Charles Manson once said, “I told them that anything they do for their brothers and sisters is good if they do it with a good thought.” Likewise, Kim Kardashian said, “Having lots of siblings is like having built-in best friends.” And finally, some guy named George Bernard Shaw said, “If you cannot get rid of the family skeleton, you may as well make it dance.”
So, I’ve done a lot of dancing over the years. Happily so, as I’ve lucked out in the sibling lottery. Although you probably never would have guessed it from this pic, I’m the oldest of this well-dressed trio. Thanks to our Mom and Dad, our relationship is built on a foundation of respect, friendship, love, and the unspoken knowledge that we will always be there for one another.
But like any sibling interaction, there were some minor bumps and bruises along the way. Sometimes literally. Once, when I was 5 and Mimi was 3, our parents left us alone in our New York apartment while they went next door to the neighbors. It was a hot, humid, sultry September day and although I forget the exact reason why some insignificant and long-forgotten disagreement escalated so quickly, it somehow culminated with me punching Mimi in her newly-grown front teeth, knocking them out, and sending her skidding along the kitchen floor to the exposed iron pipes under the kitchen sink where she bashed her head in. Bleeding profusely from mouth and head—and she was bigger than me at the time—she came at me in a bloody rage, grabbed a folding chair, and stuck my head between the slats. And sat on it. When our parents came back moments later, my face had turned blue and I wasn’t breathing. Even now, we still have a good laugh about that one.
Another bump concerned Geraldine, the ‘baby’ of the family, (pictured above on the right). When I was seventeen, being a swell brother (as well as having to babysit her), I took G to Santa Monica beach for a pleasant afternoon in the sun and waves. I can still smell the hot dogs and sun tan lotion. However, to this day, she claims I traumatized her by ‘abandoning her to go off with a bunch of girls.’ Really? My recollection was that it was only three girls, and far from abandoning her, I left my fierce Airedale, Max, with her for protection. All thirty pounds of him.
But the most important thing about our relationship was that our parents instilled in us the superpower to believe in ourselves, to believe there was nothing we couldn’t do if we figured out how to overcome the obstacles, worked our asses off, and never quit.
But above all that, to always help each other. To always be there for one another. No matter what.
That’s the foundation that enabled Mimi to become the first woman Cinematography Fellow at the American Film Institute and later go on to become a pioneering director. In addition to the accolades and awards you can Google, she directed the inaugural DreamWorks feature, THE PEACEMAKER. Yeah, Stephen Spielberg trusted her to do that. Geraldine began as an assistant Casting Director on CHEERS, and through smarts, good taste, and hard work, went on to win multiple Emmys and CSA awards for casting ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT. Of course, she has since gone over to the Dark Side and is a Senior VP at Paramount Television Studios, also having held the same position at Fox and Warner Brothers.
The three of us were always there for each other, through the untimely passing of our father, Paul, then later our Mom, Etyl, at 97. There’s another generation behind us who are just as close. As it should be. As it always will.