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Diane Keaton Talks About Jack, Woody, and Motherhood

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The 92nd Street Y never fails to attract some of the biggest names in the celebrity world, and recently lived up to that reputation with the wonderful Diane Keaton.

After a brief introduction by 92 Street Y President Thomas Kaplan, which heightened the excitement, and then a montage of clips from some of Keaton’s most memorable movies—and they do add up—she emerged glowing, in a white Ralph Lauren pantsuit, white shirt and trademark tie. Glamourous, star-like, and smiling that great big smile we’ve come to know in recent hits like, Something’s Gotta Give, The First Wives Club, The Father of the Bride, and The Family Stone. Then, you see the Godfather, Reds, Annie Hall, and it became a bit startling when taking in the depth and breadth of her career and how she’s aged as gracefully as one can before our eyes.

Keaton is promoting her newest hit, Then Again, a homage to her mother, Dorothy Hall, and to Keaton’s own children, Dexter and Duke. The title of the book, she explains, is a nod to the past which can never be repeated, but can be looked back upon with wisdom and clarity that only comes with experience. As Mother’s Day is just a few weeks away, it was a touching reminder about the ties between mothers and their daughters, and how love can seem to be both about goodbyes and hellos. Goodbye to the mother she evidently loved beyond words, and hello to the children she cherishes above all else.

Keaton took to the podium and read passages about her mother, a closet writer, who left 85 journals after her death. A victim of Alzheimer’s, we see clips of Dorothy Hall as a young mother, and aging into a handsome but increasingly forgetful senior, with Keaton behind the camera. A few times during the evening, Keaton grew emotional when she spoke about the love between her parents that she witnessed as a teenager. “I saw them dancing,” she said, “which was awkward since I was only a teenager, but then see them kiss a really deep kiss, I was more in awe of how much in love they were.”

What Keaton does with Then Again is write part autobiography, part exploration into motherhood and love at the same time. “It was love that saved me,” Keaton says, and although she never married, she says that her kids became her vows, “To love, and to cherish, in sickness and in health.” Now teens, Keaton did provide a video of them as youngsters hamming it up for the camera, resembling typical home movies from an average family.

Throughout the evening, she displayed a shyness that was endearing, saying things like “Am I boring you?” and looking a bit clueless, not unlike her character in Annie Hall, all to the crowd’s obvious pleasure; we shook our heads “no,” encouraging her to go on. And then she offered herself for Q & A’s and little by little, audience members stepped up to the mike, and here are a few of the revelations she shared:

The best kisser? Sam Shepard in Baby Boom. What about Woody Allen? Brilliant writer and director. His movies were not thought out, he put less thought into directing than anyone I know.

Jack Nicholson? He liked me in Something’s Gotta Give and I liked him during the filming of Reds.But he and Angelica were together…what a great couple. About that last scene in The First Wives Club when the three ladies (Hawn, Midler and Keaton) start singing “You Don’t Own Me”? That was a last minute idea by director Scott Rudin…he didn’t have an ending for the movie, and then she added, Just give me a musical, I’d love to do a musical…do slapstick…love it. Your kids seem so normal? How did you create a normal environment for them? I am normal, almost surprised at the question.

Keaton remembered when she first started out she seemed to be always auditioning with Jill Clayburgh and Blythe Danner, and usually one of them got the roles, and they’d turn to Keaton and say, You’re just too kooky. Evidently, that was the one aspect of her personality that won over Woody Allen. She told us that rather than have the wardrobe department choose her outfits for Annie Hall, He just gave me money to go out and buy the clothes I’d normally wear. One of the last to speak, a white-haired gentleman seemed to sum up the crowd’s feeling for Keaton when he said, You’re just luscious…you’re delicious. To which Keaton replied straight-faced, No, you’re luscious. You’re delicious.

When the Q & A portion was complete, the audience (all about 900 of us, or so) were invited to gather out in the lobby and wait in orderly lines for our copy of Then Again to be autographed. Though it was about 9:30 p.m. most remained. My spot was way back, but the line moved swiftly, and by 10:15 p.m., I was next in line, and enjoyed the few minutes to watch Keaton cheerfully sign copy after copy. Finally, I was waved on to the table.

Then Again
Diane Keaton

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