Resting in Peace
My book, Adulterer’s Wife: How to Thrive Whether You Stay or Not, was published by Jerome Headlands Press, owned by Diane Rapaport. She gave me a lot of support and editorial advice for the book I’m currently completing, Hotel Chemo. Diane told me, “If I had a friend with breast cancer, not only would I want them to read this book, I’d want all their friends and relatives to read it, because they will tend to be pretty clueless about what happens to someone with cancer.” It was a cruel irony that as I was finishing off Hotel Chemo’s final chapter, “Resting in Peace,” I found out that Diane had been diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer with a life expectancy of only about six months. “I’m scared half to death,” she told me, “but I’ll keep dancing through life until I no longer can.” Sadly she lasted only two short months.
I felt awful that she had to spend some of that precious time sorting out various glitches on her Amazon KDP account to unpublish my Adulterer’s Wife book in order to give me the rights back. She remained good-humored and gracious throughout as she ploughed through all the bureaucracy without complaining, despite having to deal with the pain and fatigue of her cancer.
When I first heard that Diane had cancer, it made me re-think the working subtitle I had for Hotel Chemo. It had been Learning to Laugh through Breast Cancer and Infidelity, because I saw plenty of absurd black humor in my own cancer story, and had illustrated that with cartoons. But Diane’s situation made me realize that I didn’t want to imply cancer is a laughing matter. As she told me herself, it absolutely is not, despite the fact that humor and laughter can play an important part in being able to cope with the diagnosis and treatment. I came up with a better subtitle: My Wild Ride through Breast Cancer and Infidelity. Diane liked that one. “I would definitely say that this is a wild ride I’m going through right now!” she exclaimed.
The email message I got about Diane’s passing on January 9, 2020 came from one of her long-time friends who had been at her bedside. She told me, “Diane wanted me to tell you how much she loved you. It was a very peaceful passing and she was surrounded by family and a few friends.”
I felt gutted. She had died so much sooner than expected. Somehow or other I had felt Diane would be able to beat the rap. I’d mailed her various alternative therapy devices and supplements, probably overloading her with things to do. I didn’t send anything she hadn’t agreed to try but I don’t think she had time to use any of it. I made an effort not to swamp her with unsolicited advice-I had got plenty of that when I was going through breast cancer, and some people had gone quite fire and brimstone on me when I didn’t want to take up their suggestions.
Outrageous Stories and Fantastic Food
Diane had been a good friend of mine for more than 20 years. She was one of the most compassionate, intelligent people I’ve ever known. She was a born diplomat and could get along with anybody: divas, grumps, eccentrics, it didn’t matter who. Not only was she good-humored, but also she had a great sense of humor and was a mine of wonderful stories, many of them involving outrageous behavior, sex and infidelity.
I included this one in Adulterer’s Wife: When Diane lived in a small Mexican town in the 1960s she witnessed a dramatic confrontation. A butcher’s wife saw her husband’s mistress walking past his shop. Brandishing a meat cleaver, she ran out after the other woman. While the husband cowered behind the counter inside, the two women had a catfight on the street that the police had to break up. The mistress was never seen in town again, and the butcher and his wife remained together.
Diane was the producer of first five annual COYOTE Hooker’s Masquerade Balls in San Francisco, California, from 1974–1977, arguably the largest-and wildest-charity fundraiser at that time. She had been hired by Margot St. James, who was probably San Francisco’s most outspoken and famous hooker. Margot was also a licensed private investigator which gave her access to women imprisoned for sex crimes. She wanted these women to be given equal treatment under the law as their male counterparts, including access to therapists, medicines and doctors. The profits from the Masquerade Balls funded legal fees for the women arrested for sex crimes.
I think of Diane every time I make salmon-I always use the marinade she taught me-just olive oil, soy sauce and lemon. Simple, easy and wonderful. Diane laughed when I told her that in France I was using a tasty variant of her marinade for duck, substituting orange juice for lemon. Diane’s mom was from Greece, and I have never tasted better Greek food than the dishes Diane made. Her pumpkin chiffon pie was out of this world-and that wasn’t even a Greek specialty.
Freeing Musicians from Big Record Companies
But helping me, organizing hookers’ balls and making fabulous food was the least of it. Musicians across America owe a huge debt to Diane because, all on her own, she gave them the tools to gain control of their music. She describes how it happened in an article she wrote for the National Endowment for the Arts website. From 1969 to 1974, Diane was the first woman to work as an artist’s manager in the music industry for Bill Graham’s Fillmore Management. Diane writes, “The first months on the job were like attending an anarchist university. No courses, no schedule, no time clocks, and no rules. I could attend free rock concerts, imbibe a cornucopia of drugs, and mingle with Janis Joplin and Santana.”
Shocked by the corruption and predatory practices she saw in the music industry, Diane quit her job to begin a crusade to teach musicians how to run their own businesses and set up their own independent record labels. She presented some of the first music business workshops and classes in the country and tried to persuade universities to offer classes in contracts and copyright to music majors. The book she wrote in 1979, How to Make and Sell Your Own Recording, became a bible for musicians. Twenty years later, her book had sold 250,000 copies and more than 50 universities were offering music business and recording technology degrees.
Celebrating Naked Bike Riding
Diane was an accomplished writer. In Home Sweet Jerome, Death and Rebirth of Arizona’s Richest Copper City, she describes the quirky, provocative history of the people that overcame overwhelming odds to revive the town after copper miners abandoned it in the 1950s. The book is peppered with Diane’s signature brand of hilarious anecdotes, drawn from spending decades of her life in Jerome. My favorite story is about the folk singer and environmental activist Katie Lee. Diane writes, “She is famous in Jerome for riding her bike through town naked except for a helmet and boots when she was 77 years old. She howled with laughter as she sailed the mile downhill from Main Street to her house. It was her way to shed the glum, sad feelings she had after a close Jerome friend died.”
Maybe I should take a naked bike ride too …
Originally published at https://www.adultererswife.com on January 14, 2020.