There is something very unusual about Nora Ephron's bio in the Playbill for her new play, "Lucky Guy," a piece about famed tabloid newspaperman Mike McAlary, which opened Monday night on Broadway and stars
But it makes no mention of one salient fact. Ephron died in June.
Her death came from complications from acute
"The thing is," Bernstein wrote, "you really can't turn a fatal illness into a joke. It is almost the only disclosure that turns you into the victim rather than the hero of your story. For her, tragedy was a pit of cliches. So she stayed quiet."
Ephron did not stop working. As Bernstein points out, his mother spent that six years directing a film and writing two movies and two plays, including her homage to McAlary, who, surely not coincidentally, also did some of his best writing while battling cancer. Perhaps that was why Ephron was so attracted to his story, and why "Lucky Guy" is told with such sentimental affection for a profession that can be so much fun, people tend to forget to quit and go home.
Ephron could, of course, have been writing about
But even as he suggested (at the time, improbably) that he was going to cut back, Ebert unleashed a dizzying barrage of new projects and branding initiatives on a digital landscape that did not even exist when McAlary was churning out those columns about police corruption and coverups for the Post or the Daily News — depending on which was making him the most lucrative offer in an era when a city columnist with the right Rolodex of chatty cops could command a multiyear, million-dollar contract. The colorful, mostly Irish editors and writers who populated McAlary's retro, booze- and emotion-soaked world were often betting men. And at the moment when Ebert's note came out, if you were to bet on any writer with a real chance of outworking death, Ephron-style, Ebert surely would have been that writer.
In the end, not Ebert, nor Ephron nor McAlary were so lucky. But then that depends on how you define luck. As vividly depicted by Hanks — one of those rare actors who can manifest boyish charm and a pall of existential sadness at precisely the same moment — McAlary had a great time living out the truism, and truth, that everything can be copy. He reached his peak at a very good time: back before
Just a couple of days before he died, Ebert was in brand-expansion mode, keeping on keeping on. But then Ebert, a lucky guy, also was a world unto himself.
McAlary also knew no such world of contraction. Sure, the dysfunctional elements of the 1980s and '90s tabloid universe are acknowledged in this play — which was directed by George C. Wolfe and also features a raft of character actors like
Tierney, surely not coincidentally, is a cancer survivor herself.
"Lucky Guy" is at the Broadhurst Theater, 235 West 44th St., New York, 212-239-6200, telecharge.com.