June 24, 2010
Here’s what Cynthia O’Neal’s Talk Softly both is and is not: A memoir by a beautiful actress who married a handsome actor and spent many years living in fabulous New York digs and rubbing well-tailored shoulders with people like Mike Nichols, Rudolf Nureyev and Leonard Bernstein.
… O’Neal doesn’t seem sure herself about what in 1987 led her to begin working with people with HIV in New York, but she’s very clear about the moment she realized something had to be done. She was visiting a friend with AIDS at Saint Clare’s Hospital in New York and the reality of the AIDS crisis was made manifest by what she saw:
“That morning I did not see a single visitor in any of the rooms. What I was seeing was the visual manifestation of a reality – the reality that New York City is filled with young men with AIDS who had very little … support around them.”
… There is an aside in the book that more than sums up the extraordinary journey of Cynthia O’Neal’s life. She is in New Mexico, having dinner with her son, Fitz, who is trying to figure out his own path in life and decides that his ability to size people up might lead him to a job placing children with adoptive families. He’d know, he says, if someone would make a good parent or not:
“There it was – the question of what my son thought of me as a parent – there it was lying right on the table … I took a very deep breath and said, ‘What about me, would you have given me a child?’ Fitz looked me right in the eye and replied, ‘I wouldn’t have then. I would now.’ “