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Kate Remembered

Review

Kate Remembered



Every morning I follow the same routine: rise at six, feed the cat,
put on coffee, take the dog out, pour a cup, and then sit for a
glorious hour with whatever book I am currently reading. I'm
disciplined about allotting only one hour --- just enough to truly
sink into the story but not long enough to make me late for
work.

Katharine Hepburn would have approved. She swam everyday, read her
newspapers in bed in the morning, had drinks at 6PM and dinner at
7PM. She believed in routine. And so it chagrins me to admit it,
but for the three days that I woke to read KATE REMEMBERED, my
willpower slipped. Not only did I lose track of time, I was late
for work. I suspect Kate Hepburn would not have approved.

Scott Berg is a self-confessed diehard fan of Ms. Hepburn's. When
he first met her in 1983, assigned to write a piece on the
mega-star for Esquire magazine, he was nervous. He held her
in great esteem and considered her the greatest actress of all
time. He opens his memoir by describing himself standing outside
her door, readying himself for his entrance: "I've never felt so
intimidated ringing a doorbell." But in just seven short
introductory pages --- their first meeting --- Berg overcomes his
anxiety, succumbs to her charms, and launches what would grow to be
a twenty-year friendship.

Star biographies normally fall into the category of guilty
pleasure. They give the reader peaks into the glamorous lives of
those who are bigger than life, providing tantalizing tidbits (if
not downright tell-all facts) and even everyday mundanities. In
KATE REMEMBERED, there are fewer of the former and plenty of the
latter. Sure, there are celebrity names sprinkled throughout the
book and references to seductions and affairs, most notably her
relationship with Spencer Tracy. But as Berg would say himself,
KATE REMEMBERED is not intended to be a biography; it is a memoir
of their time together, the meals they shared, the conversations
that transpired, and the reminiscences she offered him.

KATE REMEMBERED is about a life "lived large --- and largely
according to her own rules." And so while Berg retells Ms.
Hepburn's memories of getting sick while filming The African
Queen
, being pursued by germ-conscious Howard Hughes, rebuffing
Michael Jackson's request for publicity shots (yes, the begloved
one!) and struggling with Spencer Tracy's alcoholism, the real joy
in KATE REMEMBERED, in my opinion, is found in her moments at home
at Fenwick, her family stead in Connecticut.

It's there --- out of the limelight --- that her bond with Berg
grows and cements. It's there --- in her own element --- that she
confides in him and learns to rely on him, in the way that only a
vital, strong, independent person can: under her own terms. (In
other words, Berg is welcome to help in the kitchen, but only if he
cuts the grapes her way.) It's there that we see her interact with
her family and her companions with trademark sarcasm, wit,
intelligence and great care. It's there that Berg becomes a member
of her close knit circle, dining on hot dogs and ice cream sundaes,
making beds together, and picking Queen Anne's Lace.

A black-and-white movie fan myself, I often suspected that her
character in The Philadelphia Story, Tracy Lord, revealed a
lot about the real Kate Hepburn. And now I'm convinced. Tracy Lord
had dignity, grace, spunk, a splash of tomboyishness, more than her
share of stubbornness, independence and, ultimately, class. That
was Kate Hepburn. Berg's book does a wonderful job of showing off
her (often biting) sense of humor. When Hepburn met Warren Beatty
and Annette Bening for the first time, she asked Berg, "Who is the
girl?" Berg explained that she was his wife. Hepburn replied, "He
has a wife?" Berg goes on to tell her that after years of his being
the most eligible bachelor, with countless romances, they were
married. Her reply, "Poor girl." Berg continues saying that they
are very much in love. To which Hepburn replied, "With the same
man." Her voice dominates KATE REMEMBERED, and what a pleasure it
is to hear that unmistakable voice uttering such funny unscripted
lines.

Kate filtered little of what she was thinking about others, but in
her lifetime held her personal confidences. In Berg, Katharine
Hepburn found a venue for her confidences and a good friend.
Doubters need only look at the picture on the back of the book ---
Hepburn and Berg fixing a screen window --- to see the intimacy of
their friendship.

Throughout the book, one question kept asking itself over and over
again for me: Did Berg fall just a little in love with Hepburn over
the course of all those years? The final paragraph of the book
answers that question, in my opinion, and so another question comes
to mind: Who wouldn't have?

Reviewed by Roberta O'Hara on January 22, 2011

Kate Remembered
by A. Scott Berg

  • Publication Date: September 7, 2004
  • Genres: Memoir, Nonfiction
  • : 384 pages
  • Publisher: Berkley Trade
  • ISBN-10: 0425199096
  • ISBN-13: 9780425199091