies.
Austin, Texas. Walking toward the car holding two full bags of groceries, my phone rang. Answering, I was almost blown back by Demme's wild enthusiasm exploding out of the phone. He had just listened to the many Daniel Johnston tapes I had given him. He raved eloquent about Johnston for a long time.
Demme loved music.
New York City, New York. Leaving the reception at a funeral home, on East 81st Street we ran into our friend Sara Driver. I told her how Jonathan had called me breathlessly asking for a phone number for Jim Jarmusch, her partner. Having just watched Gimme Danger, Jarmusch's Iggy Pop & the Stooges documentary, he was blown away and wanted to share his passion. Laughing, I had told him I didn't think anyone had a phone number for Jim, all I had was a fax number. Sara said Jim would be so pleased.
Demme loved to love – people, film, music. And especially dogs.
Westchester County, New York. Sandy and I visited Jonathan for the first day of shooting Ricki and the Flash. In Austin Rick Linklater had just begun Everybody Wants Some!! Serving as a go-between I texted greetings and encouragement between them. Two of the finest film directors working, sharing respect and admiration for each other.
Austin, Texas. Demme showed up quite unexpectedly at the Chronicle offices on 12th Street, being in Texas to shoot a number of Talking Heads concerts to prep for Stop Making Sense. He had enlisted local shooters David Boone and Brian Hansen to walk around filming the concerts. He was looking for ideas but also always encouraged talented young filmmakers.
Nashville, Tennessee. In town to watch Demme film Neil Young in concert the next two nights at the Ryman Auditorium, we answered the phone ringing in our hotel room. It was a call inviting us to come right over for the last rehearsal performance before the actual filming. There were maybe 40 other audience members in the hall watching the show as the crew figured out shots and Young rehearsed the band.
Jonathan was a fan, and I was a fan. It really was about the music.
New York City, New York. Demme, shooting Manchurian Candidate, had invited me to be an extra. The scene involved Fab 5 Freddy and me traveling down an escalator, then walking across a large hall. FFF and I didn't know each other but by the fifth take we were fast friends, still are.
Jonathan loved bringing people together.
New York City, New York. After the gathering in the church, folks congregated in the yard. Introducing myself to Anne Hathaway, I told her that when shooting Rachel Getting Married, Jonathan had said to me that she was an amazing actress who had "chops she doesn't even know she has yet." She started crying.
I finished this week's column about politics and darkness. But I couldn't shake the feeling something was wrong. It was Jonathan. He hadn't gone anywhere. A constantly burning explosion, I knew I owed him better.
Brooklyn, New York. In a warehouse Ricki and the Flash was shooting. Meryl Streep played the leader of a bar band featuring Rick Springfield, Rick Rosas (bass player with Neil Young among others, who died a couple of weeks later), Joe Vitale (drummer with Joe Walsh, Crosby, Stills & Nash, the Eagles), and Bernie Worrell (Funkadelic, Talking Heads). During a break Worrell launched into a transcendent version of "House of the Rising Sun."
Sandy and I were there as extras. Jonathan made sure to get us in a shot. It is in the movie.
Sandy and I love Jonathan Demme, always have, always will.