Today’s Google Doodle honoring Maurice Sendak’s birthday reminds us of the 80th birthday celebration at 92Y in 2008, an enchanted evening with a surprised Maurice in attendance. Watch the full program.
Order of presenters:
—Eleanor Reissa —Eyal Danieli —Linda Emond —Stephen Greenblatt —Stephen Gosling & Elizabeth Keusch —James Gandolfini —Dave Eggers —Chuck Cooper, Aisha de Haas, Kimberly Grigsby, Denis O’Hare & Alice Playten —Meryl Streep —Catherine Keener —Vince Landay, Spike Jonze and Max Records —Tony Kushner —Christine Quinn —Maurice Sendak
On September 15, 2008, the Unterberg Poetry Center of the 92nd Street Y celebrated Maurice Sendak’s 80th birthday with a star-studded cast, including Spike Jonze, Meryl Streep, Tony Kushner, James Gandolfini, Dave Eggers, Christine Quinn and many more.
Like all his family and friends and devoted readers, 92Y is so very saddened by the news of Maurice Sendak’s death. Maurice first appeared at 92Y in 1966. As this photograph shows, he would draw pictures to illustrate the stories actor Orson Bean read from stage. In 2008, Maurice returned to 92Y for an 80th birthday tribute. Tomorrow we’ll upload video of the entire tribute—it featured Tony Kushner, Meryl Streep, James Gandolfini, Catherine Keener, Spike Jonze and many others—but for now here is Maurice from the end of that night. And below, some words of remembrance from Bernard Schwartz, director of 92Y’s Unterberg Poetry Center:
Maurice and I spoke for the last time last spring, when I called to see if he’d participate in an event with artist Tomi Ungerer, an old friend of his. Maurice said he preferred not to say yes to anything which he may have to withdraw from—thus disappointing everyone. Soon we were talking about other things.
Elizabeth Taylor had just died, and Maurice pointed out that he was now three years older than she was when she died. He wondered about those marriages—Eddie Fisher, for one. We talked about Taylor and Montgomery Clift in A Place in the Sun. A tragedy what happened to Clift, Maurice said. Maurice said he liked her and Paul Newman in Tennessee Williams—she was hot, wasn’t she? (So was he, Maurice added.)
I asked what he was reading these days: the essays of Montaigne—”who fucked up a lot (and wrote about it)”—and also the correspondence of Verdi, who wrote great operas (Otello and Falstaff) as an old man.
To live and write up until the very end.
"He was alive when he died," Maurice said.
Maurice asked how old I am. “Still a chicken in the egg!” Then, later, he said (about himself): a pretty old fucking egg.
We talked about snow in late spring. Proof enough to Maurice—who called it White Death—that Mother Nature has Alzheimer’s.
It’s fun to complain, he said.
He marveled that anyone could live so long in such a deranged world. He said he thinks about death all the time—and when he’ll die. Which isn’t quite up to us…