I have said that at times it’s been difficult for me to remember the things that were good about being with Tony, because it ended so badly. The last eight months were brutally difficult. He was spiraling into something neither of us really understood, and then the last two months I was dealing with the fallout from a herniated disk that I ended up having surgery to fix only two weeks before Tony killed himself. When he died, I literally could not dress myself and it was so hard for me to think that he had deserted me when he knew I couldn’t physically take care of myself. It felt so personal, so mean. I know that he didn’t do this to hurt me, he did it so he could stop hurting. But until very recently, it seemed like all I could remember were the hard things.
If this blog is to be an offering of truth and understanding, then I have to write about the good things. There were so many of them. The very first thing I loved about Tony were his laugh lines. He had such good ones. It seems almost strange to say the first thing I loved about a person with serious depression were his laugh lines, but it’s true. I remember looking at him from the side on our first date, and noticing them, and smiling when he smiled because he those laugh lines just made me happy.
The reason the laugh lines were there, of course, was because Tony had a spectacular sense of humor, and he was so funny. He could always make me laugh. There’s a reason that we decided to focus on writing comedies. We both loved to laugh, and to make each other laugh; and we made a good team. I think I had a slight edge when it came to coming up with funny ideas for scenes – I was the one who came up with the idea of the cannibal chef in our short script Au Jus cooking himself when he couldn’t find the proper ingredients for the king’s stew. But Tony is the one who had the edge when it came to writing hilariously funny dialogue. He’s the one who came up with the line spoken by the cannibal chef when confronted with a tasty-looking tourist with breast implants: “This woman is made of artificial materials!” I laughed until I cried when he came up with that one. My other favorite line of his was for a script we wrote about a talk show host who gets caught cheating on her husband. When another character scores a point but is kind of a jerk while doing it, the main character’s husband toasts his achievement and says, “Douché.” I think I might have actually wet myself the first time I read that scene. Just a little.
Another way Tony could make me laugh was with his impressions. Like my good friend Liz, he was a master mimic. We met online, and the first time we talked on the phone he did almost the entire initial meeting between Cary Grant’s and James Mason’s characters in North by Northwest. He had the same birthday as Cary Grant, and he had his voice down perfectly. He had Mason’s down too, and in fact he referred to the whole scene as “suave to the death,” which is a perfect description. He could also do Grant’s drunken, “I’ve grown accustomed to my bourbon… your bourbon” from later in the same movie; and his version of Robert Shaw’s speech at the town meeting in Jaws never failed to make me giggle. He got the scorn in Shaw’s voice exactly right: “Mr. Mayor. Chief. [big pause; utter contempt] Ladies and gentlemen.”
One final example of how funny Tony could be. We both loved the movie Michael Clayton. It’s a perfect film, truly; if you haven’t seen it, go rent it right now. No, you know you should really buy it because once you see it you’re going to want to see it again. It’s that good. Anyway, for those who have seen it, there is a stellar scene in an alley between George Clooney and Tom Wilkinson. Clooney says to Wilkinson, “How do you want me to talk to you, Arthur? Like you’re a child? Like you’re a nut?” One Christmas, our cat Katie was tearing around the living room like a maniac, the way cats sometimes do, and she ended up all wild-eyed and bushy-tailed under the Christmas tree. Tony’s reaction? He slid right into a perfect Clooney impression: “How do you want me to talk to you, Katie? Like you’re a kitten? Like you’re a nut?” I fell out laughing. That was Tony. The funniest person I ever met. I miss his laugh and his laugh lines. I miss him.