In memory of my mom, who passed away September 25th 2011
Me and Mom and the community pool in Syosset Long Island New York, the mid sixties.
In memory of Arleen Gottfried September 25th 2011
I want to say a few words about the inimitable presence that was my mom. She passed away Monday night, after struggling these past few years with Cancer and Alzheimer’s Disease.
Over the years, I have ached for love of my mother privately, and as catharsis through my music…
My mom Arleen had a passion, for art, the golden age of Hollywood, culture, good music, theater and the ‘libertine will’ she held about sensual freedom, aesthetic beauty and intellectual wit and prowess. She acted in community theater, attended The American School of Ballet as a little girl. Could paint a flawless reproduction of any master work, and had an eye for design that predated a lot of the top contemporary designers of today. Had the most killer bedroom eyes, and maintained her dancer’s legs well into her 70s. Scared the neighborhood kids when she’d belt out show tunes, from the back kitchen door while cooking some sumptuous supper. And was just a presence in life for me that was bigger than Buddha , Jesus or Santa Clause.
She let me be Monster Girl all through out my early childhood. It was she who took me to see the theatrical releases of Rosemary’s Baby, The Omen, The Sentinel, The Mephisto Waltz, It’s Alive, God Told Me Too, The House That Screamed , every Hammer Horror as it hit the U.S. and just about every horror release there was back then.
I was never told go to bed, if a Creature Feature was on at 1am. It was okay with mom that I got my fill of the genre and the immense impression it left on my fertile imagination. It was she who started to read me Gothic literature at a very early age, so that I knew who Kathy and Heathcliffe and Jane Eyre were before I knew Bert and Ernie.
She bestowed upon me a sense of self that helped me inhabit my role as an artist and as a lover of life. A duty and often a burden, that I’ve struggled to uphold, while she quietly faded away, with not many who’d listen. I’ve only come to understand her journey recently as my life has strangely begun to mirror certain of the demons who have emerged in my view, as Poe had said. I wish I could have told you mom that I get it now. Perhaps a little too late…
I will never forget how I ached to be near her constantly as a child. The smell of her vibrancy, and turpentine and the oils on her brushes as she created yet another evocative painting. The sound of her dynamic voice as she serenaded me with a show tune, or Aria. The warmth of her deep coal eyes, that drunk you in. There was always a song to be sung, to rise up out of bed to, and now, I find myself singing in quite the same way, even when it’s just to climb the stairs, there is a libretto for that, thanks to my mom Arleen, who herself had the savvy sex appeal of Anne Baxter and the sensuality of Ava Gardner.
She never tried to squash my imagination, yet led me down a path of infinite possibility, because she believed that it was the only way a true artist could thrive was to wander,indulge and yes even suffer for their craft. In the beginning of our journey together, she never said No to anything I had wished for. She was magical to me.
The uncanny way she had of intoxicating my friends, so that SHE was the center of attention, coffee and her veracity to seek the soul of truth and desire. I would often times, come home to find her entertaining a friend of mine, counseling them about a broken heart, or something that needed to be shared with a good and insightful listener. My mother was a good friend to so many, and yet suffered such loneliness at the same time.
My mother, and I drifted for years because life is complicated, and sometimes, mothers and daughters clash against the rocks of self denial and indignation, like sailors seeking a sirens song. But, I never left behind the beloved memories of our late night chats in the kitchen about women and men, love and hate. I’ve clung to those days, because it tethered her to me, so that what ever anger or insanity came between us, I could still hold onto those days of strength, love and passion and yes inspiration.
She was my audience when I first started playing piano and singing. She was my agent, when I tried on a new outfit and she said I was a young Faye Dunaway. Her golden girl, her baby. She laughed at my humor, and thought me brilliant. But as they say, the fruit falls off the tree and not the other way around. I owe her so much in the ways in which I strut and fret upon the stage. I love you for that mom.
Classic movie marathons debating who was truly beautiful Gene Tierney or Gene Kelly, how the man would make her swoon, and, even I to this day agree with her. She taught me so much about the exquisiteness of pain, and longing and the pursuit of glamour and refinement. How it must have disappointed her to see her little golden girl with ropes of hair like braided bell pulls to Gothic curtains. I awoke one night as she with scissor in hand, tried to cut one of my dread locks from my little head, me unawares from a sleepy state. Mom hovering trying to catch one of those nasty knots so as to reveal her little golden girl underneath all that nest of hair. No diamonds for me, it was nose rings and tattoos. I loved myself, I wish she could have loved that part of me,her not realizing that still…I was always her golden girl.
As distant as our sensibilities grew, and as tragic it was that our conversations waned at the end, I still believe that our profound bond exists, which was set forth before the storm of family dysfunction and words released that can not be called back. I still believe that my mother, was at one time, my very best friend, my stage director, my tour guide and my nurturing bosom…and the warmth of her sable scent, the pheromones of maternity that protected me fiercely at one time lingered long enough for me to remain loyal even after I had to mother myself for years.
She lauded me, exalted me, embraced me, for quite a while the ultimate extension of her womb a glorious child, a beautiful and talented woman I had grown into, the legacy of all her dreams and passions. Until the cross current carried us separately away to remote Islands in the stream. As far from each other as native flowers needing different sources of nourishment to thrive.
She then longed for it to return, too late, after we had advanced along different paths. As if she was foretelling our future to me over the past several years, she predicted that she would never see me again. Partly the carefully placed guilt of a typical Jewish mother, and yet she was right, somehow time got away from us, and she has left here without a chance to tell her face to face, that i did and DO love her…
I had mourned mom a long time ago, and now again, I mourn the body that carried this woman so far away from me. A horrifying disease, that steals moments from the mind like a pick pocket riffling for loose change. It robbed me of a goodbye.
I hope you are someplace where you can see how truly happy I am mama. How much you gave to me and how it remains so pure and so vital, because of you.
How you taught me to love deeply and eternally. I wish for you finally, that certain peace that was so unattainable for you in life. You were so beautiful and vibrant and brilliant and epic yourself. I wish you had only known that long enough to make you happier. I hope I made you a little happy in the end if you remembered me at all, your little golden girl.
I hope I”m still your golden girl.
I love you mama
JoJo A MonsterGirl in mourning….