I can’t believe I am so moved by the death of a public person. I never knew Mr Wilder, never met him – though fantasy could wish to make it so. But his public work and persona made such an impact on me through my impressionable youth and beyond that his loss is somehow so devastating, and I can’t work tonight.

So silly – so maudlin.

Dan Rather’s beautiful words about him on FaceBook asked for comment about what his readers’ favorite Gene Wilder role was. My own answer came in a heartbeat:

Willy Wonka, of course.

Wilder’s Wonka gives us permission to be different, to be crass and crabby, even, to be not “beautiful” so long as it’s in the service of art and creative expression. And while Roald Dahl’s literary creation was THE most wonderful matrix on which to create, it was Wilder who made this Technicolor Wonka breathe, who made us love him despite his flaws, his selfishness, even his capacity for petty cruelty.  Always recognizing that despite his own incomplete nature, his unfinished half-manhood, he could lead us, could show us the way to our own imperfect but beautiful humanity.

“We are the music makers / And we are the dreamers of dreams …”

Sweet dreamer, magic maker – yours was, to me, a life well-lived. A gift freely and beautifully given to us. Thank you.


Warm regards,