Sunday, September 07, 2003


After "The Front" in 1976, Martin Ritt directed his most acclaimed film in 1979, "Norma Rae," which won the Oscar for Sally Field. He introduced Mary Steenbergen in the Jack Nicholson film "Cross Creek" in 1983. His last film was "Stanley and Iris" starring Jane Fonda and Robert DiNiro in 1990. He died that year.

Walter Bernstein's next film was "Semi-Tough." He wrote "The Betsy" (1978), "Yanks" (79) and several teleplays through 2000. He was interviewed on screen in the 2003 American Masters PBS program on Elia Kazan, Arthur Miller and the Blacklist.

David Garfield acted in "The Rose" in 1979 and appeared in a few TV movies. His sister Julie Garfield appeared in Ritt's "Stanley and Iris," as well as "Good Fellas" and other movies and TV shows. She narrated "The John Garfield Story" in 2003.

I haven't been in touch with anyone in this story for many years. I knew David Helpern, Arnie Reisman and Jim Gutman until a few years after I left Boston in 1975. I saw David in Los Angeles some time in the mid 1980s. While working on "Hollywood On Trial" he and another mutual friend, Fred Barron, sold a story to director Joan Micklin Silver that became the feature film, "Between the Lines," famous for introducing a whole generation of actors: John Heard, Lindsay Crouse, Jeff Goldblum, Jill Eikenberry and Bruno Kirby, among others. The story (Fred also wrote the screenplay) was based on an alternative newspaper like the one Fred and I had worked for at the same time. (The guy who punches a hole in the wall? That was me.)

Then in 1979, David directed a feature film, "Something Short of Paradise" (aka "Perfect Love") starring Susan Sarandon and David Steinberg. It was a romantic comedy written by Fred Barron. I had a featured role in it. Well, I was an extra in several key scenes. Okay, so my back is in it for a second. Fred went on to write and produce successful sitcoms like "Kate and Allie" and "Caroline in the City," and executive produce "Seinfeld" and "The Larry Sanders Show." He got back into the movie business producing a little film called "Moulin Rouge!" I believe Fred was also on the set of "The Front" when I was, covering it for somebody. I remember that we drove back to Boston together. Last time I saw him was on the ferry to Martha's Vineyard, way before his major Hollywood creds. Doubt if I'd get past the phalanx of superstars blocking the door now.

Later David Helpern became an independent producer for movies and a studio executive, among other activities. He produced "Dead Heat" in 1988, and was executive producer of "Leave it To Beaver" in 1997. His father is the David Helpern of Joan and David shoes fame.

Arnie Reisman today is a successful writer as well as a performer for WGBH, public television in Boston. One of his partners in performance is Tony Kahn. Together with Nat Segaloff (who I also knew and worked with in Boston) and Dan Kinnel, Reisman has written a script about the notorious Waldorf Conference, during which movie moguls essentially established the Blacklist. They recently sold the script to Warner Brothers TV.

Tony Kahn has become a familiar voice to public radio listeners, and viewers of PBS. He was a host of NPR's "Morning Edition" and is special correspondent and alternate anchor for "The World" on BBC radio. He's done numerous voiceover narrations for television and theatrical documentaries. He produced a radio series on the Blacklist, and has written extensively about it, including memories of his father and his experiences as a child of the blacklist.

Deborah Offner continues an acting career that has included feature films ( Joan Silver's "Crossing Delancey," among many others), television and theatre. Her New York theatre credits include The Three Sisters, Don Juan, Merry Wives and Rebel Women for the New York Shakespeare Festival. In Los Angeles she's appeared in "The Normal Heart" and "Perestroika." In 1981 she appeared in "Ghost Story" with Fred Astaire and Ken Olin, who must have remembered her, because she had a role in "thirtysomething" in 1987---it looked like she would be a regular, except that the series was at its end. More recently, a reviewer called her performance in the San Jose Rep production of the Tony-winning play "Side Man" "powerful in a complex role." Her director was Michael Butler, another child of a Blacklist victim heard from in this article.

I'd met Buffy Offner when we lived in the same building in Cambridge for a year or two. Then I saw her a lot when she worked at the Orson Welles restaurant, and the Welles Complex was my second home. We maintained and strengthened our friendship after she moved to West Hollywood. I saw her as much time as possible whenever I was out there, and we talked regularly on the phone when I wasn't. We collaborated on a film story and started a script. Buffy worked as a secretary at William Morris, and it was through her that I got my first and only Hollywood Agent Lunch. Later she became a sound editor, and worked on "The Woman In Red." (1984)

Like her father, Elizabeth "Buffy" Offner was a terrific photographer. I used photos she took of David Helpern and other principals of "Hollywood On Trial" in my Newsworks piece. She's one of the few photographers who ever took a decent picture of me. I used one on the back of the new edition of The Malling of America, that she took when I was first working on that book. (Literally when I was working on our script---you can't see it in the cropped photo, but I'm at the typewriter at her apartment.)

This story doesn't have a happy ending. I remember that I'd just bought a new answering machine, and came home to hear its first message. It was from a cousin of Buffy's who I didn't know, saying that after a sudden and very brief illness, Buffy had died. It was November 1985. She was several years shy of forty.

There were two memorials for her, one in Los Angeles and one in New York. I was asked to be one of the speakers at the New York memorial, which was attended mostly by her family. Except for Debbie, I'd never met any of them before. It was clear how loved she was, and that others knew what a beautiful and extraordinary person she was. I uttered the cliché that day that she would always live in our memories. But I meant it, and finally completing this project is one expression of that intent, and that fact.