My folks were close to forty when I was adopted and subsequently their generation either passed away or moved away, most often to Florida. Very early on I got used to sparsely attended family holidays and gatherings, almost in preparation for things as they are now--little to no family really, and little to no 'tradition' which has been the underlying and recurring theme here this week. I have a recollection however that I've been hinting at all week that I'll reveal.
Remember the 'finding your roots' craze that followed the book and then later the mini-series adaptation of Alex Hailey's "Roots"? Well, it hit my dad's side of the family like crazy at the time. Soon, he was in possession of the entire familial lineage from his mother's side of the family, the Tarlers. I mean, who knew that there was a family crest and everything?! This bound family tree was sent to all of the Tarlers and their offspring who apparently poured through the document to find...
...that we were all related to the aforementioned Cornell Woolrich, "the fourth best crime writer of his day, behind only Dashiell Hammett, Erle Stanley Gardner and Raymond Chandler". Go figure. And not only did Woolrich pass away with his finances in disarray, but royalties from his "1942 story "It Had to be Murder", which became the basis of the 1954 Alfred Hitchcock movie "Rear Window"" were gathering unclaimed in a bank account in New York City that the Tarlers, with family lineage in hand, felt they could get their mitts upon. It was decided that the Tarlers would hold a grand family reunion at my family's home at the Jersey Shore to see what could be done about claiming that "Rear Window" lucre.
On the appointed day, Tarler upon Tarler, a family I'd never met nor laid eyes upon, sat in my family's living room. Curiously, they all arrived with something quite interesting as they too were all meeting a room full of strangers: documentation. Each carried with them photo albums, papers, anything that would make them Tarler-legit. Photo upon photo of faces upon faces that I never met nor ever would meet were flashed before my eyes. It was silly really, but in a good way. I surveyed the room and for the first time had that feeling of: family. And a LARGE and colorful one it was indeed.
Most techno-colorful was Syd Cassyd and his lovely wife who were both into their late 80's at the time of this family reunion in the latter 80's. As I mentioned earlier in the week, Syd "established the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences in 1946" and went on to win 3 honorary Emmy's and a Star on Hollywood's 'Walk of Fame' for his vision in founding the Academy. He was literally a walking, talking, albeit diminutive (think Milton Friedman-like) survivor from the Golden Era of the Hollywood. What he lacked in height he made up for with a grand history he epitomized.
He too had documentation in a folder but his wasn't photographs of his home or family. He'd say in passing, "...that's when Marilyn Monroe did such and such..." and pull from his manila folder a personal note from Marilyn to himself. He'd continue, "So, Hitchcock turns to me and says..." while at the same time another personal letter from the hallowed director to Syd would be placed in my hands. The anecdotes were flying...Bogie, Bacall, Edgar Bergen, Linus Pauling and each mention followed with something tangible from that folder. I was spellbound for hours, really.
Oh... so, back to the Tarlers and the plan to grab the millions from Woolrich's estate; the United States Supreme Court in Stewart v. Abend, 495 U.S. 207 (1990) subsequently decided in the case brought to the court regarding these "Rear Window" monies, that the rights to the work, although it was optioned and paid for by Hitchcock and Jimmy Stewart at the time, reverted back to the original author, so the funds being held in abeyance reverted to Woolrich's estate which dispersed the money to Columbia University as his will had dictated.
The Tarlers received: zero.
And it was the Tarlers--who I never saw again.
Supertramp - Logical Song (Mp3)
Doobie Brothers - What A Fool Believes (Mp3)
Player - Baby Come Back (Mp3)
Blondie - Heart Of Glass (Mp3)
Cheap Trick - I Want You To Want Me (Mp3)