past Spring, I suddenly underwent my first major depression since
my college days. I developed all the classic symptoms: a fear of
leaving the house, a loss of interest in food, a sense of hopelessness.
I felt like I was submerged in Dante's deep forest, with no paths
to guide me out. My nutty neighbors, whom I have written about so
explicitly in the "Men's Planet" before the Corpse went cyber, began
to seem threatening.
I stayed in the apartment 24/7. I
didn't want any fellow residents asking me how I was doing--ditto
for the local waiters, bodega owners, music and health food store
employees, etc. who were accustomed to my big smile. As I lay on
the sofa with my eyes shut, my cheery, mellow husband Robin became
increasingly distressed. He kept pleading with me to: go take a
walk, eat in a restaurant, listen to live jazz gigs, and to call
all my friends. He knew that the situation had become drastic when
I spurned his suggestions of seeing movies! Tradionally, no matter
how sucky life is, the five magic words, "Let's go to the movies"
have me running out the door. Hey, I didn't even want to buy clothes
To compound everything, a mouse took
up residence in the bedroom closet. Rodents skeeze me out to the
point of nausea, but this particular new visitor seemed ominous.
I, too, began feeling like a mouse--furtive, afraid, content to
live in the darkest corners. It was as if the mouse had symbolized
all my self-loathing and desire to hide.
One day, our best friend, Ricardo
Llorca, asked Robin, "What's up with Hariette? I haven't heard from
her in a month!" Robin replied, "She hasn't been out of the house
in a month!"
When Robin relayed this conversation
to me, I felt even more miserable for having hurt Ricardo's feelings,
but I was still too depressed to call him on the phone. I suddenly
remembered that five years before, Ricardo had lent me a biography
of Truman Capote which I had never read. As I reveled in Truman's
drug addictions, alcoholism, humiliating and self-destructive public
appearances, and general silliness, I began to feel a bit better
about myself. No matter what had happened in my life, at least I
hadn't appeared drunk and goofy on the Dick Cavett Show; nor had
I spent years writing the despicable "Answered Prayers". Suddenly,
I remembered that I also had an unread Elvis bio. Then I picked
up Jerry Lewis, and learned about him scoring Percodan from bell-hops,
shitting in his pants, and sticking a gun into his mouth with his
finger on the trigger. My path out of the forest was illuminated!
Onto Groucho Marx, who verbally and emotionally abused all his wives,
alienated all his children, and was generally a miserable motherfucker.
Montgomery Clift ruled. He was such a stone-cold alkie, and took
so many different drugs on a daily basis, that at any moment during
a dinner party or on a movie set, he would just keel over and fall
flat on his face. Liz Taylor was Monty's dear friend. How sublime
it was to learn of La Liz's multiple hellish marriages, moronic
money management, and the drug and alcohol combinations she has
ingested which began almost killing her since the 50's. Robin the
jazz musician was so thrilled to see me taking an interest in something
that he even listened patiently as I described Liz's first visit
to The Neverland Ranch--a true historic hallmark for pure surrealism.
I began feeling guilty about my new
obsession, and attempted to redeem myself by delving into "Miriam's
Song" (the life story of Miriam Mathabane, sister of Mark, who wrote
"Kaffir Boy".) Wow, did I learn all about apartheid and the current
political climate in South Africa...but the next day, I was back
to Judy Garland.
Somehow, the mouse, too, had mysteriously
bailed during this process...
Which is how I derived Aunt Hariette's
Cure for Depression.
Read celebrity bios. I suspect that
they are written for this very purpose. No matter how dreary your
life seems, I guarantee that you will perk up and re-discover joie
de vivre after immersing yourself in tales of people who had brilliant
careers; mega-millions; lavish, indulgent lifestyles; glamorous
love affairs...and who all ended up as bankrupt suicidal drug-addicted
The skies will be turquoise again,
the sun will become your personal overhead lamp, and everyone you
know will ask, "Where have you been??? I missed you!!!"
e-mail Hariette at firstname.lastname@example.org
for a list of favorite degrading celeb bio highlights!