Spaulding Gray's body found
March 8, 2004 1:28 PM   Subscribe

posted by machaus at 1:35 PM on March 8, 2004

posted by ed at 1:39 PM on March 8, 2004

I was just thinking about how the media had mentioned his disappearance months ago -- wondered if he would reappear -- and he did.
posted by RubberHen at 1:40 PM on March 8, 2004

posted by feelinglistless at 1:40 PM on March 8, 2004

dang. I wanted to think he'd walked off somewhere without telling anyone but feared this is what actually happened.

Weird, the Yahoo file photo with that story looks eerily like one I took of myself some time ago. Eek.
posted by mathowie at 1:41 PM on March 8, 2004

Since the word of his disappearance I have occasionally news googled him, hoping he had taken off to some remote corner of the U.S. to chill. This isn't the news I wanted to hear.

I've waffled in my opinion about suicide. One part of me says it's taking the easy way out, but I suppose for somebody like Spalding whose mother committed suicide and had a history of emotional problems, it must have seemed like the only way to permanently rid himself of his demons.

Yet out of his pain came brilliance in the form of his work. I found his stories complex yet easy to grasp; his monologues just kind of sucked you into his joys and angst.
posted by SteveInMaine at 1:42 PM on March 8, 2004 [1 favorite]

We'll miss you, Spald.
posted by turaho at 1:44 PM on March 8, 2004

from a few months back
posted by Peter H at 1:45 PM on March 8, 2004

Looks like the bipolar dragon claimed another victim.
posted by konolia at 1:45 PM on March 8, 2004

What a shame. I guess it's some consolation to his family that at least they know what happened to him. I was actually thinking about him just a couple of days ago and wondering whether he'd actually jumped off that ferry or not.
posted by biscotti at 1:46 PM on March 8, 2004

posted by jpoulos at 1:46 PM on March 8, 2004

previous thread here

sometimes, when you like an artist a lot, in a situation like this you end up hoping -- against all odds -- for the best, anyway -- I imagined Gray involved in some weird adventure, away from home, taking notes for his next play, like when he he was mistaken for a homeless person and spent an afternoon raking leaves for a dollar on somebody's lawn (it's in Grays Anatomy, I think).

as I said two months ago, this is a sad day for American letters
posted by matteo at 1:48 PM on March 8, 2004

posted by Busithoth at 1:52 PM on March 8, 2004

posted by daver at 1:54 PM on March 8, 2004

Phlebas the Phoenician, a fortnight dead,
Forgot the cry of gulls, and the deep sea swell
And the profit and loss.
A current under sea
Picked his bones in whispers. As he rose and fell
He passed the stages of his age and youth
Entering the whirlpool.
Gentile or Jew
O you who turn the wheel and look to windward,
Consider Phlebas, who was once handsome and tall as you.

-- TS Eliot, Death By Water

Rest in Peace, Spalding, away from your (and your mom's) demons.
and if at all possible, try and find a way to let us know us what you've been seeing on the other side. nobody could tell that story as wittily and as graciously as you
posted by matteo at 1:57 PM on March 8, 2004 [1 favorite]

very, very, sad.
posted by bashos_frog at 1:58 PM on March 8, 2004

Last evening, I watched "The Trials of Henry Kissinger". As I listened to Christopher Hitchens talk about Kissinger's illegal bombing of Cambodia, I recalled that my first teacher on the subject had been Spalding Gray. Remembering that he was missing, I said what amounts to a little prayer for him - even though I think praying is ridiculous. I hope Spalding is at peace now, for he surely never was in this life. RIP.
posted by pejamo at 2:13 PM on March 8, 2004

He seemed like such a charming man from "Swimming to Cambodia" and "Monster in a Box," and it sucks that he went out that way. Thanks for the stories, Mr. Gray.
posted by onlyconnect at 2:14 PM on March 8, 2004

It's a sad day here in RI.

That article omitted the fact that he is also survived by another brother, Channing Gray, who writes for the Providence Journal arts section.
posted by Ruki at 2:15 PM on March 8, 2004 [1 favorite]

the headline so many of us were dreading and hoping against... this is so, so sad. my heart goes out to his wife and kids.
posted by t r a c y at 2:18 PM on March 8, 2004

posted by jeribus at 2:19 PM on March 8, 2004

At least we have something to remember him by.

Still. My heart goes out to his family too.

Perhaps a donation to the NMHA (or somewhere similar) in his name might be a good idea?
posted by chicobangs at 2:23 PM on March 8, 2004

Not surprising news, but definitely sad. At least his family and friends have some closure; the only thing worse would be no answer, I think.

Thanks for everything, Spalding.
posted by pmurray63 at 2:23 PM on March 8, 2004

posted by moonbird at 2:33 PM on March 8, 2004

posted by gomez at 2:40 PM on March 8, 2004


It's been almost 3 years since we lost another great storyteller, I wonder if they ever met.
posted by m@ at 2:41 PM on March 8, 2004

I'm reminded of the Handsome Family song, Weightless Again

we stopped for coffee in the Redwood forest
giant dripping leaves, spoons of powdered cream
I wanted to kiss you but I wasn't sure how
like those indians, lost in the rainforest
forced to drag burning wood wherever they went
they had all forgotten how to start a fire

this is why people OD on pills
and jump from the Golden Gate Bridge
anything to feel weightless again

those poor lost indians when the white man found them
most died of TB, the rest went insane
in our motel room, you're drinking Slice and gin
reading Moby Dick on the other bed
remember the first time we slept together
you said it felt like when you learned to float

this is why people OD on pills
and jump from the Golden Gate Bridge
anything to feel weightless again
posted by echolalia67 at 2:58 PM on March 8, 2004

posted by btwillig at 2:58 PM on March 8, 2004

posted by 40 Watt at 3:04 PM on March 8, 2004

posted by swerve at 3:30 PM on March 8, 2004

The day of my first date with my wife, she called and said she'd be a little late to the bar where we were meeting because she had an interview to do for the university newspaper. When she did show up she told me about this fascinating guy Spaulding Gray that she had just interviewed and who was performing in town.

First dates live or die by how well the small talk goes, and Spaulding Gray was the subject that made that evening special.
posted by stevis at 3:32 PM on March 8, 2004

I kept hoping for the best but knowing that the worst was most likely true. He was an outstanding performer and writer. Too sad.
posted by Orb at 3:48 PM on March 8, 2004

I feel like a complete cultural feeb admitting this, but I have basically no idea who this man was. Can anyone recommend a good selection of his work? I'm interested. ("The Killing Fields" is now in my Netflix queue.)
posted by Cyrano at 4:05 PM on March 8, 2004

posted by subgenius at 4:22 PM on March 8, 2004

posted by geekyguy at 4:34 PM on March 8, 2004

posted by aine42 at 4:35 PM on March 8, 2004

Cyrano: here.
posted by jpoulos at 4:41 PM on March 8, 2004

Cyrano: Gray's Anatomy is the only one of Spalding's monologues available on DVD, and while not his best (that distinction would go to Monster in a Box IMHO), it's a good place to start. As far as his acting goes, his routine at the dinner table in David Byrne's True Stories is classic Spalding all the way--strange and beautiful.
posted by turaho at 4:41 PM on March 8, 2004

posted by Joey Michaels at 4:44 PM on March 8, 2004

posted by notclosed at 4:54 PM on March 8, 2004

posted by laz-e-boy at 5:02 PM on March 8, 2004

Some interesting posts over the last few months since Spaulding's disappearance by his friend, John Perry Barlow, concerning Spaulding's depression and suicide:

Is Spalding Gray Finally Swimming to Cambodia?
Hecklers at a Funeral
Depression and the Beauty that Remains
posted by terrapin at 5:53 PM on March 8, 2004 [1 favorite]

my favorite image was when spaulding was descrbing a beach episode in STC.

he is ok now, he just will not have any of the thai pot.
posted by clavdivs at 6:13 PM on March 8, 2004

posted by hob at 6:24 PM on March 8, 2004

posted by damnitkage at 6:31 PM on March 8, 2004

posted by jpburns at 6:32 PM on March 8, 2004

Sad end for a funny guy.
posted by ColdChef at 6:47 PM on March 8, 2004

posted by goddam at 6:51 PM on March 8, 2004

posted by muckster at 6:57 PM on March 8, 2004

posted by CunningLinguist at 7:03 PM on March 8, 2004

Spalding, you had a little light and you let it shine. You lived a moment and then you took a pass. How can I blame you for rejecting a life I've never lived? But because I respect you, I blame you still. You will pay dearly for this in the next life, and I sorely look forward to seeing you again.
posted by squirrel at 7:31 PM on March 8, 2004

posted by BT at 8:07 PM on March 8, 2004

Gray's Anatomy is the only one of Spalding's monologues available on DVD

Swimming to Cambodia was released on DVD a few years back. I think it's out of print now but a decent video store should have it. It's also supposedly coming out on DVD in Canada later this month. If you can't view the DVD though, there's still the VHS and LD versions out there.

The first and only time I saw Spalding in person was at Bumbershoot 2001 (which was several months after his accident). The lobby was filled with a long and twisty line of people waiting to get into the venue. At some point Mr. Gray appeared, on crutches, and slowly went down the line (he was looking for people to interview during the show). Everyone went a bit silent at seeing him move slowly on the crutches. At the time it reminded me of the seemingly feeble Willy Wonka coming out of the chocolate factory. I stared at Spalding, half-expecting him to do a somersault in that lobby. But he never did one.

The show itself was pretty great, although there was a subdued and depressing overcast to most of it. He spent the first part telling about the accident and its aftermath. When someone asked him a few questions relating to Renee it felt like we were in a living room instead of a 3000-seat opera house.

Cat Power and Low played on the same stage on that same afternoon. I need more days like that.
posted by gluechunk at 8:21 PM on March 8, 2004

I feel sorry for his wife and kids.

I saw him live in The Best Man and Morning Noon and Night. Swimming to Cambodia is still my favorite monologue.

"We're all out of Kloster!"
posted by Slagman at 9:36 PM on March 8, 2004

Goodbye, Spalding. Rest in peace.
posted by Inkslinger at 12:35 AM on March 9, 2004

posted by LimePi at 1:09 AM on March 9, 2004

I saw Gray's Anatomy by chance one evening on tv, and was instantly sucked in. Utterly engaging and entertaining; he had the sort of talent that makes you switch on and light up: joyous.

Very sad news.
posted by Blue Stone at 5:42 AM on March 9, 2004

posted by mosspink at 9:49 AM on March 9, 2004

good story in today's Washington Post

But this wet, frigid death in New York Harbor feels so much like the wrong exit. (If you've seen a few of his performances, you absorb the details of his life in a strangely familial way.) The despair that engulfed him after a disfiguring car accident in 2001 must have been overwhelming. In the midst of his recovery, he began doing a new monologue in out-of-the-way venues, and the show could be both intriguing and excruciating.
A colleague who happened onto an impromptu performance on Martha's Vineyard in August 2002, when Gray was working on a show built around the car accident, says that Gray had trouble even articulating words. The most touching aspect, he adds, was the way the audience, many of them seeming to be well-schooled in his work, repeatedly broke into applause, just to give him encouragement.
That audience was only giving back what it had previously received. Storytelling is an act of belief, and it was the positive energy in Gray's efforts to report sincerely on his life that won him an affectionate following. (Such was the intimate nature of the connection that all Gray had to do was mention the first name of someone in his life, and audience members would nod in recognition.) And no subject seemed to crack Gray's shell of neurosis and skepticism more potently than that of his three children, Marissa, Forrest and Theo.
It was for their sake, one desperately wanted to believe, that Gray had wandered off on Jan. 10 and would emerge again when he felt whole. In his last few monologues before the car accident, the theme of the redemptive power of fatherhood seemed to grab Gray's imagination in a deeply moving way.
In the 1996 "It's a Slippery Slope" -- ostensibly the story of relinquishing his phobias and learning to ski -- he recounted an even more liberating experience, cradling his newborn son, feeling a tiny heartbeat against his own.
That primal sense of completion was even more fully developed in his 1998 show, "Morning, Noon and Night," in which he seemed -- could it have been? -- content, living in Sag Harbor, raising his brood. In retrospect, knowing there was a blissful interlude is a kind of consolation for those who admired his work. Because Gray allowed us so far in, we're also allowed to grieve.
"There is nothing, no other life of mine to compare this to," he said in "Morning, Noon and Night." "There is no way of knowing what the right decision in life is if you have no other life to compare it to. We are like blind people backing into the future, living for better, or for worse."

posted by matteo at 9:54 AM on March 9, 2004

This just breaks my heart. Not because I knew him, I didn't. Not even because I was such a big fan, which I was. But because I hate when the Depression Monster wins one.
posted by dejah420 at 11:38 AM on March 9, 2004

posted by Grangousier at 12:09 PM on March 9, 2004

Oh, God, I didn't want it to end like this. So, so sorry.

(That Handsome Family song "Weightless" is available here at Epitonic. Yes, it does seem to fit.)
posted by maudlin at 9:30 PM on March 9, 2004

I mourn.
posted by FormlessOne at 8:58 AM on March 10, 2004

Dennis said it: a friend of mine dies one night, grows pale as dust in a shaft of moonlight. You long to reach him again, all your life.

Now he and king Ludwig walk the same clouds, and when we think back on our lives full of dead bodies and bright as heaven behind us, we ask to the last: whose was this life? With all those baroque folds and capes and robes, words and speeches, curtains, rain and waterfalls: a life cascades into another life. That’s you. But it’s not you. And this is not a eulogy. I’m not looking. Come back.
posted by squirrel at 3:12 PM on March 10, 2004

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