Choosing to Live - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
Choosing to Live
Kenneth Branagh playing Hamlet (YouTube screenshot)


A stunning day. I did my usual stuff, swimming, eating, resting. I went to my condos at the Shoreham Towers and looked through a huge stash of photos of our super-handsome son in Idaho in the ’80s and ’90s. He was so staggeringly handsome I could hardly believe he was real.

Sandpoint looked fabulous in the snow, too. In those days we would spend about 10 days a month in Sandpoint. Tommy and I both had close friends there and times were good. Then our best friend there, Peter Feierabend (German name meaning “good evening”) died in a rafting tragedy. It was never clear how an Olympic class swimmer could have died on a rafting trip, but he did.

I helped pour his ashes into Lake Pendoreille, and I would swear his ashes did a little funny stage bow just the way Peter did when we greeted him and when we said goodbye.

After an hour looking at the photos, I drove home with my friend, Glenn. As I pulled into my garage, a chic woman in casual clothes and dark glasses flagged me down. It was my old pal Pam Morton, former manager of the greatest restaurant of all time, Morton’s on Melrose (not the steakhouse). It was owned by her brother, Peter Morton, who also founded the Hard Rock Cafes, probably the best restaurant dollar for dollar that there has ever been. Pam is one of Alex’s best friends, and we have known her well for a long time. Morton’s on Melrose was the beating heart of the entertainment business. On Monday nights, it was not unusual to see every studio head and every head of the big three TV networks eating there at the same time. At the bar were legions of beautiful young women, drawn there to meet the men who would make their dreams of stardom and wealth and status come true. It’s been closed for about 10 years now and has left a gaping hole in our Hollywood lives.

Pam stood next to my car window this evening. She had some devastating news. Hilary Tisch, the daughter of a man I have known for decades, Steve Tisch, successful producer and sports team owner, had committed suicide. I knew she had died, but I did not know it was suicide. Incredibly horrible. She had apparently been suffering from depression all of her life, and now the depression had ended her life.

It came even harder because Pam’s nephew, Peter’s son, Harry, had died of a drug overdose not long ago. Harry was a charming man I had known since his youth, a successful restauranteur, and a dashing male leader of the community of the young and rich and hip in Hollywood.

And it came even harder because I had just talked at great length to a young woman I have known since she was a teenager who talked of nothing but suicide. And I am not at all a stranger to thoughts of suicide myself.

Depression is cruel. It’s everywhere. Money does not in any way insulate us from it. I told my wife the news about Hilary Tisch. She has a great reservoir of sympathy in her. She “gets it.” And I “get it.” The human spirit is extremely sensitive. Extremely. The temptation to leave our cares and worries behind is overwhelming. “But in that sleep of death what dreams may come?” That’s the problem. That’s the whole problem.

Plus, how would my family, my wife, my son, my fairy, who is my close friend, K., get along without me? How would I get along without them?

My fairy once said that if I died before her, she would look for me in the afterlife and in the next afterlife and in all the afterlives after that.

How can I leave that behind?

Ben Stein
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Ben Stein is a writer, actor, economist, and lawyer living in Beverly Hills and Malibu. He writes “Ben Stein’s Diary” for every issue of The American Spectator.
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