One of the most prolific playwrights/screenwriters of all time left us recently. Even though Neil Simon was ninety-one years of age, his death still came as a bit of a shock. I’ve always thought of him as sort-of immortal, perhaps because his works are such classics.

NEIL SIMON PORTRAITS - 1997I met Neil several times over the years. I was surprised, as a young woman, when he accompanied some of our mutual friends to a couple of show business fetes, and I got to show him around. He was actually more fun than his public persona let on.

In addition to having known Neil a bit, I spent a bit of time with two of his wives back in the day, so my heart goes out to them now. His two-time ex-wife, Diane, guest-starred on one of Mr. X’s television series, and his widow, Elaine Joyce, used to date the star of that same show, so we socialized a bit back then.

I’m a fan of many of Neil Simon’s works, none moreso than the adorable musical comedy, Playing Our Song. I loved it first on my own, but then Mr. X got offered the lead role on Broadway, after it had already played for a few years. He couldn’t get out of his TV show in time to accept, but he did agree to do the National Tour in Toronto, where his family lived.

6efc17e1-dff1-419f-8d81-7f5484fcf246-AP_9704190355And that experience meant that Neil Simon was responsible for one of the proudest moments of my life. I was backstage during one of Mr. X’s early performances in his show, when I saw the executive producer of the show, Manny Azenberg, go into an office. I started to follow him to say hi, but then he got on the phone…to Neil! I didn’t want to intrude, so I hung back, and listened for when he would hang-up so I could go in to chat with him. I didn’t mean to eavesdrop, but I was thrilled to hear him say about Mr. X, “Neil, you should see this. This guy is great—he’s getting laughs where you didn’t even write any!” I couldn’t wait to bump into Neil again to kvell over that I was Mr. X’s girlfriend, because up until that point, I knew him just on my own. (And to Neil’s credit, when we did speak about it later on, he was happy that Mr. X had found a bit of extra humor in his script, rather than being upset about it, as I assume other more egotistical playwrights might be.)

I had not seen Neil for several years now, but, whenever his name is mentioned anywhere, in print or in conversation, I’m always so pleased, and sort-of surprised, that I actually knew him!

RIP, Neil Simon.


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