As I am sure many of you know, this past Tuesday was Fat Tuesday, the last blow out before Lent and the end of Carnivale. February 20th also marked another special day, the anniversary of the birth of Robert Altman. Thus, a memorial service was held in New York City’s Majestic Theater for the great filmmaker who lost a long battle with cancer late last year.
I was lucky enough to have attended and it was truly an inspiring event. As an auteur and as a human being, Robert Altman was a force to be reckoned with, something the speakers and guests at his memorial made sure to point out. A true iconoclast, Altman “never met a status quo he didn’t hate,” according to speaker Bob Balaban, Altman’s producer and story collaborator on Gosford Park.
IFC Consultant and former president of United Artists Bingham Ray summed up the afternoon quite well when he told me that “it was a once in a lifetime event, no pun intended. you could only have a memorial that impressive, that moving, when you have someone so worthy of memorializing.”
And moving it was, with speaker after speaker giving their thoughts and feelings about “Bob,” as he was inevitably called by anyone who knew him. Guests included Lauren Bacall and her son Sam Robards, Glenn Close, Paul Newman and wife Joanne Woodward, Calvin Trillin, E.L. Doctorow, Fisher Stevens, Steve Buscemi, Jim Jarmusch, NBC News anchor Brian Williams, Martha Plimpton, Richard E. Grant (Withnail!!!!), Buck Henry, Stanley Tucci and on and on and on.
Speeches included a touching quartet from Altman’s four sons to a selection of former co-workers, including Balaban, Kevin Kline, Tim Robbins and Bud Cort (M*A*S*H, Brewster McCloud) who related a beautiful piece about being discovered by Altman and the subsequent effect on his career. Speaking of pubic hair, Julianne Moore told a famous story about her, erm… well, read Eugene Hernandez’s excellent indieWIRE piece for more about the service and a famous anecdote regarding matching carpets and drapes.