Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Finally: The Truth about Tennessee Williams' Death, and the Disposal of His Will and Its Codicil


I BEGIN WITH A 'FACTOID': 1983 -- Playwright Tennessee Williams dies, age 71, in New York, after swallowing the cap of a small plastic bottle. New York newsman Storm Field calls him "Tennessee Ernie Williams."

* * *

From Walking on Glass: A Memoir of the Later Days of Tennessee Williams, (c) 2011, Scott D. Kenan, soon to be available in electronic formats through amazon.com and others:

>>> LATER: WALKING ON GLASS is NOW available electronic (check Amazon to see if paper is available yet) HERE.

Several people have told me that AMAZON DID NOT ALLOW THEM TO POST REVIEWS, although I believe as of 1/20/12 I have gotten that problem resolved, so you should have no problems should you try to do so.

>>> IF YOU HAVE READ THE SAMPLE BELOW (or the free one available through Amazon) -- or this blog to any extent (although I don't always bother to polish the blog), you will have a good idea of my ability to write.


In January 2012, I reduced the price to only $4.95 as I ONLY (mostly) WANT TO BE READ.

Thanks,
Scott


>>> January 26, 2012: Having just discovered that THIS posting is one of the most popular -- even now -- and that I had NOT updated it with the actual FINAL ending of WALKING ON GLASS which was published electronically on Amazon.com some months ago, I am ADDING that ending here in purple, and LEAVING the old as well (below it in black) so that anyone who wishes to can compare them.

ADDED TO MANUSCRIPT BY JOHN UECKER (AT THOMAS KEITH’S URGING): The coroner, Elliot Gross, on the scene the morning of Tennessee Williams’ death, determined that Tennessee’s body may have become intolerant of the drugs he had used throughout his life, and in the end they had simply overwhelmed his system. Tennessee’s health had declined, and during his last year, he had lost a lot of weight. A medicine bottle top such as the type used in eye drops was not found in his air passage as reported, and in any case, as Gross later acknowledged, would not have been large enough to restrict airflow. Gross was certain that the event that had caused Tennessee’s death was inadvertent.
He filed a false report stating that the playwright had died by choking on a medicine bottle top. He had surmised that if the press, clamoring loudly outside the hotel, heard that any drug had been part of the cause of death, they would report it as an overdose or suicide—an unjust verdict—but one that would live in the mind of the public forever.
Six months later, after the hubbub died down, Gross quietly corrected his report. 1 The legacy Gross left is that for all these years, most, like myself, erroneously believed Williams died by choking.

The true cause of Tennessee Williams’ death is still not known. His brother, Dakin, and Tennessee’s friend Dotson Rader both claimed that John Uecker had murdered Tennessee, probably by smothering him with a pillow. Noted Williams scholar Allean Hale of the University of Illinois spent two summers researching, trying to find out the real cause of death, but told me that despite being given piles of documents to look at, she was ultimately stonewalled. John Uecker told me the he had given the coroner the idea of choking as the cause, and John also claimed to me that he eventually deduced that Tennessee’s death was from intolerance to a drug the playwright had used most of his adult life—and had never had a symptom of problems with. I do not believe him.
In his will, Tennessee Williams left the bulk of his estate, including the copyrights, in a trust for the care of his sister Rose. After her death, ownership was to go to the University of the South (commonly referred to as Sewanee), a small college in Tennessee. He left the bequest in honor of his beloved maternal grandfather, Walter Dakin, who had received his divinity degree there in 1895. Administration of the estate, including permissions to produce his plays, to use quotations from his work, and to access his papers, was to be split among an administrator from Sewanee, one from Harvard, and a third one appointed by the other two.
However, in late 1982, at the urging of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, who had first suggested it at the party Jean Stein and George Plimpton had thrown in January of that year, Tennessee added a codicil to his will. Now, Harvard, instead of Sewanee, was to receive his papers. While the codicil specified that Sewanee was still to keep actual ownership of the bulk of the estate, it charged Harvard with making all decisions concerning the use of the intellectual property rights as well as the financial proceeds of the bequest. Tennessee further stipulated that the bulk of the proceeds should form a fund to support creative writers, specifically clarifying that it should be used to support writing of a “progressive, original and preferentially of an experimental nature.” 2
Tennessee’s groundbreaking plays had been exactly that: progressive, original, and experimental, and anyone studying his later plays knows what he meant by that description when he wrote the codicil. In the course of his career, he had continually broken taboos as he unflinchingly explored the deepest regions of the human heart. As a result, he often battled censors and self-appointed guardians of public morality. In the last few years of his life, Reaganism came to full flower and Evangelical Christianity was surging, its adherents demanding that the nation’s laws—even its Constitution—bow to the Bible. Many Christian leaders proclaimed that AIDS was God’s righteous punishment of gay men—and they thanked God for that. Few politicians dared denounce them.
Tennessee’s fear that his plays would be sanitized after his death no longer seemed so paranoid. In the context of this national trend, it seemed eminently sane that he followed Jackie Onassis’s advice and shifted major responsibilities to Harvard, rather than a small religious university in the South.
Not surprisingly, the codicil was contested. An agreement was reached. As the dust cleared, Maria St. Just emerged as the de facto manager of the rights, and she anointed herself guardian of Tennessee’s legacy. In an attempt to suppress knowledge of the aspects of Tennessee’s life that she found unsavory (she reportedly had destroyed many of his letters to her before publishing the rest), and to shape his image and the world’s understanding of his work to conform to her view, she refused to allow most scholars access to his papers and she micro-managed the major productions of his plays that she allowed. As a result, the most produced English language playwright since William Shakespeare dropped under the radar—many of his plays going unproduced and his papers rarely studied—until after Maria’s death in early 1994. 3
Following the death of Rose Williams, the trust that had been set up to insure her care, including ownership of the rights and funds, went to The University of the South. The estate—valued at $10 million at the time of Williams’ death 2—was the largest bequest the school had received to that time, and Maria St. Just’s and Sewanee’s management of the estate had increased its value more than ten-fold. In 2009, alumni lawyers who had become disgruntled with the school’s reforms confirmed to me that the estate’s value had grown to at least $1/3 billion, and much of the proceeds, they alleged, were being used to hide the recent loss of financial support of the college by alumni.
Based at Sewanee, the Walter E. Dakin Memorial Fund was used (in 1998), to build the 150-seat Tennessee Williams Performing Arts Center on the Sewanee campus. Today, the Fund supports the Sewanee Writers’ Conference (tuition: $1,000.00 + $700.00 room and board) and Young Writers’ Camp (tuition: $700.0 - $1,000.00 per week). It also supports a visiting writers series of lectures on campus.
Whether the codicil to Tennessee’s will stood or not was a moot point for Leoncia McGee, even though in it he had added that she be paid a stipend until her death—something he’d forgotten to include in the original will. Under Florida law, the fact that she had witnessed the codicil prevented her from receiving the stipend he had granted in it. Maria St. Just stepped up to the plate, and Leoncia received an income until her death in 1992.
Several months after Tennessee’s death, Gary Tucker and Schuyler Wyatt moved to Atlanta and Gary worked as a deejay in a leather bar. They lived a stone’s throw from the Alliance Theatre in a Victorian mansion on Peachtree Street, rent-free. Their parties became legendary. I occasionally ran into them, but turned down their party invitations.
After Gary’s death from AIDS in 1989, Skye moved to Chattanooga and worked for a caterer. He visited Atlanta occasionally, and when I ran across him, he bought rounds of drinks in the bars. He bragged about his lavish lifestyle in Tennessee, which he claimed was paid for by a prominent Republican in the Tennessee State Legislature—without trade for sex. He died from AIDS in 1992.
In the fall of 2009, John Uecker told me that Skye had told him, also, that the money that supported his luxurious condominium and lifestyle in Chattanooga came from a “high-placed” Republican legislator in Tennessee.
Helen Chuba returned to her trailer and her husband in Homestead.
Vassilis Voglis died from AIDS in 1990.
Edmund J. Perret II went on to become the Executive Director of the Contact Lens Association of Ophthalmologists, was very active in the Catholic Church, and sat on the boards of several national charities. He died in 1991 from a long, but unspecified, illness.
Rose Williams died of cardiac arrest in 1996 at the age of 86.
Jane Smith died of natural causes in 2005.
Bruce Smith continued to run a public relations firm in Chicago.
“Texas” Kate Moldawer married a physician, was widowed several years later, and then died of cancer in 2007. A copy of an early draft of this manuscript was found front and center on her desk.
After Tennessee’s death, John Uecker, who had occasionally served as Tennessee’s traveling companion both before and after I worked for Tennessee, became James Purdy’s literary assistant, which he remained until Purdy’s death in 2009.
Mark Beard developed six distinct artist personalities so that he could paint in as many different styles. Today, his work is in the collections of major art museums around the world. Abercrombie & Fitch commissioned him to paint murals on their flagship stores, and in 2009, he completed an eleven-story mural on their Tokyo store. Mark has won awards for his set designs as well.
Robert Carroll lives in West Virginia.
The whereabouts of Filippo and Matthew are unknown.
Searching the internet in 2007, I discovered that Jeanne Wolf released the documentary film, The Donsinger Women and Their Handyman Jack in 1983. It won an award in San Francisco. The short story remains unpublished.
André Ernotte continued directing on the American stage and won the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Director of a Musical three times before he died of heart failure in 1999.
After leaving the Goodman Theatre, Gregory Mosher produced or directed over 200 plays on stages in America and abroad, and won every major American theater award, including two Tonys and a Drama Desk Special Award. He is now the Director of the University Arts Initiative at Columbia University.
I remained in Atlanta and worked in restaurant management until 1990, when I suffered a second, more severe bout of mania. I was arrested that time too, but due to new laws meant to protect the rights of the mentally ill, the judge (although she stated her belief that I should be committed), seemed afraid to do so. Over a six-month period, I spent a total of 14 weeks in jail. After my final release, I dedicated myself to finding the truth about my mental health, life, and experience. I stabilized on Lithium, found work in sales, and then one day late in 2003, I decided I would have to trust myself.
I had a story to write.
In the course of coming to terms with bipolar illness, I had learned the truth of what Tennessee said that day he rebuked me, “Never support anyone’s delusions. It’s the cruelest thing you could do.” My suggestion at the time had been to play coronation anthems for his sister Rose who thought she was the Queen of England. It is easy to point out delusions in others, but it is our pernicious day-to-day delusions that lead to our private insanities. Only in staring down my own delusions was I able to find my grounding and the clarity to write this book.
I also came to understand that Tennessee had reached a place of transcendence. He had spent his lifetime wrestling demons, and in the process pulled Blanche Dubois, Stanley Kowalski, Alexandra del Lago, Lady Torrance, the Reverend T. Lawrence Shannon, and all his other characters from within. He thrust them onto the public stage for our contemplation. Although his characters—aspects of himself—collide, compete, win, lose, and survive (or not) within their worlds, the greater thing within him, the über-thing that fueled Tennessee, the man John Patrick Shanley called “that gorgeous, unstoppable beast,” could not be—and never was—harmed. As I watched him watching his work unfold upon the stage, he allowed that greater part of himself—that thing that always drove him onward—to possess his conscious being, and then he laughed. He laughed and laughed and laughed.
In November of 2009, I finished (with the help of John Uecker and the edits of Thomas Keith) what I expected to be the final manuscript and delivered it to Don Weise of Alyson Books. Earlier that month, I traveled to New York City for Tennessee’s installation in the American Poets’ Corner in the Cathedral of St. John the Divine. On that Thursday evening, people from all walks of life gathered in the soaring gothic cavern. Marian Seldes, Eli Wallach, Vanessa Redgrave, and many others performed or read Tennessee’s work. John Patrick Shanley delivered his electrifying address. Three days later, Tennessee’s stone was formally unveiled at Sunday Evensong service. Many fewer attended the quiet event; I was back in Georgia. The movie critic John DiLeo wrote me later that he, too, missed the service, but he did see the stone, “and it is beautifully placed, as if the poets surrounding him are mere supporting players.”
These words are inscribed on the face of Tennessee’s stone in the Cathedral:
Time is the longest distance between two places.
And on Tennessee’s tombstone in St. Louis:
The violets in the mountains have broken the rocks.

In late January 2010, Alyson Books cancelled my publishing contract after I pressured them to pay me the first $3,000.00 of my advance that had been overdue since the day after signing the contract the previous August. They told me (by phone) that they would ensure my memoir was never published, although in the cancellation email, they had wished me well.
They failed to publish any of the thirty books they scheduled for spring 2010 release.

1. Baden, Michael M. 1989. Unnatural Death, New York: Random House, 1989. pp. 73-74.
2. Lindsey Gruson. March 22, 1983. “Harvard to Direct Williams Bequest” The New York Times, http://www.nytimes.com/books/00/12/31/specials/williams-harvard.html.
3. Lahr, John. December 19, 1994. “The Lady and Tennessee” The New Yorker, http://www.newyorker.com/archive/1994/12/19/1994_12_19_076_TNY_CARDS_000370469 , pp. 76-97.

 


Acknowledgments

In the lean early days when the greatest treat we knew was Dream Whip from a box, my parents drove us to the public library every week. When I turned five, there was no kindergarten, so my mother opened one in our living room. As a family, we attended every free Louisville Orchestra concert and went to hear President Kennedy speak. Later, things became more complicated, but my parents’ love and commitment in those earlier years is the foundation on which I stand.
First, I want to thank all the members of the writers’ group at the Spiritual Living Center of Atlanta. They provided important feedback as I wrote the first two drafts of Walking on Glass. Special thanks to Ken Wilcox, the founder of the group, and to sustaining members Kirsten Haas, Richard Allison, and the fabulous Diamond Lil.
After I had completed only one chapter, John Mackey’s blunt criticism of my writing skills caused me to read every book on the subject I could find. I followed his advice on form as I shaped the book. Later, he introduced me to Cynthia Zigmund, who was my agent until Alyson cancelled the contract. There is no way I can adequately thank either of them. Cindy was a tireless advocate and negotiator, as well as hand-holder when I was discouraged when things became complicated with Alyson Books.
Rich Merritt heard about my project and sought me out while I worked on my second draft. His first book, the courageous memoir, Secrets of a Gay Marine Porn Star, was about to be released. The enthusiastic encouragement of a serious writer, lawyer, and patriot was huge for me. Semper Fi, Captain!
If there is an advocate for Sewanee’s rights attorney at the center of all things Tennessee Williams—and there is—it is Thomas Keith. Editor of many of Williams’ books, speaker at, and supporter of, Williams festivals (as well as others), Thomas has been generous with advice since I first met him in 2005. (Thomas, however, no longer answers my calls or emails.) It was Thomas who connected me with the publisher who failed to publish this book in 2010, Don Weise of Alyson Books.
It seemed such a privilege to work with Don. His immediate excitement for the book, respect for it, and care in the shepherding of it had me in deep gratitude. But the contract was cancelled.
Michael Fusco designed the perfect cover, and since he was not paid by Alyson either, I have been able to make arrangements with him to use it.
Few other people alive today have had the privilege of spending a significant amount of time in the day-to-day presence of Tennessee Williams—except John Uecker. And only they could really understand what a gift that continues to be. We had no contact from 1982 until 2009. And then after a period of renewed friendship, John broke off contact with me in January, 2010, claiming that something I had published on my blog, “The Weather Up Here” http://scottkenan.blogspot.com, caused him to lose the right to edit one of Tennessee Williams’ plays.
Mary Kritz offered weekly encouragement as I volunteered beside her in the bookstore at the Spiritual Living Center of Atlanta, and she delivered me to Phyllis Mueller who edited the fifth draft, shaping it and relieving the manuscript of my writing errors. Williams scholar Allean Hale gave early encouragement, and filled my mind with questions. Writer and blogger Hollis Gillespie bragged about me to important ears—and taught me to blog as well.
John Bolinger and Nancy Babcock gave invaluable chapter-by-chapter criticism during the year and a half I spent on the first draft. As I continued, many friends critiqued at least part of it. Many gave other support in ways they may or may not realize. All of you are greatly appreciated: Pam Agababian, Janee Barrett, Mark Beard, Bill Copeland, Kimberly Craft, Bob Davis, Allison Dowd, Julie Kenan Duffy, Lissa Dulany, Gerry Flynn, Tom Hambrick, Phillip Hardigree, Sue Hobbs, Chuck Hyde, Jane Kenan, Mike Kenan, Marc LaFont, Gavin Lambert, Alex Whiddon, Dan Lotten, Jeff Lux, Patricia McKelvey, Joel Miller, Gregory Mosher, Steve Oden, Steve Poynter, Chuck Pritchard, Kelly Ray, Paul Robinson, Hilary Russell, Patrick Stansbury, Mary Wyatt, and Susan Zoller. I apologize to anyone I have left out here. So many people helped in various ways and I am grateful to you all.
Finally, there is Tennessee. I thought the writing of this book would be my gift to him—but it has been his gift to me.


* * *
>>> SEE IMPORTANT MATERIAL ADDED 5/24/11, 7:37 PM (emboldened, near bottom of post).

ADDED TO MANUSCRIPT BY JOHN UECKER (AT THOMAS KEITH’S URGING): The coroner, Elliot Gross, on the scene the morning of Tennessee Williams’ death, determined that Tennessee’s body may have become intolerant of the drugs he had used throughout his life, and in the end they had simply overwhelmed his system. Tennessee’s health had declined, and during his last year, he had lost a lot of weight. A medicine bottle top such as the type used in eye drops was not found in his air passage as reported, and in any case, as Gross later acknowledged, would not have been large enough to restrict airflow. Gross was certain that the event that had caused Tennessee’s death was inadvertent.
He filed a false report stating that the playwright had died by choking on a medicine bottle top. He had surmised that if the press, clamoring loudly outside the hotel, heard that any drug had been part of the cause of death, they would report it as an overdose or suicide—an unjust verdict—but one that would live in the mind of the public forever.
Six months later, after the hubbub died down, Gross quietly corrected his report. 1 The legacy Gross left is that for all these years, most, like myself, erroneously believed Williams died by choking. 

* * *

The true cause of Tennessee Williams’ death is still not known. His brother, Dakin, and Tennessee’s friend Dotson Rader both claimed that John Uecker had murdered Tennessee, probably by smothering him with a pillow. Noted Williams scholar Allean Hale of the University of Illinois spent two summers researching, trying to find out the real cause of death, but told me that despite being given piles of documents to look at, she was ultimately stonewalled. John Uecker told me the he had given the coroner the idea of choking as the cause, and John also claimed to me that he eventually deduced that Tennessee’s death was from intolerance to a drug the playwright had used most of his adult life—and had never had a symptom of problems with. I do not believe him.
In his will, Tennessee Williams left the bulk of his estate, including the copyrights, in a trust for the care of his sister Rose. After her death, ownership was to go to the University of the South (commonly referred to as Sewanee), a small college in Tennessee. He left the bequest in honor of his beloved maternal grandfather, Walter Dakin, who had received his divinity degree there in 1895. Administration of the estate, including permissions to produce his plays, to use quotations from his work, and to access his papers, was to be split among an administrator from Sewanee, one from Harvard, and a third one appointed by the other two.
However, in late 1982, at the urging of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, who had first suggested it at the party Jean Stein and George Plimpton had thrown in January of that year, Tennessee added a codicil to his will. Now, Harvard, instead of Sewanee, was to receive his papers. While the codicil specified that Sewanee was still to keep actual ownership of the bulk of the estate, it charged Harvard with making all decisions concerning the use of the intellectual property rights as well as the financial proceeds of the bequest. Tennessee further stipulated that the bulk of the proceeds should form a fund to support creative writers, specifically clarifying that it should be used to support writing of a “progressive, original and preferentially of an experimental nature.” 2
Tennessee’s groundbreaking plays had been exactly that: progressive, original, and experimental, and anyone studying his later plays knows what he meant by that description when he wrote the codicil. In the course of his career, he had continually broken taboos as he unflinchingly explored the deepest regions of the human heart. As a result, he often battled censors and self-appointed guardians of public morality. In the last few years of his life, Reaganism came to full flower and Evangelical Christianity was surging, its adherents demanding that the nation’s laws—even its Constitution—bow to the Bible. Many Christian leaders proclaimed that AIDS was God’s righteous punishment of gay men—and they thanked God for that. Few politicians dared denounce them.
Tennessee’s fear that his plays would be sanitized after his death no longer seemed so paranoid. In the context of this national trend, it seemed eminently sane that he followed Jackie Onassis’s advice and shifted major responsibilities to Harvard, rather than a small religious university in the South.
Not surprisingly, the codicil was contested. An agreement was reached. As the dust cleared, Maria St. Just emerged as the de facto manager of the rights, and she anointed herself guardian of Tennessee’s legacy. In an attempt to suppress knowledge of the aspects of Tennessee’s life that she found unsavory (she reportedly had destroyed many of his letters to her before publishing the rest), and to shape his image and the world’s understanding of his work to conform to her view, she refused to allow most scholars access to his papers and she micro-managed the major productions of his plays that she allowed. As a result, the most produced English language playwright since William Shakespeare dropped under the radar—many of his plays going unproduced and his papers rarely studied—until after Maria’s death in early 1994. 3
Following the death of Rose Williams, the trust that had been set up to insure her care, including ownership of the rights and funds, went to The University of the South. The estate—valued at $10 million at the time of Williams’ death 2—was the largest bequest the school had received to that time, and Maria St. Justs’ and Sewanee’s management of the estate had increased its value more than ten-fold. In 2009, alumni lawyers who had become disgruntled with the school’s reforms confirmed to me that the estate’s value had grown to at least $1/3 billion, and much of the proceeds, they alleged, were being used to hide the recent loss of financial support of the college by alumni.
 Based at Sewanee, the Walter E. Dakin Memorial Fund was used (in 1998), to build the 150-seat Tennessee Williams Performing Arts Center on the Sewanee campus. Today, the Fund supports the Sewanee Writers’ Conference (tuition: $1,000.00 + $700.00 room and board) and Young Writers’ Camp (tuition: $700.0 - $1,000.00 per week). It also supports a visiting writers series of lectures on campus.
Whether the codicil to Tennessee’s will stood or not was a moot point for Leoncia McGee, even though in it he had added that she be paid a stipend until her death—something he’d forgotten to include in the original will. Under Florida law, the fact that she had witnessed the codicil prevented her from receiving the stipend he had granted in it. Maria St. Just stepped up to the plate, and Leoncia received an income until her death in 1992.
Several months after Tennessee’s death, Gary Tucker and Schuyler Wyatt moved to Atlanta and Gary worked as a deejay in a leather bar. They lived a stone’s throw from the Alliance Theatre in a Victorian mansion on Peachtree Street, rent-free. Their parties became legendary. I occasionally ran into them, but turned down their party invitations.
After Gary’s death from AIDS in 1989, Skye moved to Chattanooga and worked for a caterer. He visited Atlanta occasionally, and when I ran across him, he bought rounds of drinks in the bars. He bragged about his lavish lifestyle in Tennessee, which he claimed was paid for by a prominent Republican in the Tennessee State Legislature—without trade for sex. He died from AIDS in 1992.
In the fall of 2009, John Uecker told me that Skye had told him, also, that the money that supported his luxurious condominium and lifestyle in Chattanooga came from a “high-placed” Republican legislator in Tennessee.
Helen Chuba returned to her trailer and her husband in Homestead.
Vassilis Voglis died from AIDS in 1990.
Edmund J. Perret II went on to become the Executive Director of the Contact Lens Association of Ophthalmologists, was very active in the Catholic Church, and sat on the boards of several national charities. He died in 1991 from a long, but unspecified, illness.
Rose Williams died of cardiac arrest in 1996 at the age of 86.
Jane Smith died of natural causes in 2005.
Bruce Smith continued to run a public relations firm in Chicago.
“Texas” Kate Moldawer married a physician, was widowed several years later, and then died of cancer in 2007. A copy of an early draft of this manuscript was found front and center on her desk.
After Tennessee’s death, John Uecker, who had occasionally served as Tennessee’s traveling companion both before and after I worked for Tennessee, became James Purdy’s literary assistant, which he remained until Purdy’s death in 2009.
Mark Beard developed six distinct artist personalities so that he could paint in as many different styles. Today, his work is in the collections of major art museums around the world. Abercrombie & Fitch commissioned him to paint murals on their flagship stores, and in 2009, he completed an eleven-story mural on their Tokyo store--the world's largest oil-on-canvas painting. "The folks at Abercrombie are my Medicis," Mark told me at his Manhattan studio Christmas party, December 2009. Mark has won awards for his set designs as well.
Robert Carroll lives in West Virginia.
The whereabouts of Filippo and Matthew are unknown.
Searching the internet in 2007, I discovered that Jeanne Wolf released the documentary film, The Donsinger Women and Their Handyman Jack in 1983. It won an award in San Francisco. The short story remains unpublished.
André Ernotte continued directing on the American stage and won the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Director of a Musical three times before he died of heart failure in 1999.
After leaving the Goodman Theatre, Gregory Mosher produced or directed over 200 plays on stages in America and abroad, and won every major American theater award, including two Tonys and a Drama Desk Special Award. He is now the Director of the University Arts Initiative at Columbia University.
I remained in Atlanta and worked in restaurant management until 1990, when I suffered a second, more severe bout of mania. I was arrested that time too, but due to new laws meant to protect the rights of the mentally ill, the judge (although she stated her belief that I should be committed), seemed afraid to do so. Over a six-month period, I spent a total of 14 weeks in jail. After my final release, I dedicated myself to finding the truth about my mental health, life, and experience. I stabilized on Lithium, found work in sales, and then one day late in 2003, I decided I would have to trust myself. I had a story to write.
In the course of coming to terms with bipolar illness, I had learned the truth of what Tennessee said that day he rebuked me, “Never support anyone’s delusions. It’s the cruelest thing you could do.” My suggestion at the time had been to play coronation anthems for his sister Rose who thought she was the Queen of England. It is easy to point out delusions in others, but it is our pernicious day-to-day delusions that lead to our private insanities. Only in staring down my own delusions was I able to find my grounding and the clarity to write this book.
I also came to understand that Tennessee had reached a place of transcendence. He had spent his lifetime wrestling demons, and in the process pulled Blanche Dubois, Stanley Kowalski, Alexandra del Lago, Lady Torrance, the Reverend T. Lawrence Shannon, and all his other characters from within. He thrust them onto the public stage for our contemplation. Although his characters—aspects of himself—collide, compete, win, lose, and survive (or not) within their worlds, the greater thing within him, the über-thing that fueled Tennessee, the man John Patrick Shanley called “that gorgeous, unstoppable beast,” could not be—and never was—harmed. As I watched him watching his work unfold upon the stage, he allowed that greater part of himself—that thing that always drove him onward—to possess his conscious being, and then he laughed. He laughed and laughed and laughed.
In November of 2009, I finished (with the help of John Uecker and the edits of Thomas Keith) what I expected to be the final manuscript and delivered it to Don Weise of Alyson Books. Earlier that month, I traveled to New York City for Tennessee’s installation in the American Poets’ Corner in the Cathedral of St. John the Divine. On that Thursday evening, people from all walks of life gathered in the soaring gothic cavern. Marian Seldes, Eli Wallach, Vanessa Redgrave, and many others performed or read Tennessee’s work. John Patrick Shanley delivered his electrifying address. Three days later, Tennessee’s stone was formally unveiled at Sunday Evensong service. Many fewer attended the quiet event; I was back in Georgia. The movie critic John DiLeo wrote me later that he, too, missed the service, but he did see the stone, “and it is beautifully placed, as if the poets surrounding him are mere supporting players.” 
These words are inscribed on the face of Tennessee’s stone in the Cathedral:

Time is the longest distance between two places.

And on Tennessee’s tombstone in St. Louis:

The violets in the mountains have broken the rocks.

            In late January 2010, Alyson Books cancelled my publishing contract after I pressured them to pay me the first $3,000.00 of my advance that had been overdue since the day after signing the contract the previous August. They told me (by phone) that they would ensure my memoir was never published, although in the cancellation email, they had wished me well.
They failed to publish any of the thirty books they scheduled for spring 2010 release.

1. Baden, Michael M. 1989. Unnatural Death, New York: Random House, 1989. pp. 73-74.
2. Lindsey Gruson. March 22, 1983. “Harvard to Direct Williams Bequest” The New York Times,  http://www.nytimes.com/books/00/12/31/specials/williams-harvard.html.
3. Lahr, John. December 19, 1994. “The Lady and Tennessee” The New Yorker, http://www.newyorker.com/archive/1994/12/19/1994_12_19_076_TNY_CARDS_000370469 , pp. 76-97.


 

Acknowledgments

In the lean early days when the greatest treat we knew was Dream Whip from a box, my parents drove us to the public library every week. When I turned five, there was no kindergarten, so my mother opened one in our living room. As a family, we attended every free Louisville Orchestra concert and went to hear President Kennedy speak. Later, things became more complicated, but my parents’ love and commitment in those earlier years is the foundation on which I stand.
 First, I want to thank all the members of the writers’ group at the Spiritual Living Center of Atlanta. They provided important feedback as I wrote the first two drafts of Walking on Glass. Special thanks to Ken Wilcox, the founder of the group, and to sustaining members Kirsten Haas, Richard Allison, and the fabulous Diamond Lil.
After I had completed only one chapter, John Mackey’s blunt criticism of my writing skills caused me to read every book on the subject I could find. I followed his advice on form as I shaped the book. Later, he introduced me to Cynthia Zigmund, who was my agent until Alyson cancelled the contract. There is no way I can adequately thank either of them. Cindy was a tireless advocate and negotiator, as well as hand-holder when I was discouraged when things became complicated with Alyson Books.
Rich Merritt heard about my project and sought me out while I worked on my second draft. His first book, the courageous memoir, Secrets of a Gay Marine Porn Star, was about to be released. The enthusiastic encouragement of a serious writer, lawyer, and patriot was huge for me. Semper Fi, Captain!
If there is an advocate for Sewanee’s rights attorney at the center of all things Tennessee Williams—and there is—it is Thomas Keith. Editor of many of Williams’ books, speaker at, and supporter of, Williams festivals (as well as others), Thomas has been generous with advice since I first met him in 2005. (Thomas, however, no longer answers my calls or emails.) It was Thomas who connected me with the publisher who failed to publish this book in 2010, Don Weise of Alyson Books.
It seemed such a privilege to work with Don. His immediate excitement for the book, respect for it, and care in the shepherding of it had me in deep gratitude. But the contract was cancelled.
Michael Fusco designed the perfect cover, and since he was not paid by Alyson either, I have been able to make arrangements with him to use it.
Few other people alive today have had the privilege of spending a significant amount of time in the day-to-day presence of Tennessee Williams—except John Uecker. And only they could really understand what a gift that continues to be. We had no contact from 1982 until 2009. And then after a period of renewed friendship, John broke off contact with me in January, 2010, claiming that something I had published on my blog, “The Weather Up Here” http://scottkenan.blogspot.com, caused him to lose the right to edit one of Tennessee Williams’ plays.
Mary Kritz offered weekly encouragement as I volunteered beside her in the bookstore at the Spiritual Living Center of Atlanta, and she delivered me to Phyllis Mueller who edited the fifth draft, shaping it and relieving the manuscript of my writing errors. Williams scholar Allean Hale gave early encouragement, and filled my mind with questions. Writer and blogger Hollis Gillespie bragged about me to important ears—and taught me to blog as well.
ADDED 5/24/11, 7:37 PM: I could not have recognized the deep background activities of the Republican Party in monitoring my every computer keystroke and phone call--and constant cell-phone triangulation of my whereabouts in both the United States and Mexico without the inadvertent help of the children of Texas Kate Moldawer: 1. Dudley Sharpe, Jr., whose father had been Dwight Eisenhower's Secretary of the Air Force and developed the United States' first laws governing Outer-Space Nuclear Warfare, as well as being President Eisenhower's top ally fighting the growth of what Eisenhower called "the Military-Industrial Complex." He had been Howard Hughes' best friend in his early years, their fathers being partners in the Sharp-Hughes Tool Company in Houston, Texas. 2. Kate "Junior" Farris. 3. Parker Moldawer. All three combed my manuscript like scholars, correcting several errors. Although they wished not to be credited, I have decided to honor their mother's wish instead. In her youth, Kate Schweppe, a native of Atlanta, had been good friends with the most influential of my distant Kenan relatives. Hereby, I give them a glancing credit as well.
            John Bolinger and Nancy Babcock gave invaluable chapter-by-chapter criticism during the year and a half I spent on the first draft. As I continued, many friends critiqued at least part of it. Many gave other support in ways they may or may not realize. All of you are greatly appreciated: Pam Agababian, Janee Barrett, Mark Beard, Bill Copeland, Kimberly Craft, Bob Davis, Allison Dowd, Julie Kenan Duffy, Lissa Dulany, Gerry Flynn, Tom Hambrick, Phillip Hardigree, Sue Hobbs, Chuck Hyde, Jane Kenan, Mike Kenan, Marc LaFont, Gavin Lambert, Alex Whiddon, Dan Lotten, Jeff Lux, Patricia McKelvey, Joel Miller, Gregory Mosher, Steve Oden, Steve Poynter, Chuck Pritchard, Kelly Ray, Paul Robinson, Hilary Russell, Patrick Stansbury, Mary Wyatt, and Susan Zoller. I apologize to anyone I have left out here. So many people helped in various ways and I am grateful to you all.
 Finally, there is Tennessee. I thought the writing of this book would be my gift to him—but it has been his gift to me.

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