What a shock to learn of Nora Ephron's death, at 71 years old. What a loss to laughter--among the many other gifts Nora gave us.
I met Nora when I was a secretary at Esquire magazine, not even a year out of college. My then boss, Binky Urban, (now my agent) became one of her closest friends. The two of them, careering around with such enormous élan, knowing they had as much right to be there as any of the guys surrounding them. (More in many cases.) Wow, I thought daily, this is what liberated New Women are like: brilliant, fearless, funny, tough, free with Kleenex for their sobbing younger sisters (and there was a great deal to sob about at the magazine in those days, but that's another story. Suffice it to say that when I asked a veteran secretary how she stood it--the sexism, the chaos, the confusion, the condescension and outright harassment thought who knew that word in those days?--she opened the deepest desk drawer and pointed to its dark bottom where, nestled against each other were a bottle of liquor and a gun. Yes, she said. Loaded.)
Every time I looked at Nora I couldn't help it: I imagined the adolescent Nora in a dressing room, bending down hopefully over a bra, waiting for her breasts to tumble out of her chest to fill in the cups...Her life was just ahead of mine, of my generation, and she was there proving that it was just fine to be outraged and noisy and hysterical so long as you carried it off with well-written finesse.
Nora was a devoted reader of House & Garden, incredibly enough to those who didn't know her, but to her friends, she was a true hausfrau: she took great pleasure in making a beautiful home, she loved cooking and dinner parties and everything about kitchens. (Come to think of it, she was one of Frances Palmer's earliest and most devoted customers, she loved her pottery and bought many pieces for her table over the years.) Another way in which she led the way: there is nothing diminishing about a love for home-making. When I think of having it all, I think: kids. jobs. china. Those daily banal pleasures do strengthen and heal--you see it in so many of her movies. True to form, Nora's favorite pieces were the ones we ran about cooking equipment and utensils. I remember an email right after we ran a piece about pre-mixed cake recipes (all of which we had tested over the weeks)--"Those cake mixes! Running right out to the store. In my bathrobe. Thanks!"