8824 NE Russell St.
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Black Lamb

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Black Lamb was created to offer the discerning reader a stimulating selection of excellent original writing. Published monthly. (more)

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Remembering Eren

April 1st, 2007

BY WILLIAM BOGERT

In the autumn of 1975 I accepted my first job in regional theater. I was invited to be in the first three plays at the new Hartman Theater in Stamford, Conn. Other than summer stock I had worked only in New York or on national tours, and I thought it would be a new experience. Little did I know.

The opening show was Gogol’s The Government Inspector (the source for The Inspector-General, a wonderful Danny Kaye movie), a play which to my knowledge is unique in two ways. The first is that it has forty-four speaking roles; this means that at the first readthrough, when the cast is sitting around in a circle, after you’ve added the table the director sits behind and the table with the model of the set on it, the opposite side of the circle is hidden from you by the curvature of the earth. The second is the brevity of exposition: one speech. The mayor of the town — who’s a crock — has gathered his henchmen to tell them that he’s gotten a letter from his cousin in Minsk (as I remember) telling him that an inspector is going around incognito, looking for graft. Then the postmaster (me) comes running into the room to warn his co-conspirators that there’s a guy in the post office behaving very strangely, and we’re off to the races.

The mayor in this production was to be George S. Irving, which was one of the reasons I took the job: I think he’s wonderful, and I was very much looking forward to working with him. I didn’t see him at first at the reading, but the room was so crowded I figured I just couldn’t spot him. So now we begin, and the expositional speech is being delivered not by George but by the guy to my left, and my command of the English language is insufficient to the challenge of explaining to you how… slowly… he… talked.

I looked at him in disbelief. No one is expected to give a performance at a first reading, but neither is anyone expected to keep everyone else just sitting about while he indulges himself. So when it became my turn I picked up the pace a little. It didn’t help. The mayor has the biggest part in the play, and with this putz reading it we were there for almost four-and-a-half hours. And by the end I was going at a tempo that would have been a bit rapid for a Gilbert & Sullivan patter song. But bad things, like good, must come to an end, and when this finally did the girl playing the mayor’s daughter (and the postmaster’s sweetheart) ran up behind me, threw her arms around me, and snurfled into my left ear, “I love you! You talk so fast!”

Which makes her the only girl I’ve ever heard of who was literally fast-talked into a relationship.

Her name was Eren Ozker, and as soon as I found out that the reason George wasn’t there was because he was with his sick wife, so that I would not have to quit, I decided to try to find out whether I had any other qualities that appealed to her. And one thing led happily to another, and she somehow managed to persuade one of the other actresses in the show to let us borrow her hotel room between shows on a matinee day, and the relationship was, as they say, consummated.

Now. You should know that at this time I was thirty-nine years old, never married, seldom even close to it, and I had more or less made up my mind that it just wasn’t going to happen for me. And then one night we were in bed in my apartment, and I woke up and Eren was crying, and I asked her why in the world, and she said, “You don’t love me.” And I realized that I did, and that my life was about to change.

We did The Hostage together in Stamford, and then Eren went to London to do the first season of The Muppet Show (she was also a puppeteer). I moped around New York for a few months and then decided that a six-thousand-mile separation wasn’t any worse than a three-thousand, and I came out to L.A. and soon began to find work. There were many letters and few phone calls, and then there was a one-week break for The Muppets and I persuaded her to spend it with me, and when she got off the plane — almost the last one, I was having a heart attack — I don’t believe I’ve ever been so glad to see someone. I jumped over the rope and virtually attacked her, which she took quite well considering she’d been exhausted by the flight, and I got her back to my little apartment in Hollywood, and we had a lovely week, at the end of which I proposed. And she accepted.

We were married in 1977, on April 25th, that being exactly halfway between our birthdays. From that day she set out to make herself absolutely indispensable to me, and she succeeded beyond her wildest dreams. She wasn’t the smartest girl I’ve ever known, or the prettiest, or the best dancer, but she was smart and pretty and a good dancer, and funny and kind and a lot of other good things, and she picked me and I couldn’t believe my luck. And I still felt that way even after I met one her two former boyfriends, who believed that they were in fact the risen Christ. I’m not making this up. The one I met told me that he had been considerably upset when he realized his lack of divinity, but that he knew the guy who was the second coming and he could give me the address. In London.

So she had her quirks. For instance, when she got up in the morning she would have breakfast, do her stuff in the bathroom, and dress. Then before she went out she would change her clothes completely. Why this didn’t infuriate me I have no idea, but instead I found it endearing. Another: she hated to say that she hated a play (or a movie, or a restaurant). She would smile a strained smile and say, “I found it insufficiently arresting.” I wasn’t the only one who found this endearing.

Twenty-fifths were always important to us — our birthdays, our anniversary, one obvious other, and a couple I won’t bore you with. Eren died of cancer on February 25, 1993, at 8:25 p.m. I still miss her. Needless to say, in the interim I have met several women to whom I have been considerably attracted. Unfortunately, they have all found me insufficiently arresting. Eren would have been almost as disappointed as I. She always wanted the best for me. •

Posted by: The Editors
Category: All Marriage Issue, Bogert | Link to this Entry

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