Vivacious and talented Elaine Richman is faced with choices: A risky life in the New York theatre; an exciting life with college sweetheart, actor/director Jake Applebaum in Hollywood; a secure life in Boston with predictable lawyer David Alter, the match anointed by her domineering mother because ‘he’s the kind you marry.’ On the way to a dream, it is possible to collide with another dream’s seduction, only to learn there is no fulfillment on the path to safety. Elaine goes through the wringer to meet herself, proving there is no expiration date on talent or true love.
Interview with the heroine of Dancing at all the Weddings:
Who are you?
I didn’t exist at all before Susan Surman wrote me in her novel, “Dancing at all the Weddings,” published by Second Wind Publishing. I am Elaine Richman; through marriages became Elaine Alter; Elaine Applebaum. But Elaine Richman remained as my professional name. I was on my way to a risky theatrical career until it was hijacked by my marriage to David Alter, the match anointed by my mother. I discovered there was no fulfillment on the path to safety.
We weren’t religious, but there were certain Jewish rituals followed, especially when it came to the way death was handled. And looking back at it all, I see that my friends were Jewish, my husbands were Jewish, so without intentionally following the Jewish faith, I guess it was inbred in me. Even if you aren’t a practicing Jew, if you were born a Jew, you die a Jew. At least, that’s what I’ve been told.
Where do you live?
I grew up in Brookline, Massachusetts, lived in Weston, Mass., then Manhattan, and am looking forward to my new home in Malibu, California.
How does the author see you? Has she portrayed you accurately?
She has portrayed me very accurately. I grew up wanting to please my mother, be an obedient daughter, do the right thing. It means I lived the life others wanted for me. Until I couldn’t do it anymore. Until I finally met myself. It wasn’t easy going from frenzy to peace, but I made it.
Do you have a hero?
I never thought about that. I guess I admire people who know what they want, know how to get what they want, and still want it after they get it. In my personal life, I am surrounded by those so called heroes: Jane Mitchell, a college colleague who became a New York producer of plays; Jake Applebaum, who became a movie director; and my dear Sophie, my daughter, who started out a filmmaker and discovered she really wanted to be an entertainment lawyer. Her telling me that was really my wake-up call.
Do you have any special strengths?
It’s definitely not in the kitchen. Cooking was never my strong suit. Although, when I had to, I could meet the moment. Desserts are my specialty. Special strength perhaps would be pulling my life together at 50. Finally, doing that. Not succumbing to what would have been an easy existence – to finally getting out there and following my original dream. I’m an actress who got fooled and went down the wrong path. It isn’t how you start, it’s how you finish.
Do you have money troubles?
No. I’m one of the lucky ones in that department. It wasn’t easy as a kid – my parents didn’t have much. My father got sick and died; my mother had to work; I got a scholarship to college. And then my mother made sure I married the rich guy, and I was taken care of. It didn’t matter that I didn’t love him. She told me he was the kind you marry; that I’d learn to love him. He was always generous with money even after – well, I don’t want to talk about that. It’s all in the book.
What are you afraid of?
That it all goes by with such a mean clip and we waste so much time. I suppose we all think that. What am I afraid of? That I’ll die – but I won’t really be dead, and I’ll be buried or cremated. And I’ll be in there yelling, “I’m not dead, I’m not dead.” But no one will hear me.
What makes you angry?
Being wrongly accused of something that I didn’t do. More than that, the time I gave up my life to be wife, mother, chauffeur, secretary, cook, homemaker. They kept taking pieces of me. No – I gave away pieces of myself because I thought that was how you loved. Everything I knew about marriage and love was what I learned from the movies. They went off (husband and daughter) and did their own thing and I was left. The empty bowl.
What do you regret?
That my mother isn’t alive to see the good things that happened to me; that she missed her granddaughter; that she missed my acting career.
Are you lucky?
I would have to say, yes. I got a second chance. At love, at a career, at being who I really am.
Have you ever betrayed anyone?
Yes. A thousand times yes. I betrayed my husband. I lied, I cheated, I deceived. My life became one of lies and deception.
Are you healthy?
Yes. Despite my breakfasts of coffee and muffins for years; despite my eating pretty much anything I want; despite my yo-yo diets (the Zone, Atkins, the grapefruit diet, the white diet, so on and so forth), I am healthy.
The white diet?
You eat only white food: Egg whites, cheese, milk, yogurt, vanilla ice-cream, anything with white flour. My skin turned white, I was constipated, and I gained eight pounds. I don’t recommend it.
Do you have any hobbies?
I love travel. I’ve been to London, Edinburgh, Dublin, Paris, Cannes, Athens. And I play tennis. I’m pretty good, too. And I could watch movies all day every day – which I did when I was going through the depression phase of my divorce. It’s all in the book.
What is your most prized possession?
Oh, that’s easy. The home-made card my daughter made for me one Mother’s Day. I was in Boston and she was in New York and she surprised me with a visit. She wrote a poem and it was just beautiful. I couldn’t read it, I was crying so hard. She had to read it to me. In the poem, she talks about my parents dying so young, sparing me their old age, and how she wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for me. Sentimental, mushy, loving and I wouldn’t part with it for any amount of money.
Who was your first love?
My father. I had him such a brief time. He died when I was 10. I loved him very much. He taught me to ballroom dance. He taught me to listen to music. I thought heaven was where you went to get well. I would look up the sky and if it was blue, I believed my daddy was wearing his blue suit. If the sky was gray, I believed he was wearing his gray suit. I looked for him everywhere for many years.
Who is your true love?
Jake Applebaum. We met our first day in acting class at Boston University. You’ll have to read the book to see what happened with that. I like the author’s philosophy: Talent and true love don’t have an expiration date. I’ve learned more about myself by loving another.
What is your favorite scent?
Gardenia. The scent of a gardenia flower and anything gardenia. When I was a child, my mother always wore gardenias when she and my father went out. I use a lotion with a gardenia scent. It’s the closest I can get to that smell. For a while, I tried growing a gardenia plant, but I wasn’t very good at it, and eventually, it died, so I gave up.
What is your favorite color?
Peach. Not the outside layer of a rose, but the inside petals after you peel back the outer layers. Gentle peach. My bedroom is peach and white; my bathroom is peach and white. Have a look at the cover of the novel. That’s the color.
What is your favorite item of clothing?
An oversized Calvin Klein black cashmere coat that I’ve had for years.
What is your favorite beverage?
Tea. As hot as you can get it. Earl Grey is my favorite. My mother always made Lipton’s tea and it was bland. She would never try anything different. We had many arguments about that tea. But I find every now and again, I do drink Lipton’s tea – usually on a day I feel sad, or I need something familiar. I guess the hand that rocks the cradle is still – well, she’s still your mother. I haven’t thought about that for years.
What are the last 5 entries in your check registry?
Bergdorf Goodman’s for the shoes I bought to match my wedding dress. My dressmaker who made the dress. Giorgio Armani’s for a leather jacket for my fiancée. The electric company for the apartment in New York. A donation to the Cancer Society.
What will your next entry be?
Second Wind Publishing for “Dancing at all the Weddings” by Susan Surman. Thanks to her, I exist. And the wonderful thing is, once you’ve been created in a book or a movie, you can never die. It’s out there forever.
Click here to read an excerpt from: Dancing at all the Weddings
Click here to read the first chapter of: Dancing at all the Weddings
Click here for an interview with: Susan Surman, Author of Dancing at all the Weddings