Raison d’etre

Over the course of our decade together, I captured Gene’s words and thoughts in almost every conceivable way—on videotape, audio cassettes, in longhand on yellow legal pads, on the backs of envelopes, even on napkins and sugar packs as we listened to music in piano bars late into the night. It was my job to get it all down.

At first, Gene was very conscious of the tape recorder. I could hear him editing in his mind as he spoke. I called this version “the party line.” But, eventually, he began to relax and I heard a different voice—one more at ease, more reflective, less rehearsed. Over time, this, too, evolved. The guard came down even more and he revealed things to me that he claimed never to have admitted even to himself.

It was, for both of us, a process of unfolding and discovery. A journey.

The notes I jotted quickly on scraps of paper are often the most revealing—a kind of Gene Kelly “unplugged.” Now, as I unpack box after box of these records and place each where it belongs chronologically, I am able to replay the story—the soundtrack of Gene’s life and our life together.

Much of what Gene said and many of the stories he told are part of the memoir I am writing. As that work progresses, I wanted to share some of these “notes on a napkin” and other experiences with you.

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