JOHN LITHGOW TIMES THREE

Actor John Lithgow

The Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, which has a large auditorium for special screenings of TV movies, etc., is in North Hollywood in the San Fernando Valley.

In the 1990s I had an artist friend, Katherine, who was a member and was often invited to special screenings. The auditorium was filled with comfortable plush seats and was the ideal setting to introduce new TV movies and hold other important affairs. The director, producers and stars would be invited to these affairs as well as members of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. Afterwards, at an outside patio, there were hors d’oeuvres and drinks for all the guests.

There was a certain cachet in attending these events; it was probably assumed each guest was part of the entertainment industry or had family or friends in it.

I met a very friendly David Hyde Pierce at one event and I was delighted because I was a definite fan. He treated me as if I were a personal friend, and  he introduced me to a blond woman writer from the “Frasier” show whose name I don’t remember. A few months later I watched her accept an Emmy award as a primary writer for that show.

The preview screening of “My Brother’s Keeper” TV movie was a memorable event for me. Katherine couldn’t come at the last minute but I decided I’d still go. I randomly selected a seat in the middle of the theater. Right before the movie started, I noticed that actor John Lithgow was sitting one seat over from me and the seat between us was empty. To Lithgow’s left was actress Ellen Burstyn, whose work I had admired in many films over the years.

The movie that night was based on a true story of twins, Tom and Bob Bradley, and concerned a medical battle with a drug company after one twin discovered he was HIV positive. Lithgow played both twins and Ellen Burstyn, made up to look older, played their mother.

The story was intriguing and poignant, but I was even more riveted because I could actually see Lithgow’s reaction to his acting as he watched himself play two roles. It was like seeing him in triplicate! And I had always admired his versatility as an actor.

When it was over Lithgow was onstage to give a little more information on the true story of the movie and to thank the audience for coming. Since Ellen Burstyn was only two seats over, I decided I would introduce myself to her.  I told her I was an admirer and had especially enjoyed a movie she had done called “Resurrection,” back in 1980. She smiled while I gushed but I was surprised at her shyness, even in the company of those in the entertainment industry.

Actor Ellen Burstyn

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