The great SALLY KELLERMAN has died – the tall, sexy, vivacious, funny and sultry actress and singer with a husky voice, who starred in such films as Robert Altman’s M.A.S.H., BREWSTER McCLOUD, and THE PLAYER. She also worked with Blake Edwards on THAT’S LIFE, and George Roy Hill in A LITTLE ROMANCE. Sci-fi fans will know her from a classic STAR TREK episode, “Where No Man Has Gone Before,” but it’s challenging to summarize the full scope of her career – and her extraordinary talent – within just a few sentences. (Best to read a more in-depth description here.)
When I met with Bob Esty in the early stages of the project, he showed me a photograph of Ms. Kellerman Amsel had taken of her back in the 1970s. Esty explained that Kellerman was a personal friend of the artist’s, and so I tried arranging an interview with her.
For every interview I’ve filmed for the documentary so far, there are many, many others that I’m either still struggling to get, or have been sidelined due to difficult circumstances. Sadly, Kellerman’s situation was the latter.
Following my interview with Esty, Kellerman was in a long period of mourning after the deaths of her husband, Jonathan Krane, and daughter, Hannah. The double tragedy left her shattered, and in my talks with Esty and other mutual friends, the last thing I wanted was to intrude on her during such an impossible time.
She had another upheaval in her personal life, relocating from her beloved home to an assisted living facility in the valley. There were more discussions with mutual friends about arranging lunches as well as doing an interview…but I wanted to tread very, very lightly, and respect her space.
My final communication with Ms. Kellerman was over the phone, just last fall. Unfortunately, it was clear that she was in the throes of dementia, with only a moment or two of lucidity. I regret that I never had the opportunity to engage with her in her prime.
And, oh, how extraordinary that prime must have been! She had the looks of Lauren Bacall, but with a ballsy, vivacious sense of humor and wit. She lived through so much, and faced it with courage.
Photo of Ms. Kellerman and Bob Esty provided by Joseph Anthony Goodwin.