my dear friend, charlotte fisher, died yesterday at 91, just a month shy of her 92nd birthday. she’ll be flown home to providence to lay next to her family, including her son, paul, who pre-deceased her. i wrote this post on february 11th of this year before we drove up to beverly hills to see her (the same day that whitney houston was found dead in her bathtub.)
i will always love you, charlotte.
this little lady will be 92 this september. if she makes that date it will anger her as she’s been trying to die now for the past several months. cedars sinai hospital recently kicked her out because, as her doctor said, “she just won’t die.” typical of her really. she’s always been a contrary soul. “charlotte,” you might say, “isn’t it a beautiful day?” and she’d reply, “why, robert, it’s pitch black out.” and then you’d spend several hours debating your position (if you had the wherewithal to last that long, her stamina is/was legendary.)
she lives in beverly hills; m. & i are driving up to see her today, a farewell visit, if you must. i’ve known her longer than i’ve been with m.—which is quite a long time. she hired me at the first art gallery i worked for in chicago. i like to think that i learned the art of selling art from her. which is mostly a true statement for to watch her with a collector (newbie or seasoned) was to watch a master at work.
we were quite the team; me 6’4” and she just shy of 5’. she, with her beantown honk and me with my flat midwestern drawl; she was manipulative and sly, i, well, i’m a bit of an open book, but we clicked. we filled in where the other might fall down; she smart and funny, so quick with a riposte, so silkily delivered you wouldn’t know you were bleeding until you hit the street (having just spent several thousand dollars). her collectors were fiercely loyal (we joked that we should hang a sign out in front of the gallery when she was there that read, “the doctor is in”), because these lost souls would come in, sit down at her green onyx-topped, cruise-ship-sized antique desk, spill their guts, hand her a check and leave with a work of art. it seemed a fair trade.
at the same time, she was impossible to work with: that slyness manifested itself in peculiar ways and after several years it became obvious to the gallery owners that if we (both valued employees) were to continue, something would have to change. i had by that time, expressed my displeasure with the status quo; she had the opportunity, after the death of a cousin from whom she inherited a considerable pile of money and a home in beverly hills, to move to our sister gallery on beverly drive, just south of santa monica blvd. i took over the operation of the chicago gallery. we stopped talking.
and then in 1997 we picked up where we left off, as if nothing had ever come between us. she had retired, i had moved to another art business, we had a mutual friend whom we both adored (besides, she had always adored m.). we spent vacations together in carmel, we lunched and shopped and giggled and yes, debated whether it was night or day. we always said, “i love you” when we parted (irl or on the phone).
today’s trip is going to be hard to bear, but necessary. i’m feeling a little weepy already as i type this; our mutual friend who has been helping her throughout her dotage has said we should steel ourselves. charlotte wants for nothing now except she will not die and it’s aggravating her. she’s begged her friends to kill her, but who among us could do that? she joked (we think) that we should have her son come out and do the deed, but we’re afraid he would (truly.)
time to say goodbye, farewell, bon voyage, let go, i love you.