Dreaming Lee Israel

(On seeing a former lover for the first time in years)
“I thought I told you to wait in the car.”
Tallulah Bankhead


Dreaming Lee Israel

I watched the terrific movie Can You Ever Forgive Me? starring the terrific Melissa McCarthy with my sister. The character is a nasty drunk who is a writer. It was a revealing stretch for Ms. McCarthy, her winning smile was almost missing from this film.

A quick fact check of the movie shows that it was almost all very true. She really did have a book on the New York Times best seller list, she really blow it and ended up so broke that she could not buy medicine for her cat and she really did write forgery letters that were so good that they faked everyone out.

It is a strange niche market, people do collect letters of famous people. Lee Israel sold her forgeries for about one hundred dollars, she didn’t get rich but she paid her bills. She faked letters from Ernest Hemingway, Dorothy Parker, Noel Coward and more.

Now, I want to know more about Lee Israel and mostly want to read her first two biographies. One was on Tallulah Bankhead, an occasional visitor to the Algonquin Table and known for doing cartwheels at parties while not wearing panties. You might know her best for her starring role in Alfred Hitchcock’s Lifeboat.

Another was on Dorothy Kilgallen who was a reporter and, after she hinted that she had some very big news on the JFK assassination, was found dead in her bedroom of an apparent suicide of pills and booze — just like Marilyn Monroe. I fell in love with Kilgallen on the What’s My Line show that I can watch on youtube. She and Bennet Cerf are two of the smartest people you’ll ever see in action. And, why not, if you are curious; here is an episode of the show with the wonderful Orson Wells on the panel.


Strangely, I dreamed about Lee Israel. I was producing the play version of the movie and was using her apartment as the central scene. Heavy on symbolism with the books high up on the shelves, the typewriters and booze in the middle and the cat and cat shit below under the bed.

In my dream, I had used my own stuff for the props; my own books, for example. Once the show closed all of my friends were helping me strike it down and they were looking over my stuff and asking why I used what I did, why choose what I did?

Like Lee Israel, I answered “I don’t care” or “None of your business”.

Fun dream, huh? Clearly, this movie was engaging!

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