Wednesday, May 19, 2010

By Marianne Muellerleile

Memories of Raymond Lieberman

August 9, 1923 -March 3, 2010

Raymond always said he met me when I arrived at Terry's trailer one MBT night wearing sorely patched overalls, a man's military coat and caring a plate of warm, marbleized brownies.

I have no memory of this specific encounter but the scenario is all too familiar, and I will forever bow to the master of memory. That man could recall the color of your nail polish and the height of heels at any given event.

I do remember his visits to Meadow Brook and how he told me I should look him up should I ever come to LA.

When I arrived in 1981 I did just that.

Raymond was always so interested in everything. His intense interest in me had me detailing the minutiae of my life for over 30 years. And with that incredible memory, he shared marvelous stories and recollections from his youth in Adrian, his military tour as "Raywan Liberwax," his time in Paris, his NY salad days, his fights with his Mother, his travels, teaching, friends, relatives, theater, art, opera, everything...the minutiae of his life.

He offered advice, all the time. And although I saw that this characteristic sometimes rubbed people the wrong way, I loved it. I loved it because we were so different from each other. His point of view was rarely my point of view.

And let's face it, the man was highly intelligent. Chances are he knew a fact that I didn't although we sometimes tussled over words. Invariably it came down to choice of pronunciation!

Stubborn, negative, truculent, inquisitive, vain, shy, critical, hyper-sensitive, brilliant, fearful, gifted storyteller, worrisome, obsessive, indignant, supportive, defensive, penurious, atheist then agnostic, contradictory, appreciative, and the best audience, ever. I miss my complicated, difficult, fiercely loyal friend.

Around 1985 I invited him to spend the weekend with me at my brother's home in Mexico. I told him I would have to read a movie script and take some time to work on it but otherwise he'd have my full attention. His reply “Oh, I'll help you.” I couldn't imagine how but help me he did.

That was the beginning of his being my drama coach.

His life-long dedication to self improvement and psychoanalysis was the bedrock on which he drew his suggestions on how I might portray a certain character. He was a keen observer of the human condition. He loved analyzing body movements. We always tried to find out what the character was saying with her body that might inform or contradict what she was saying in her lines.

I attribute my long and successful career to Raymond. He loved helping me by applying his life knowledge to my work. When I got the part, he got the part. And when I didn't, he called them fools, pearls before swine, “Hollywood, Follywood” he'd say. I sometimes wonder if the last 25 years of working with me didn't bring him as much joy as his many years of teaching. He really loved our collaboration, although you can only imagine how often we argued over choices.

We also shared a love of movies and home improvement and finding a “deal.” I very much miss all our outings around those interests. I also miss that he's not there to rave when I bring him something I baked or cooked. He loved those little culinary surprises. For years I did his mending until I think he finally loosened the purse strings when it came to replacing socks or bed linens or clothes. I can't be sure of that but he basically stopped asking me to sew for him.

Up until the very end he was asking about the minutiae, the block club meeting at my house and what I was serving. He thanked me for every “ice cold” slurpy I brought him or the ads from the weekend paper. Oh how he loved to read those ads, every one!

I cannot begin to express how much I miss him. And how much everything reminds me of him. I see an ad and think how I must tell him and how we must go to see what they have, and how much it costs. I go through Cahuenga Pass and picture him up in his living room pouring over the paper. I have a home improvement task and want his opinion on how to approach it.

Hours before he died I asked him if I could read some prayers over him, for me, I said. Of course, he said. As I read the prayers of the dying I cried, choking out the words ever so softly. He remained looking at me the whole time and held my hand to squeeze it. He comforted me as I said my good-bye.

I told him many times over the years that he simply could not die as my career would nose dive. In the end I told him it would all be fine, he would continue to inspire me as he did while with me.

There'll never be another Raymond. The man was one of a kind.

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