And Everything is Going Fine is the name of a new movie about Spalding Gray, a man who became famous for his onstage monologues .
The documentary – told entirely in Gray’s words – is a great introduction (and a great coda) to his career.
Gray was a working actor all his life – on stage, on TV, and on the big screen, but what made him a star were his autobiographical monologues. He would appear on a nearly bare stage, sitting at a simple desk with nothing but a glass of water and a notebook. He would then launch into a 90-minute discourse about all manner of things. His first monologue was called Sex and Death to the Age 14, and recounted everything he knew or learned about sex and death as a kid. Like all his subsequent monologues, it was hilarious and revealing, confessional and compelling, frank and unembarrassed. He was an eccentric everyman.
He called what he did “creative narcissism.” And almost no subject was off limits – he would talk about his mother’s suicide, his personal relationships, his battles with depression, his hypochondria, his sexual escapades, and his late-in-life fatherhood.
And then at the age of 62, 7 years ago Monday, he jumped off the Staten Island ferry and drowned.
His wife, Kathie Russo, tells me his death was, obviously, very traumatic for the kids but they’re coping, “We’re doing quite well, actually, which I’m happy to say,” said Russo. “And just recently I’ve been giving myself pats on the back with the children, making sure that their lives are relatively normal, after a horrible tragedy that they all went through; Because Spalding was sick for about two years before he actually killed himself.”
Russo said time really does help heal the hurt, and so does talking about it (something Gray would naturally have understood.)
“And I also feel like, as the mother, unfortunately, hopefully this legacy will stop at this family now, but it’s better for us to talk about it, than to not talk about it, we talk about it a lot,” said Russo. “I don’t pound it over their heads, but it’s like, I don’t want them to be embarrassed that their father killed himself, because he was sick, as if he had cancer or something else, it was out of his control.”
When I told her that it’s a shame Gray isn’t around to talk about his own death – so eloquent he no doubt would have been about it – she laughed in agreement.
“He did this interview, I’ll never forget, a couple months before he died, and they said, well ‘what is your biggest fear of death?’, and he said that he won’t be around to talk about it.”
The movie And Everything will be Fine opens at SIFF Cinema this Friday.
And three of his monologues – Swimming to Cambodia, Monster in the Box, and Gray’s Anatomy – were turned into movies and are now available on DVD.