Last night I hugged Oscar Isaac. And Catherine Keener. And Winona Ryder. I stood on a red carpet next to a ten-foot poster with the title of my book, and grinned with an arm around Paul Haggis. I saw spots after a cavalcade of photogs took my picture with Katie Couric – a few of them even shouted “Look over here, Lisa” just like in the movies. I jotted down Spike Lee’s contact info so I could keep my promise to send him a signed copy of my newly released book, which is now a new HBO miniseries, which was why all these people were here. I met Marissa Tomei and refrained from doing my riff on My Cousin Vinny even though it is my favorite film. I promised LaTanya Jackson and her husband Samuel L. that she too would wear high heels again, even though she was hobbling around in a surgical boot, and I showed her my ankle scars (and my sparkly pumps) to prove it. I sat in a dark theater and listened to David Simon talk about how he found my book in the first place and how he spent 15 years crafting my story into six hours of television. Then I sat back to watch one of the most talented casts one could possibly assemble – names you know and many you will know very soon – create something mesmerizing and complex and real.
But none of that was the best part. The BEST part was the who I was sharing this premiere night with. My husband, who has picked me back up on all the days I was sure I couldn’t write a book, and my sons, who actually thought their Mom was a little bit cool for a night and who looked at me much like I do when I am proud of THEM. Also, all around me in the theater, the people who actually lived the book – who opened their lives to me, even the most painful parts, and let me tell their stories. It has all and always been about those stories: the search for home and belonging, the struggle with the worst in this society of ours – bigotry, poverty, infirmity, tragedy – and the determination to face it down and overcome. Knowing that these real people were near me in the dark while their lives played out on a very large screen was a little nerve-wracking, and very, very humbling.
On Sunday night all this — the stories of all these remarkable people, the work of all these committed artists — will move beyond the world of red carpets and flashing cameras, and into the real one. Out there many more will learn this story, and maybe also learn some of the lessons it teaches. Or maybe not. I will go back to my very un-Hollywood corner and write things. It will be easy to return to the quiet, because I have always known that this bright serendipitous light wasn’t here to stay. If it manages to open a few minds and spread the word a little further while it shines, then Wow. And until it fades I intend to enjoy the heck out of every moment, because it sure has been a fun ride.