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R.I.P., Dame Martha Henry

What an extraordinary artist and woman was Martha Henry. I didn’t know her well; I worked as a writer on a proposed television series she would have starred in that didn’t get off the ground, and after that, we corresponded a bit. I wrote to tell her how very much I admired her exquisite, definitive production of Three Sisters at Stratford, and she sent back a sweet, humble note. I’ll never forget her incandescent performance in Long Day’s Journey into Night in 1994. She was both a powerhouse and delicate, ladylike, seemingly fragile. And yet not. Imagine, she died just a few weeks after her final performance in Albee’s Three Tall Women. My friend Tom saw the show and said she was incredible. She was near death from cancer, and incredible. 

Martha expressed interest in my writing book, since she thought she’d write her memoirs, and it was my joy to send it to her. When Loose Woman came out, I offered to send the new one to her too but she wouldn’t hear of it, she insisted on buying a copy, and then gave it a rave review, her words displayed proudly and prominently wherever I can display them. 

Someone wrote on Twitter, I hope Martha Henry is catching up with Christopher Plummer, Timothy Findley, Brian Bedford, and William Hutt. I hope they’re having the best time…raising glasses or whiskey and telling stories and meeting Shakespeare.

We should have a knighthood for our great artists. Martha should have been a Dame. Dame Martha Henry. She will be that forever in my books.

On another note, and sorry to bring you down, but last night I watched one of the most appalling documentary spectacles I’ve ever seen. Four Hours at the Capital is about the January 6 insurrection; I read a glowing review or I would not have turned it on. And then I could not turn it off. It’s a brilliant piece of filmmaking, taking you from beginning to end of that disgusting event, right inside the mob as it smashes windows, howling for blood. There are interviews with staff people and politicians who were terrified, hiding inside the building, and, horrifyingly, with police officers who were trapped, one who had to beg for his life by yelling at the murderous mob, “I have kids.” 

Worst, though, are the Trumpers who were part of the insurrection; they look like normal people until they open their mouths. One says, “Trump was chosen by God to lead this country.” Another says, “800,000 children a year are being kidnapped, tortured, and killed. I had to do this for the children.” And another, “I was proud of the American spirit shown that day,” as we see hooligans in helmets and cammo gear rampaging with hammers, spears, and baseball bats, and listen to the wives of policemen who died. Four committed suicide afterwards. 

If I’d confronted the loathsome face of hell presented by those violent mindless rampaging fuckwads, I’d have felt suicidal too. And behind it all, goading them on, the despicable Trump and his many enablers. 

As it is, I can’t wait to renounce my American citizenship. It will take years and cost a lot of money, but it will be worth it. Last night I watched the failure of a society – the epic, abject failure of its education system, of its media, of any kind of social control – of the remotest glimmer of common sense. Angry white men out of control – they all looked like Nazis on Kristallnacht to me.



4 Responses to “R.I.P., Dame Martha Henry”

  1. When you wrote "I can't wait to renounce my American citizenship", I totally understand your sentiment. I feel the same way about my British passport. Since Brexit, and then the disastrous handling of Covid by that buffoon Boris Johnson, I've completely lost all interest in the UK.
    As for the USA: knowing that a very large percentage of Americans continue to idolize that lying degenerate, Trump, I have no desire to go there. But the question to ask is: how can people be so ignorant and uninformed? It's actually quite scary.

  2. I'm sorry to say it, but I've just read an article in Saturday's New York Times speaking of Facebook's partial responsibility for the January 6 insurrection. Facebook employees described how they were receiving alarming content about the conspiracy theory QAnon. In each case, Facebook employees sounded an alarm about the dissemination, misinformation and inflammatory content on the platform and urged action — but the company failed or struggled to address the issues.

  3. beth says:

    Juliet, I agree, we are watching a terrifying degradation of democracy world wide. I know there are lots of smart analyses of how and why it is happening now, but we're in the middle of it and it's horrible. As for FB, I have no doubt it has behaved in reprehensible ways, as have almost all the companies whose products I buy, including my bank. If I looked into the backgrounds of them all, I'd have to live like a ascetic. I try to consume responsibly, with FB as with everything else. It's a valuable mode of communication with friends, family, and the world at large. And it's a disgustingly powerful and ethics-free company. Both are true. As Bill Maher says, we can hold two opposing truths in our minds at the same time.

  4. beth says:

    Thought I'd share this, copied from FB — a journalist I don't know but follow on FB writing to a friend who has quit FB: I'll be very sorry to see you and your lovely presence go.
    I have the same dislike of FB. Loathing, really.
    The flip side is that it lets billions of us connect in ways we would not otherwise. For example, a friend from elementary school (!!!) found me this month, via FB, and updated me on our group of friends, long lost to me for decades.
    I stick around here, carefully. I don't put names and photos on FB unless they're public figures, and especially don't expose my loved ones. I only visit FB on Firefox's browser using the Facebook box that isolates it from everything else I do.
    The trolls are toxic.
    I no longer think it's worth the effort to discuss most things on FB with strangers, or even air them.
    I've given up hoping that FB can help share actual news.
    But I hope that pressure on our governments will lead to regulating social media – as we've regulated other media like broadcasting – and bring it under our legal umbrella, so social media can no longer prey on us, steal our intellectual works, avoid paying tax, and violate all norms of hate speech and libel laws. I find it bizarre that social media is excluded from these, and have written to politicians asking for regulation or at the least taxing and legally shielding us from libel and hate.

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About Beth

I began keeping a journal at the age of nine. Nearly fifty years later, I started this online journal, sharing reflections, reviews, updates, and the occasional secret.

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