The New York comedy writer Thomas Meehan has departed this world, at age 88--an age at which, as Bill Phillips has noted, we are all in the second last reel.
Meehan is being remembered as author of the books for a number of Broadway musicals, beginning with "Annie," and going on to include "The Producers," "Elf," "Hairspray" and a half-dozen others, among them even a musical version of "Rocky"--"Yo, Adrienne!"
But what some of us remember most, to continue to honor and celebrate Thomas Meehan, is a short New Yorker piece titled "Yma Dream."
In the dream, the writer is host of a cocktail party for Yma Sumac, who suggests that all the guests, in a spirit of casual camaraderie, be introduced by their first names alone. First to arrive: Ava Gardner, so the host properly says, "Yma, Ava." guests following include Abba Eban, Oona O'Neill, Ida Lupino, Eva Gabor, and several others, so that the host finds himself saying, "Yma, Ava, Abba, Oona, Ida, Eva." By the end of the piece, Meehan had managed to stack about twenty similar names together like dominoes.
This sort of thing, however, was not paying the rent. When Meehan completed the script for "Annie," and the show was about to open, he said, "I knew that next week at this time, either we would have a hit, or my car would be repossessed."
Most freelance writers know that feeling. Unlike Meehan, most of us get our cars repossessed.