And still other people have dead on guts that make the rest of us seem like terrified guppies in a sea of cowards.
That was Ron Silver.
Ron had been fighting terminal stomach cancer for well over two years now as if it were some minor skirmish interrupting his otherwise important dedication to the future of this country. And what a dedication that was – twenty-four hours of every day, when they didn’t drag him into Sloan Kettering for treatment… the place Ron would call to his friends with characteristic gallows humor – Sloan Spa.
We all knew Ron had cancer and most of us, I suspect, had some idea how bad it was. The summer before last (I think it was then) I remember him telling me about his recent operation. He was out for about six hours, he told me, and when he woke up he looked at the doctor and asked her how it went. She told him she couldn’t take out the cancer. It had metastasized. The six hours were for nothing. She had to sew him back up. They gave him about three to four months to live at that point.
My heart went into my toes, but Ron told me that matter-of-factly and then he went on to apologize for not writing some article or other for Pajamas Media and then asked me how I was doing. That was Ron.
We had a close relationship that came from a strange confluence of events. Perhaps the best movie that either of us worked on was the same one. – Enemies, A Love Story. But that wasn’t the real reason – it was politics. We had stayed friends after Enemies, as movie folks sometimes do when they have worked on something together that was successful, critically or commercially. We discussed other projects, but our relationship was fairly superficial then and gradually we drifted apart during the nineties.
Then 9/11 came and Ron and I were thrown together once again. We were 9/11 Democrats. We talked on the phone about our journey and the alienation we were feeling from some our friends, but we didn’t come face-to-face until the Republican Convention of 2004. I was a blogger there and feeling rather weird – an old leftie gone right – but there was Ron, far more out than I was, speaking to the entire convention. And he was brilliant. The man could speak in public as well as almost any politician and he had more intellectual background than almost all of them too. He swept the convention audience off their feet.
Ron and I renewed our friendship in the corridors of Madison Square Garden that year and that friendship became faster than it ever was. I think I knew better than most what he was going through in the political sphere, had some sense of his feelings when confronting his peers in the entertainment industry. He gave me tremendous strength. I hope I give him back even a hundredth of what he gave me.
I am writing this in a hurry because of the recent announcement of his death at the age of 62 – and I will undoubtedly write more about Ron – but I would like to share one other moment in recent years.
Somewhere around a year ago we were having breakfast in New York. He wasn’t looking good, hair thin from chemo, sallow complexion, etc. His energy, however, as always, was spectacularly high and he was filled with plans for his new Sirius radio show. But something was wrong. It wasn’t just the cancer, but it was related to the cancer. Ron was, above all things, an actor, a fantastic actor. And the cancer made him unable to do that work. He told me he had just been offered the title role in Coriolanus at the Long Wharf, but didn’t think he could do it. He would be too tired with his illness to play a Shakespeare lead. His artistic work was all over for him. It was the one time in all the recent years I saw him on the edge of tears.
I’m starting to cry myself as I type this, so I’m going to shut up. What a great man.