I am writing to tell you that Ellen Spier died suddenly over the weekend, leaving behind a six-year old son. The memorial service is Wednesday, March 13th, at the Plaza Funeral Home, 630 Amsterdam Ave in New York City.
Donations to her son Jake's college fund can be made in lieu of flowers and sent to:
(make checks payable to Judy Spier)
I'm sorry to greet you all with such sad news, but send you my best love and good wishes nevertheless.
Deborah (Caringella Schneider)
Eve and I were at Webster University Conservatory gathering tonight (Tuesday) at the Manhattan Theatre Club and it was there that I learned about Ellen's death from Marilyn Holmes (in development) and Milt Molder who was also there. Ellen apparently died of a heart attack - she had been planning to attend both of these WC events (there was also a reception Sun. PM) and there was a name tag for her and everything. So extremely sad.
> I didn't know Ellen, Roz, but my heart breaks for her 6 year old.
You know what, Kathy, I didn't either. But I pored over all those pictures tonight on the Webster site - which always, invariably, ends of making me feel sad, the old pictures especially - and there I was tonight at the Manhattan Theatre Club with all these kids who are 20 or 21 - I graduated 27 years ago, presumably Ellen was somewhere in that time frame - and here we are, so many years later, so many paths traversed, so many changes that have been visited upon us - so much life lived, sorrows borne, joys that have transported us - and death, coming in ways and at times we couldn't possibly have begun to imagine, at least not way back then.
My darling children were with me tonight - and when I think of the times that I get cross for the most inane things - and in one short exhale all can be vastly altered - what if the last words I uttered were in anger and not in joy? In irritation and not in pleasure?
Ali's surgery has brought the fragility and beauty of life into very sharp relief - so too has losing someone we may not even have known well, as we have in Ellen Spier (I love that picture of her curtsying, thank you Xavier for putting it on the site) at the age of 4 - her sudden death alerts us, one more time, to the loveliness of life despite all of its burdens and challenges - may we never be ultimately blinded to it.
God bless Ellen, God bless Ali in her healing, and instill in us how lucky we are to be walking and talking and breathing and crying and laughing and being friends after all these years.
Both of you guys could have, or did know Ellen. She was one of the coolest people I knew. She was a zaftig mix of earth mother and sophisticate. If you went by classes, she was probably class of 76, first coming to school in August of 72. For a while that year she went out with Earl Davis, while he lived in Maplewood. But she went out with a lot of people around the same time, being more or less I suppose, as many of us were, or aspired to be, polyamorous.
I know that description could fit a lot of people. I think that Ellen hung out a lot with Joanie Ellis, and Debbie Levin, and had many of the same interests. She grew up in Manhattan. I remember visiting her at her mom's apartment on West End back in 72 or 73. I thought her mom was a beatnik.
I didn't know Ellen well, but I remember her telling a great story. It may have been after Christmas '72, but it was so long ago the details are fuzzy. Anyway, the meat of the story was that she had been back in NYC for her birthday and was out partying and somehow bumped into and met Mick Jagger. When he found out it was her birthday he gave her a cane or top hat (or both?) that he had with him, which of course was a MAJOR thrill. I have a mental image of her showing off her trophy(ies) as she told the story. I was in total awe.
Does anyone else remember this or was I just in a smoke-induced haze at the time?
I remember that, too, sort of I think. I have such vague memories.
I remember going to
I am so stunned by the news about Ellen. I remember her so well. I started dating Earl after she did. We had an initially tumultuous relationship and ultimately ahd a friendship. I remember her as wild and wonderful..that head of long black hair flying around her and a huge smile. I was supposed to meet up with her and Caren Keller Niss a few years ago but wasn't able to get there.
I am so sad to hear that Ellen is dead. She was a very good friend of mine at Webster and for many years after. I often visited or stayed with her when I was in Manhattan and had some great times with her when I lived in New Haven, CT. I can't imagine anyone who knew her would forget her. She had an extraordinary presence, amazing voice, eye-popping voluptuousness, and absolutely oozed drama in her wake. She also was one of the most loving and vulnerable souls I've ever known. And yes, coolest. She was always trying to get me to dress for style and sex appeal (and not for comfort as is my wont) and to be a bit more assertive, losing causes both, I'm afraid. We lost touch after her son was born and I moved to the west coast, and the funny thing is that she had been on my mind a lot lately. I was thinking that I should give her a call... once again it hits home, life is short...
Ellen had terrific New Year's Eve parties at her mother's Manhattan apartment during the Webster years, many of you might remember (however vaguely) those.
I was glad to hear from Bob Power that he was asked to speak at her memorial service this morning. I am praying today for her son and family and friends, and most especially that Ellen even now knows that she was loved and will be missed.
I don't remember much about Ellen, didn't hang out with her. I mostly remember her friend Orvin Aquart(sp?). Looked tough, tight jeans, blue streak in his hair, nice guy.
Thinking about "ballsy bitch" - I remember walking to the grocery store with her one day. It suddenly started raining. She got a terrified look on her face and ran the rest of the way to the store. She explained that in NYC there's so much pollution in the air and on the buildings, that you don't want to get hit with what's carried down with the rain. I thought about that when I got caught in the rain in New Brunswick, New Jersey right after Three-Mile-Island blew. Boy, did I get my butt out of the rain and into the house, fast. Never would have thought of that if not for Ellen.
Ellen's memorial service was one of the saddest things I've ever experienced, but affirming, too. So many people came; she was well loved, she had a big life.
Many shared memories of her: her beauty, her wickedly sardonic humor, her toughness, her brilliance, her loyalty and fierce love for those close to her.
Martha Plimpton, who grew up in the Spier family, spoke of the time when she was in second grade and was picked on by a bully, and how Ellen confronted the bully by saying, "this is my little sister, and the next time you pick on her, you're going to have to deal with me, and I'm going to kick your..."here Martha paused and said she couldn't repeat what Ellen said she'd do to the kid, but that she's never felt more protected or loved by anyone in her life.
Bobby Power delivered an eloquent eulogy and remembered with humor how, when he first got to Webster, he thought he was tough and worldly... and then he met Ellen. He spoke of how she understood him as few do, and how much her absence would leave a hole in his life.
Ellen's neighbor and great friend, Bob Hebert, remembered her generosity as well as her humor. He told of how, when his sister died in Florida six years ago, she said, "my mother is visiting me in New York, you can take her apartment in Miami," so he did. And he said, "And that was Ellen." He spoke of the night when she called, nine months pregnant, and said, "I think I'm in labor. How can that be?" And he said, "well, you're nine months pregnant," and she said, "can you take me to the hospital?" and he said, "oh, but I've got a good parking spot for tomorrow." Of course he drove her, and in the car, she said "it would have been a better story if you didn't drive me because of the parking spot." --"And that was Ellen," Bob said. Then he said, "and one day, I'll be walking down Central Park West and I'll look up at the sky and I'll see a star that shines a little more brightly than the rest and I'll say: and that is Ellen."
One friend remembered her feline grace, another her raunchiness, and many others, who came from the day care center that Jake attended, spoke of her devotion to and love for her son.
Please share this with our Webster friends, and let them know that she will be remembered well and with love.
Oh Deborah, thank you so much - makes me cry, especially the part about the star. And I am so sad for Bobby. For all of her clearly very dear friends.
I did not learn of Ellen's death until I saw Valerie (Mack) Johns-Crane a few months ago in NYC...
While we both lived in Manhattan, our paths seldom crossed. Ellen came up to a party once at the place in The Bronx that I shared with Ted Polites and Kevin Pauley, and one time, we ran into each other on Broadway...
I was marching uptown on my way to an appointment, and something looked familiar about this gorgeous woman ambling downtown, coming toward me. She seemed lost in thought, staring at her feet as she moved slowly along. As she came near I ventured, "Ellen? Ellen Spier?" She looked up and shouted "Shelby!" She grabbed me and gave me a big hug and a big kiss, and we sat down together for about a cigarette or two, catching up on each other's life. Finally, I stood up and ruefully admitted that I couldn't stay and talk any longer because I had to run off to my appointment with my therapist. She burst out laughing. "Oh, Shelby, that's perfect! I'm on my way home from MY therapist!" We shared a good, long laugh.
So that's my last memory of Ellen: a big hug and a big kiss and laughing her beautiful laugh at a perfectly ironic New York moment.
I'm going to miss her forever.
© 2002 Richard H. Fox