Saturday, June 30, 2012

Nora Ephron: My Life as An Heiress

The woman could write.
From the New Yorker:

My Life as an Heiress
The will that wouldn’t
I never knew why my mother wasn’t close to her brother, Hal. I can guess. It’s possible that he didn’t help out financially with their parents. It’s possible that she didn’t like his wife, Eleanor. It’s possible that she resented forever the fact that her parents had found the money to send him to Columbia but made her go to a public college. Who knows? The secret is dead and buried.

In any case, I grew up without meeting my uncle Hal. We lived in Los Angeles, and Hal lived in Washington, D.C., with the aforementioned Eleanor. They were both government economists, and then, in the fifties, they quit. There were rumors of left-wing affiliations. My parents, who were screenwriters, had never been further to the left than socialism, but these were the blacklist years. They knew a dozen people who had named names, and they also knew at least two of the Hollywood Ten, plus a few they claimed would have gone to jail, along with the Ten, had there been Eleven, or Twelve. My parents were worried that rumors of Hal and Eleanor’s left-wing affiliations would reach all the way to California and bite them, and, apparently, that was exactly what happened, although without any real damage. One day, they were called into the office of Spyros Skouras, an old Greek who was running Twentieth Century Fox. Skouras waved a piece of paper about Hal at my mother and said, “Phoebe, vy you a Communist?” My mother explained to Skouras that she was not a Communist, and that was pretty much the end of it.

By the time I was in college, my uncle Hal and Aunt Eleanor were no longer anywhere near Communism, if they’d ever been: they were in real estate, and they were very, very rich. In 1961, when I was in Washington for a political internship, they took me to Duke Zeibert’s for dinner. Hal was a sweet, lovely man, and Eleanor was a pistol. She had a long, horsy face and blondish hair, and she loved a laugh. On weekends, I would go stay at their house in Falls Church, a splendid new place they’d built as part of a large development. Eleanor and Hal had no children, but they had lots of houses—they bought them and sold them without looking back. They owned art, and Chinese antiquities, and Persian rugs, and their house was run, magnificently, by a housekeeper named Louise. I mention Louise for a reason, as you will see....MORE