I heard that Al Maysles passed away yesterday at his home in Manhattan. I was just talking about him last night. As a kid, the first thing I watched on our new betamax (!) was his film, Gimme Shelter.
I met Al in an elevator when I first moved to New York. My life was very much in the dark and I was confused, unaware and afraid and there was Al. I don’t recall what I said although it probably was something about Salesman, Gimme Shelter, and Grey Gardens and his hometown of Brookline, where as a teen, I had worked in a video store.
He turned and peered at me through his glasses and said in his Massachusetts accent,
“Donna, what are you doing here?”
Without thinking I blurted, “I don’t know.”
He told me to come to his office, scribbling down his info and handing it to me. It took me awhile because I was intimidated and afraid (and he was one of the least threatening people on earth), but I did. He sat me down and gave me that talk that I so badly needed.
Al insisted I go to college. I did, and went on to get my Master’s. I’d stop by his office and tell him of my progress, sitting perched on the corner of his desk while we made each other laugh. He changed my life in ways I could have never imagined. If I wasn’t on his desk, I’d sit on a stool as he was cutting and we’d talk for hours about Boston and swimming in lakes and Bailey’s (of Boston, now gone) ice cream and families and life. He’d show me Little Edie’s letters which had the oddest handwriting I’d ever seen – all circles, squares, and triangles on rose paper.
When I graduated, I sent him a thank you and I still have his reply. He called me a “treasure” and I cried. He urged me to write my book and I’m pretty sure I thanked him in it. What a great friend and true guidance counselor he was. I feel lucky to have known him.
“There are daily acts of kindness, generosity and love that should be represented on film.”