She came out on the stage at the 92nd Street Y looking all the star.  A white Ralph Lauren pantsuit with her trademark knotted tie, and she seemed to glow.  Tall and thin, Diane Keaton has gracefully aged before our eyes during her illustrious career that really took off after the 1979 film, The Godfather.

Keaton is promoting her new book, Then Again, which is both an autobiography, but a love letter to her mother, Dorothy Hall.  Though they enjoyed a terrific relationship, it was after Dorothy died that Keaton was able to read the 85 journals her mom kept throughout the house.  While her mother was not an emotional person, her writing was a glimpse into the warm and handsome woman who, diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in the mid-1990’s, began to forget everything, her children, her journals.  Keaton shared film clips of her mom as a young mom driving, and later as her hair turned white, and her movements grew frail.

A few times during the evening Keaton grew emotional as she spoke about the affection she witnessed between her parents.  As a teenager she saw them dancing, and then kiss so deeply, but rather than make her feel awkward, she was in awe of their love. The book’s title,  Then Again, refers to the realization that you can’t go back in time, but you can revisit it in memories.  “Then,” Keaton says, “can never be now.”

What she knows of her mom is that while “most people saw Dorothy as a housewife, I saw an artist struggling to find a medium…..In 1961 Mom piled us kids into the family station wagon and drove all the way to New York City to see the Art of Assemblage exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art.”  And they lived in California at the time.

Why did Keaton write this book?  She writes that it was because of a line she read in one of her mother’s journals.  “Every living person should be forced to write an autobiography.  They should have to go back and unravel and disclose all the stuff that was packed into their lives.”  And because her mom never got to write the book she wanted, Keaton decided to.  With this book, “I’ve written not my memoir but ours. The story of a girl whose wishes came true because of her mother is not new, but it’s mine.”

Keaton has two kids now, Dexter and Duke, and we got to see clips of them during their younger days (both are teens now).  And she says that love is filled with goodbye’s and hello’s.  Her mom passed in 2006, but her children says the unmarried Keaton, are “my vows…to love and to cherish, in sickness and in health.”

The evening segued into a discussion and Q & A on Keaton’s career, and all those great roles.  She showed a montage of her most famous with the song You Don’t Own Me, the song she sang with Midler and Hawn in the last scene of The First Wives Club as a soundtrack.  She let out a few secrets like the best kisser? Sam Shephard in Baby Boom, and that all her best romances were the fictional ones on the screen.  Her favorite scene was the Annie Hall shot of she and Woody Allen sitting alongside the East River with the 59th Street Bridge in the background.  Why?  “Because I didn’t have any lines.  I was so relaxed.”

She revealed that while Jack Nicholson liked her during the filming of Something’s Gotta Give, she kind of liked him during Reds.  “But he was with Angelica at the time, and they made such a great couple.” That Woody Allen was brilliant in his writing and directing and was the most laid back director.  “He put less thought into directing than anyone I know.”  And when she was first starting out, she was auditioning for roles with the likes of Jill Clayburgh and Blythe Danner.  “But they got all the parts,” she says, “and they told me I didn’t because I was too kooky.”  To which the audience howled, realizing that that was the quality that made her a star.

Everyone in the audience received the softcover version of the book, and then as part of the evening’s events, went to stand on line to have the book signed.  Now, the auditorium at the 92nd Street Y holds about 900 people, and an empty seat was hard to find.  But, sure enough, for as long as it took, Keaton smiled and shook hands, and signed all those books.

A great evening, and a great story about a mom and a daughter.

Happy Mother’s Day!     

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