Diane Ladd: Perfectly Clear

Deleted Portion of Follies of God
Tenn in Conversation
New Orleans

“It is a syndrome with a zip code,” Tenn told me about Los Angeles. “It has the effect on me of a drug--initially pleasant, exhilarating. You see yourself differently in its light and in its values, but eventually there is the crash of reality, the landing, and you come to see that value, any sense of personal worth, is determined entirely by others, by various committees set up to judge films, souls, bodies, real estate. It is a company town and it can only operate as if it were a large studio and all of its residents were contract players, in complete obeisance to its putative head, which is public opinion.”

   The starkest example of this syndrome, in Tenn's estimation,  was Diane Ladd, a Mississippi girl, a distant relative of Tenn’s (“Or so she claims,” Tenn told me. “I don’t dabble in family trees. It is one Southern trait in which I am deficient”) and wildly, crazily talented. “Her example is starkest," Tenn said, "because I feel her talent is so great that to have it wasted is a greater travesty than that of some of the other women who disappear in the Canyons. Hers is a messy talent,” Tenn told me, “or it was when I first encountered it, in an off-Broadway revival, small and airless, of Orpheus Descending, in which she played a mean, dirty Carol Cutrere, unhinged, clearly in tune with distant voices.” Tenn wrote of her at that time: “She's like a splash of Tabasco sauce; tart, tasty and capable of turning the bland into something exotic.  I've been overwhelmed by her candor in both her work and her life, and I've watched her struggle with demons that I have yet to understand.  I think that her grasp of God - and the manner in which His angels compel the creative artist - is firmer than that of anyone else I've known.  From those who have worked with her, I've heard that she has, between her technical outpouring of craft and her mental, emotional creation of acting art, the thinnest layer of gauze. Meaning that she is perfectly clear, as Shakespeare told us all artists should be. It is said that we should all be clear clones, ready for the blessed light from above.

      “When truly inspired, I write as if on automatic pilot, giving up my gifts to a higher calling, giving up my ass to the greater good. Diane - and all truly inspired actresses - also performs automatic acting, throwing her physical lineaments into the arms of God and praying for the best.

    “I remember a wise man who once said that the only words we were to believe were
those whispered by angels.    Added to that should be the caveat that there are only a
handful of those capable of hearing them. That is the gift - the hearing. Diane is one of the hearing - compelled. Ask her how she got that way."



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