Spalding Gray Gone?
January 13, 2004 11:27 AM   Subscribe

Spalding Gray, the witty and engaging actor and writer, has been reported missing.
posted by moonbird (24 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I wonder where he is...
posted by eastlakestandard at 11:42 AM on January 13, 2004

this sounds very bad, given his bouts with depression and his family history of suicide. I hope all ends well.

I enjoy immensely his monologues, they're better watched than simply read on paper -- sadly, they're not widely available in VHS format and many haven't been published on DVD. his Impossible Vacation novel (out of print, sadly) can be found in used bookstores and is very, very good.
Swimming to Cambodia is probably his most famous work, but Monster In A Box is great, too

amazing how Gray has (had?) the ability to make his own personal minutiae sound terribly engaging to a wide audience

if indeed he is not coming back, this is a very sad day for American culture

I remember standing in that second-story window and looking down, wondering if I really had the courage to jump and if I did would it kill me from such a small height. I think I figured I'd just break a leg or something and end up in a cast for the rest of the summer, and that would be much better than dying because of all the attention I'd get. But then I also realized that Mom wouldn't be able to give me any attention, because she was cracking up and needed all of it for herself.

--from Impossible Vacation

posted by matteo at 11:47 AM on January 13, 2004

I woke up to this news on the radio.

He doesn't have to come back to performing, I just hope he's not dead, but indulging some urgent need to travel to Bali or something.

I've seen him a few times, and all the shows which took place after the accident in Ireland were, worrisome, I'll leave it at that.

He had a unique ability to monologue.

posted by Busithoth at 11:59 AM on January 13, 2004

I take such solace in his Barrington accent. It's people like Spalding Gray and Tom Waits that I can't picture leaving us. The unfortunate part of his exposing so much of his life in monolgue format, is that everyone, including myself, feels comfortable psycho-analyzing this situation. Seeing his transformation from manic artist to "calm" family man makes me wonder if he was longing for another time long past. His later work seemed to indicate that.
posted by machaus at 12:03 PM on January 13, 2004

Here's more:

He was reported missing Saturday by his wife, Kathleen Russo, Southampton Police Lt. William Armstrong said Tuesday. The couple had not been to their Southampton home since Christmas, he said. Police in New York were investigating a report that he may have been planning a ski trip this week to Colorado, Armstrong said, but declined to elaborate.

Gray had a history of depression and tried to commit suicide in 2002, The New York Times reported. Gray discusses his neuroses in his monologues and has said his mother committed suicide at the age of 52.

posted by squirrel at 12:15 PM on January 13, 2004

about Gray's latest, troubled work:

P.S. 122, the downtown theatre institution, likewise announced its season, which will welcome back monologuist Spalding Gray and his latest autobiographical show, Life Interrupted. The work has a rocky history. Under a different title, Black Spot, it was scheduled to run at P.S 122 on Mondays during the fall of 2002. However, the entire run was canceled when the famously neurotic monologuist was checked into a mental hospital. Gray was found near his Sag Harbor, Long Island, home contemplating a jump from a local bridge. His wife, Kathy Russo, said that Gray has been suffering from depression since a 2001 head-on collision in Ireland. Ironically, Life Interrupted centers on the crash. Gray was celebrating his 60th birthday when traveling in Ireland in 2001. According to press materials, the crash happened on the day after the longest day of the year. The monologue also features bits on Irish culture, socialized medicine, a further operation in the U.S. and Gray's family's move into a bigger house—scheduled moving day: Sept. 11, 2001.

posted by matteo at 12:27 PM on January 13, 2004

spalding come home.
posted by clavdivs at 12:46 PM on January 13, 2004

I'm hoping for the best, fearing the worst. Spalding Gray is definitely not everyone's taste, but my girlfriend and I have enjoyed his stuff since (like most people) we saw Swimming to Cambodia.
posted by pmurray63 at 1:46 PM on January 13, 2004

Me too.
posted by daver at 2:28 PM on January 13, 2004

I feel that Spalding Gray has been lost for years.

When I heard that he had ditched his artistic and life partner of decades, Renee Shafransky, for a much younger woman-- and became a father in his 50s--it read, to me, like a desperate cry for help ("young wife and kids must be the solution to my midlife crisis!")

It's tragic that such a talented person is so haunted by family ghosts.
posted by Sidhedevil at 4:50 PM on January 13, 2004

I remember Terry Gross kicking the crap out of him on the air for leaving his wife.
posted by mecran01 at 5:15 PM on January 13, 2004

There was a heart rending story in the New Yorker about his suicidal tendencies since the accident but I can't find it online.
posted by CunningLinguist at 6:03 PM on January 13, 2004

I remember Terry Gross kicking the crap out of him on the air for leaving his wife.

I'd love to hear that.
posted by jpoulos at 6:08 PM on January 13, 2004

Crud, I hope he hasn't done anything stupid. Spalding Gray is my favorite neurotic monologist.
posted by Hildago at 7:05 PM on January 13, 2004

This affliction of Spalding's, chronic depression - or melancholia, as it once might have been called - has a high degree of lethality, over time. Then again - all life is a terminal condition.

My days are numbered too.
posted by troutfishing at 9:11 PM on January 13, 2004

The October 2003 issue of GQ included a wrenching article on Gray by Allison Glock. I felt terribly apprehensive for him reading it, so this news is not completely unexpected. Damn.
posted by maudlin at 7:34 AM on January 14, 2004

Here's an RA archive of the Fresh Air interview.
posted by squirrel at 10:33 AM on January 14, 2004

I hope he's ok...where ever he is.
posted by dejah420 at 12:01 PM on January 14, 2004

Me too. I want to hear the interview...
posted by Busithoth at 1:54 PM on January 14, 2004

Gray's family is fearful that the troubled writer-actor, who has twice attempted suicide in the past two years, may have jumped off the Staten Island Ferry, according to a family friend.

Gray's Latest Effort: 'Life Interrupted'

posted by matteo at 6:06 PM on January 14, 2004

I just heard about this, and I'm seriously bummed. I was sucked in by Swimming to Cambodia, and actually got to see one of his performances here in Seattle about 6 or so years ago. A truely talented man.

Course leaving his partner for the young hotty was pretty bogus...
posted by Windopaene at 10:17 PM on January 14, 2004

Here's an interview from some time in the last five years.
posted by squirrel at 12:11 PM on January 15, 2004

From that interview:

Interviewer: When you saw yourself on the screen in King of the Hill, did watching your character commit suicide have an effect on you personally?

SG: Yeah, at the time Steven Soderbergh cast me in that movie, I was having a lot of suicide fantasies. I was darkly convinced that at age 52 I would kill myself because my mother committed suicide at that age. I was fantasizing that she was waiting for me on the other side of the grave. Steven said I was his only choice for that role because he had read Impossible Vacation, which was about a man ruled by regret.

I was taken by the fact that the character in King of the Hill had chosen cutting his wrists as the method of suicide, because that was one of my fantasies when I was in Taos. I thought that I would take Quaaludes, take a razor out to the hot tub with me and cut my wrists. But then I thought the Quaaludes would make me feel so good that I would end up not doing it [strange, sad laugh].

So, this role was so powerful. To have my wrists made up for two hours, and five hours of setting up the blood -- I was a witness to it for all this time, and I realized the old cliche of what a mess [suicide] is to leave for someone else to find -- what a stupid, passive-aggressive, piggish thing to do to someone.

After we finished the suicide scene, I walked back to the hotel with the make-up and dried blood. During this three-minute walk no one noticed except for this bum who ran from me. I got to the hotel and the people at the check out counter said "Oh, gross," but that was it, because they knew I was in a film. I needed to have a reaction from someone. So I walked into the hotel drugstore and there was a woman about my mother's age when she committed suicide, filling out prescriptions. I held up my wrists and said [in a whiny voice], "Do you have anything for my wounds?" She said, "My, God, what did you do?" I answered I'd cut my wrists and she went into shock and said, "Well, we have Mercurochrome." She actually said "Mercurochrome" and she frantically began to look for it.

It was a vicious thing to do. I asked her if she watched Candid Camera, which put her at ease. I told her she wasn't on it, that I was an actor and it was make-up. I realized that I was enacting a reversal of my mother's suicide. I had turned to my mother and said, "Look -- what does it feel like to have your son commit suicide?"

posted by squirrel at 12:25 PM on January 15, 2004

posted by troutfishing at 7:29 AM on January 16, 2004

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