20 January 2012

Liz Dribben’s Jahrzeit

It’s so tough to say tootle-loo.

When Liz Dribben passed away last year, I resorted to photographs of Michelle Pfeiffer to illustrate my reminiscences. That would have pleased Liz tremendously, as I said at the time, because she’d always hoped that “Miss Pfeiffer” would play her in the movie adaptation of her life story. Even so, I promised to update my essay with photographs of the real Liz Dribben, who was very much the star of her own life, and a glamorous blonde at that.

I had one gorgeous picture of Liz already at hand — or so I thought. Yes, she’d given it to me while I was helping her to sort through her myriad collections, files, cases, and hordes of hoards, just before she left for the nursing home. Meanwhile, however, the photograph, a bona fide 8 x 10 print, slipped off to the warehouse with all my other belongings. By the time I’d unpacked it again and managed to scan it, Liz’s Jahrzeit, the first anniversary of her death, was upon me.

So here is the picture, and here is the anniversary. Miss Pfeiffer will remain in place, and Liz’s own portrait will get its own special frame. Together now we can look at the pioneering Buffalo TV journalist, along with her co-anchor. I don’t know whether this is the fellow who was getting paid more than Liz for doing the same work, but I do know that, when she asked for equal pay, she was fired. That’s how she wound up in New York, where I met her two decades later.

I’ve had a year to get used to Liz’s absence, to the phone that doesn’t ring and the e-mail that doesn’t ping. But how can I get used to hours not spent talking with her every week when I’m in New York! Not receiving her chatty notes and the news articles she forwarded so avidly! And not being on the receiving end of her endless advice!

Now that I reflect on it, her advice was seldom entirely practical, and there was always a catch to it: yes, it would be terrific if I did on-the-scene reporting from a bathysphere off the eastern coast of Madagascar, especially if Mr. Sondheim came with me, and especially if I got one of those broadcast-quality digital telephones she’d heard about (and craved), and I’d have to admit she was right, even as I tallied up the reasons her scheme would never work.

Say what you will, she was always looking out for me, thinking about me, wishing me well. A resilient optimist, too, she forever insisted, “You never know” what good might come of my efforts, if only I’d dare.

I miss that.

I miss Liz.

The concept of “Jahrzeit” means that we grieve for a year, and then we move on. It’s going to take me a while longer.


Mikebench said...

Well, then, the greatest tribute to this Lady's memory would be for you to continue to dare. Actually, I think we all do...

Bill Schmalfeldt "The Jovial Impresario" said...

I just learned today about Liz's passing. From 2001 to 2003 I was the program director of XM Satellite Radio's "On Broadway" channel. Liz was my guest when I saw my very first Broadway musical, "Urinetown," shortly after 9/11. When XM relocated my channel from its Washington DC studios to its studios on W. 57th St., Liz was a regular guest on my live "On Demand" radio program. One did not say "no" to Liz Dribben and after awhile, one learned to not even bother trying. She brought some great guests with her and was just so much fun to have as a live guest on the air. I left XM in 2003, but of all the people I met during my time in New York, Liz stands out from the rest. She was a ballsy gal!

William V. Madison said...

Wonderful to hear from you; I remember that Liz spoke of you -- and very fondly, too. I'm so sorry the communications network wasn't more effective in making you aware that she'd passed away.