Where is Teri Garr? The call went out. There was silence. Teri and I had attended MS dinners, sat down with Larry King, and now she was gone. Teri’s old phone number rang but seemed connected to nothing. Sick souls can fade and cease to exist in the public eye. They can just pull into themselves and vanish. I’ve been there. The possibility that she was locking herself away was upsetting. The woman had been so vital. Maybe she still was.
My search for Teri Garr finally paid off. Meredith and I were on CNN with Piers Morgan. One of his producers had looked through this blog and read, Where is Teri Garr? He happened to know her publicist and passed the blog post along. Teri read the entry and sent her newphone number back.
I called. Instantly I could hear the ravages of MS in her voice. Teri’s energy level seemed so low. This is the woman who starred in Young Frankenstein in 1974, playing opposite Gene Wilder and Marty Feldman, two crazy men. Does that sound low energy to you? Teri was in Tootsie and Close Encounters, young, beautiful and full of life. Now her answers to my gentle inquiries came close to monosyllabic. Teri is retired, meaning there is no work. And she sounds defeated.
How sorry I am to write that. We have discussed hope in our conversations on this blog. Teri did say she is determined to move back to Brentwood, where she used to live. “I can’t afford it, but I will find a way.” I suspect she means it more than believes the change ever will happen. But she is nobody’s victim. Teri’s twenty-year-old daughter is in college in San Diego, and the funny lady is alone.
Teri was crazy herself and would do about anything on the screen. Now she walks with a cane, and stays in the community that will do anything for people until it is done with them. Gertrude Stein once said of Oakland, actually, “There is no there there.” When it comes to fealty from friends and former colleagues, I would grab those words and head south to LA. There is no there there.
It is presumptuous for me to feel sorry for Ms. Garr. There is no reason to believe she feels sorry for herself. Probably, she will kill me if she reads this. Her story only points up the toll a serious chronic illness can take on a life. Teri had it all. Then she had nothing. Illness is merciless. So are people.