7 responses to “The Wit and Wisdom of Lee Israel, Vol. 1 (2005–06)”

  1. Caren

    It’s wonderful she had a friend like you to keep tabs on her and appreciate her finer points. There are probably a lot of Lees in this world who lose contact with people and end up completely alone. Anyway, nice piece – both poignant and (“you have a beautiful face”) a little funny too. 😉

  2. Kathryn Fauble

    Lee Israel’s ego was so fragile that whenever anyone asked her if she saved the resource material from her 1970s research for her Dorothy Kilgallen book, she expressed fear that another writer would steal her reputation for delivering the major scoop on Kilgallen. She asked for money just so someone could look at her old stuff. I can assure everyone she saved a lot of it, though not all.

    She never could follow the reasoning that no matter who else publishes a book or online article on the Kilgallen mystery, she always will get credit for paving the way.

    If Lee hadn’t written her Kilgallen book in the 1970s, nobody else would have. Dorothy’s surviving sister Eleanor remained mentally alert until she died at age 95 a very few days before Lee died. You can Google that. Eleanor reminisced about the young and unknown actor Warren Beatty for a biographer who contacted her a few years ago, but she always refused to discuss her sister.

    Whether Eleanor Kilgallen ever read Lee’s book can never be known. We do know that had Lee done nothing for Dorothy’s memory, nobody else could have. Lee identified Ron Pataky and the other important sources. How could someone have identified them years later after the 1985 death of Dorothy’s close friend Bob Bach? He and his wife were the ones who told Lee who Ron Pataky was.

    Lee became very friendly with Hollywood producer David Yarnell in 2000 when he optioned her book for television or movie treatment. Filming never began, but David and his wife — I try to avoid generalizing about alleged Hollywood big -shots though I know New Yorkers hate them — remained close with Lee until the end. Despite their closeness, Lee’s fragile ego kept prompting her to fear that another Hollywood producer would steal her Kilgallen property without giving her any money. David consoled her as best he could.

    I’m in the process of helping Mark Shaw, author of more than twenty books, with a book that will be the second book that is solely about Dorothy. Lee’s always will be the first and foremost.

    Experience tells me that typing, typing, typing can be a seductive trap that distracts the non – fiction author and his assistant from working on digital editing via Final Cut Pro X. The old audiocassettes deteriorate, you know. Typing, typing, typing hardly saves their contents for posterity. Not only must you digitize, but you must edit. Adding still photos of the speakers helps enormously. Lee Israel used the old cassette machines in the 1970s, so in recent years she knew the sad reality of deterioration.

    Anyway, my typing, typing, typing should draw to a conclusion here as I say that Lee can rest in a place where none of her fellow departed spirits can take away her achievement. Maybe Dorothy can reach her hand out to Lee and slap her five.

    And I forgave Lee long ago for the “mean” stuff she allegedly did to Noel Coward. I found it funny. I enjoyed her book Can You Ever Forgive Me?… Some of her “victims” were much more eccentric than she was. They were paying all that money so Mr. Coward could say something witty he never had said before. He had been dead since 1973. These people should have checked out carefully the merchandise they bought before they bought it.

    Mr. Silbert, you evidently worked with Lee at a scholastic magazine for kids. I hope she brought laughter there. Whatever she did wrong there in 2003 was and is forgivable. As you know, the kids who read your magazine don’t use the audiocassette format no matter how smart they are. So I must return to my digitizing and editing.

  3. Michael Gerber

    Jack, please write more on this. My glancing contact with Lee Israel during my equally glancing career at Scholastic suggested that she contained these kinds of depths (or heights), and I would be delighted to read more.

  4. Michael Gerber

    A fascinating lady, and you are her perfect Boswell.

  5. Kathryn Fauble

    Regarding this message that Lee sent on April 11, 2006 at 10:40 p.m.:

    ** I spent the day looking over the Internet, reading interviews with me that were completely fabricated. **

    Lee could be referring to quotes that conspiracy people started attributing to her in 2005, and several web sites have circulated them ever since. In one quote, Lee allegedly said Ron Pataky had attended a training school for assassins in Central America approximately ten years before his first meeting with Dorothy Kilgallen.

    Lee knew the conspiracy people were doing that to her, whether or not she was referring to their gaffes in that particular 2006 email message to Mr. Silbert. She occasionally expressed distress to me about the misquoting, but her pride in her knowledge of Tallulah Bankhead allayed that distress.

    Does anyone here know which of Lee’s friends, if any, made an attempt to claim her belongings during the week that passed between her death and the day her landlord had the right to confiscate her belongings?

    Her book Can You Ever Forgive Me?… says her relationship with her brother Edward Israel was nonexistent.

    If a friend didn’t visit her 2nd-floor unit to get her stuff, including her Kilgallen material, then I suspect the landlord threw it out. That same landlord had put up with Lee’s lateness in paying rent — put up with it occasionally for many years.

    You get a hint of that bad relationship in the last email Mr. Silbert has pasted here: the one dated November 19, 2006. Lee’s words include “Just lost a major freelance copyediting client and my landlord’s getting nervous.”

  6. normadesmond

    marvelously fascinating.

Leave a Reply

Time limit is exhausted. Please reload the CAPTCHA.