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June 22, 2008


wow Danny, I'm exhausted just reading this. Your honesty about yourself and your family never ceases to amaze me. I'm not so sure I'd want to hear those tapes. As for Savage Grace, I think I may have to skip that one. A nice light musical with Nazi's sounds just about right. ( I think Mel Brooks already had that idea)


As my scrutiny of Mad Men intensifies, so does my hunger for information on life in the 60's... as it was, not as it was portrayed. Sounds like this film is a must-see.

Both movies sound too painful to watch, for me, but I'm a total wimp with emotionally stressful film. But thanks for the write up. That I can handle.

I often look at families in public, who seem happy enough, and scrutinize them for signs of distress and dysfunction. People's public faces so often try, and even succeed, to mask private struggle. Which makes living in a difficult family so much harder, because you compare yourself to the illusion of other family's happiness.

I suppose, though, that family happiness, like much other happiness, is experienced in small moments, which build incrementally in our memory banks.

Sorry, wrong name and url above.


I have an audio diary I kept during that period. Whenever I dictated into the recorder I would tune my radio to WLS and turn it up, because I thought it would be cool to hear the hit music of the day years the future.

During the height of the mishegas in our house, my entries focus on one single problem almost exclusively. That my amplifier wasn't powerful enough to hear the keyboard I played in the band.

Can you spell D-E-N-I-A-L ?

WHAT?! You have an audio diary from back then that I never knew about? Maybe we SHOULD make a documentary about our family! (Of course I would never use the tapes without your permission...gulp!)

No. I don't think that my family presented an accurate picture of our level of dysfunction then or now. My mother has chosen to end her days as she has lived her life: in a sepia-hued bubble of denial. This post brought to mind two episodes from my life: (1) a woman who lived near me from 1963-1983 who apologized to me as an adult for not intervening in my hellacious childhood because her husband wouldn't let her, saying the guilt of knowing what we went through had bothered her for years; (2) a happy family lunching together I observed in an office break room only to hear the next day on the news that this husband tried to murder his wife that evening.

Will we ever know what drives these family dynamics? Probably not, but films such as you reviewed in this post can help us delve into the "maybes," if we wish much as "Mommie Dearest" did for me in exploring my family realities for the first time years ago.

Finally, yes, I do look at our faded happy Easter Sunday dress-up pictures circa 1968 from time to time and wish I could help/warn/comfort. I suppose there's a book in this somewhere but I haven't written it yet for fear of libel charges, perhaps?

Sometimes I wish I could go back to that messed up girl I was in the seventies and early eighties and assure her that everything would be so much better after she turned eighteen and moved out. I suppose there's no going back. It's just important to remember that now we have power and try not to keep repeating the same bad patterns we learned as kids. So tough.

Thanks for a wonderful post, Danny. Will try to catch the documentaries you mention. As to another look at a marriage in the 1960s, 70s, and 80s, watch for the 2009 release of the fictional, "She's Not The Type."

Love from your fake mommy,

Okay, two movies added to the list. Great commentary as usual, Danny.

I'd suggest you dig out your old Charlie & the Chocolate Factory so that you can see that in the end, life, although a sideways ride, brings about a guarantee of chocolate even on the worst days -- at least for the sane, humble, and deserving!

I vote for not listening to your tapes. I know it's a wealth of information, perhaps insight into aspects of your family that you may not be familiar, but I can't help but think of it as an invasion of privacy.

In my case, I can't help but want to think of my parents not as they are, necessarily, but as they wanted me to think of them.

My family was, and is far from perfect. But I feel I owe it to them to take them at face value, because they tried to provide a safe and secure environment for me. And if it actually wasn't as safe as I thought it was, or as secure. I was none the wiser. And, for me, that's what counts.

As always a great post Danny.

The institution of the nuclear family is a dodgy one - so often full of "Secrets and Lies" (my favorite movie about the dysfunction of families). I've always considered it a potentially dangerous place, not the least for children. I guess you have to figure out what it would contribute to your life to hear these tapes, especially made in patriot-act-like stealth. I don't think I'd want to know - but then I was running away from my family as soon as I learned to walk.
Thanks for always being so smart, Danny,

I loved this me to remember how I used to wonder after witnessing another harrowing parental friday night argument if my friends at high school had things like this going on in their homes. No one mentioned anything, and like the others i never mentioned my family's secrets to anyone. Did your father threaten to hit your mom and did she scream she'd kill him in self defense? Was he drunk or dying to have an excuse to run out of the house and disappear all night, after he picked a fight. Later to come home drunk or wake us up in the middle of the night with Chinese food for us all to eat? Was it 1:00AM? Is this fun? No wonder we had weight problems.

My parents died years ago. What would I want to know that I don't already know?

I've mentioned this before, but I have more than 30 years of diaries and journals and a life time of letters from friends plus my blog. I expect my kids to read my blog one day. The rest? Hmmmm. I recently ditched a lot of letters. Plans to toss out more. I simply can't keep carting my past with me, physically or psychologically. I feel the more I try to carry all of the past forward, the less progress I make in my life.

Wow. Thanks for the props. I'm starting to be shocked at how much the film resonates with people. I'm really fascinated that you have your dad's wiretap tapes. That's a treasure trove in its own right. Have you listened to them? Even the innocuous conversations from that era must be pretty amazing. There's something about the records my grandparents made, some feeling that as they are talking they know these recordings might outlive them. With the wire-tap they would have had no idea. CRAZY!! Crazy that marriage in that era seems to have driven people to such total war. I always had the impression when I looked at this body of material Allis had amassed that it was her federal case against Charley.

Thanks for coming to see my film and for sharing about your own family. It always makes me feel better to hear that I'm not the only one :)

-Morgan Dews

I heard Salmon Rushdie yesterday being interviewed and he talked about how we all have a profound need to tell our stories. Our family stories and how we all came to be who we are, are the most important stories we have to tell, I believe. For, it is the very "denials" that we all experienced that desperately need to come out and be validated.

I will never forget how you encouraged me to tell mine, Danny. My stories were validated. Powerful. Very powerful. Like this post.


Thank you very much for letting me know today that you had written this post after seeing "Must Read After My Death" at the L.A. Film Festival last June. Naturally, I do not know if you will ever see this comment but it means a lot to me to have read your post here and, particularly, to have read the comments that it inspired. I am currently, as you know, in the throes of a once-in-a-lifetime upheaval in terms of my intention to relocate to France with no notion of returning to the USA. I have no idea how it will go but I'm rolling the dice and taking my chances. I'm also taking my family baggage with me with the firm intention of exploring it further in genealogy and in writing/blogging because I have estranged nieces and a nephew who were completely cut off from the knowledge of their paternal (my brother) ancestors. That is an unacceptable state of affairs for me and I want to have a hand in changing it, no matter how long it takes.

Well, let me not go on and on. Thank you as always.


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