Friday, October 03, 2008

A Letter to Ann Landers

Dear Ann Landers -

I'm a director in Los Angeles working on a one-woman show about you. I have a wonderful cast (of one), a sharp design team and a playwright whom I believe has done you justice. I came of age in the 1970s and 80s and feel that I am one of the last generations to grow up writing thank-you cards and receiving birthday party invitations in the mail - long before "Evite" quietly took over our social calendar. Some of my favorite photos in my research captured you reading letters, gesturing with a letter in your hand, or half-buried in a mound of missives from those seeking advice, affirmation, or even to pick a fight.

At the height of your career you received 2,000 letters a day - not emails, not texts, but actual letters - handwritten or typed from all over the world. It takes time to even write a postcard, and you knew that if people were going to take the time out of their day to write down their thoughts and questions, you would take the same time and effort to answer them...each and every one.

For decades, you were this country's bulletin board. Before Oprah and Dr. Phil, you (a "Jewish Joan of Arc") had the ear of politicians, scientists and priests. In fact, for years my parents would occasionally post you (along with pithy New Yorker cartoons) on my family's bulletin board in the kitchen. Your fascination with (and empathy for) people of all stripes shone through your columns.

But more than that, I've discovered that your no-nonsense, shoot-from-the-hip style is in short supply nowadays. In our 24-hour news cycle where opinions are cynically spun and flung at the wary public like spiked confetti, your opinions were thoughtful, witty and rooted in a love for humanity.

You're probably thinking (wherever you are) "Does this guy have any questions, or is he just blowing smoke up my tookus?"

Yes, I do:

Where did you get the strength for 40 years to wrestle with our collective baggage?

Was it difficult to maintain your sharp Midwest humor in the face of some of the most tumultuous years in our recent history?

How did you manage to be surprisingly fluid in your thoughts on some controversial topics as the world changed around you?

But Ann, isn't one of the best lessons from your columns one of the simplest - we are not alone in our struggles? Just knowing there are others in the world on similar journeys can enable us sometimes to find the strength to carry on.

I guess this letter has turned out to be more personal than I had planned. But I bet you expected that didn't you?

Impressed in Pasadena

Written by The Lady With All The Answers Director Brendon Fox.

For more information or to purchase tickets to The Lady With All The Answers, the story of advice columnist Ann Landers, click here!

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