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Arts & Entertainment
Tribute to Diane Keaton
by Mark Thompson & Robert Doyle
April 9, 2007 
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Oh, to be as universally loved as Diane Keaton—and feted at a gala tribute at Avery Fisher Hall, roasted and toasted by your nearest and dearest such as Meryl Streep, Steve Martin, Martin Short, Lisa Kudrow, Sarah Jessica Parker—as well as Woody Allen, of course—and a sold-out house.

Then again, maybe not. All that adulation could swell a person’s head. Well, la-de-dah.

They all brought their remembrances—as did all of us in the festively attired audience. Lisa Kudrow attesting to the fact that she steals from Keaton—whereupon she brilliantly acted out a deposition served upon Keaton, utilizing the verbal tics and physical charms so long associated with Miss La-de-dah.

And Meryl Streep showcasing an outfit she swore was put together by channeling Keaton’s sartorial skills. “Well, I tried,” said Ms. Streep, shrugging gamely.

The truth is, Diane Keaton is sui generis. What looks good on her doesn’t always work on others—though try telling that to an entire generation of Annie Halls. And what Keaton does so effortlessly on film—her nonchalance, her quirky charm, the giddiness, the sunny smile—is a package not easily embodied by anyone else.

And that package is loved. As Martin Short said, of all his high-falutin’ friends, it’s her name which gets the most response whenever it’s dropped. She’s the coolest kid of them all, the one everyone wants to hang with.

There’s something to that. Something somehow connected to what Meryl Streep said about how Keaton awes the men and inspires the women. Woody Allen (in a perfect deadpan recitation of all that she is, albeit barely—“Well, she’s punctual, for example.”) accused her of having unconventional beauty. Nothing’s quite perfect—and yet it all comes together in her.

There were film montages to emphasize these points. The daffy post-tennis game scene from Annie Hall, where Keaton’s ditsiness would make anyone fall in love, and her doctor in Sleeper, with that barely-suppressed laugh. For thirty-some years and in more than forty films, Keaton has shifted with ease between comedic and dramatic roles. Bits of Carole Lombard mixed with Katharine Hepburn— For there was also the abortion confession scene from Godfather II—when you realize again how much Keaton’s understated performance provides counterpoint to Pacino’s explosives. And then the scenes from Reds, when Keaton and Beatty go at it in New York—and then later when she fears she’s lost Beatty’s Jack Reed for good—only to see him at the far end of the train station platform, still alive.

Keaton does love very well. Perhaps it’s what she does best. The dizzying sense of falling in love, the giving over, the loss of resistance—all defenses down, heart open—and so often, ready to be wounded. Her vulnerability coexisting alongside her unassuming intelligence.

And as Kudrow said, everyone loves her, and wants to be loved by her in return—but they just have to accept that it’s enough just to love her. Or as Streep said in a perfect parting line, “I love you even though you never call me.”

And now she’s 61—and as Candice Bergen said, that’s why she’s in New York—because Keaton gets all the good Hollywood roles for sixty-somethings.

Oh, but they had a good time ribbing Keaton and poking fun at her attributes. Her penchant for making millions in real estate—and Martin Short recalling the time he saw her in Toronto where she was filming Mrs. Soffel with Mel Gibson and how he overheard her at a restaurant as she leaned into Gibson and said, “What are we gonna do about these Jews?”

The audience kept applauding every one of her films in the montages that punctuated the tributes. The women behind us going, “Oh, I love this one— This one is my favorite.”

And then, at last, there she was, onstage—in a sharply tailored French-cuffed blouse and a black fishtail full-length skirt, her nails painted as black as the necklace around her neck. The kind of off-kilter, prÍt-a-porter elegance upon which she’s made her fashion reputation. In her heartfelt acceptance speech, Keaton contended that she rarely saw her old films—and that she was forty the first time she saw Godfather II, filmed when she was in her twenties.

But what she was most struck by, what she most reconnected with in seeing so many of the films highlighted in the video montages were what she termed her “romantic encounters.” And that to see those films again, and the actors with whom she shared the screen, was to feel anew that it all seemed like old times. And with that, she started to sing in her clear soprano: “Seems like old times, dinner dates and flowers. Just like old times…”—whereupon her voice caught, and the profound hush which had enveloped the entirety of Avery Fisher Hall became suffused with a kind of shared loss for all that had transpired in the years since the films’ original releases.

And yet, and yet— The films remain, as do our memories of what moved us and made us laugh all those years ago. Here’s to you, Diane Keaton: “Seems like old times being here with you.”