Kate Remembered

Kate Remembered

by A. Scott Berg


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780425199091
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 09/07/2004
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 384
Sales rank: 591,655
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.00(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

A. Scott Berg graduated from Princeton University in 1971. He is the author of the bestselling books Max Perkins: Editor of Genius, which won the National Book Award, Goldwyn: A Biography, for which he received a Guggenheim Fellowship, and Lindbergh, which won the Pulitzer Prize. He lives in Los Angeles.

Read an Excerpt

A Private Function

I've never felt so intimidated ringing a doorbell.

Even though she and I had become friendly in the past few months over the telephone and I was standing at her front door in New York City at her invitation, I was genuinely nervous about our first meeting. And I've never been especially starstruck.

But this was different. Katharine Hepburn was the first movie star I had ever noticed, and she had been my favorite ever since-the only actor whose plays and movies I attended just because she was in them.

On that Tuesday-April 5, 1983-I arrived at Third Avenue and Forty-ninth Street with fifteen minutes to spare. So I walked around a few neighboring blocks until 5:55 p.m. Then I slowly walked east on Forty-ninth Street until I was a few doors from Second Avenue-number 244. I stood on the sidewalk for another minute and a half, until the second hand on my watch ticked toward twelve. I opened the little black iron gate, stepped down into the well at the curtained front door, and pressed the button. The bell let out a ring so shrill, I could practically feel all four floors of the brownstone shake.

Nobody answered. After a long pause, a short woman with black hair poked her cherubic face out of an adjacent door, the service entrance, and said, "Yes?"

I said I had a six o'clock appointment with Miss Hepburn. Was I at the wrong door? "No, no," she said. "I'll let you in." She came to the front door, and I heard two heavy locks tumble. This was Norah Considine, who cooked and cleaned. She said Miss Hepburn was expecting me.

I entered the vestibule and left my raincoat on a bench at the foot of the steep, narrow staircase, with its metal pole for a handrail. Another woman appeared from the kitchen-gray-haired, bony, with a neckbrace; and we introduced ourselves. She was, as I presumed, Phyllis Wilbourn, Hepburn's companion and majordomo. "Oh, yes. Go right up," she said in a sandy-throated English accent. "Miss Hepburn's expecting you." At the top of the landing, I could look into the rear living room, where the last of that day's light was coming in from the garden.

Before I had even entered the room, I heard the unmistakable voice from inside. "Did you use the bathroom?"

"I'm sorry?" I said, now standing in the doorway and seeing Katharine Hepburn for the first time.

She sat to the right in a comfortable-looking chair, her feet _in white athletic shoes propped up on a footrest. She appeared _to be amazingly fit for a seventy-five-year-old then recovering from a serious car accident. She looked restored and relaxed, her skin tight against the legendary cheekbones, her eyes clear, a soothing pale blue, her hair a ruddy gray, all pulled off her face and pinned up into her trademark knot. She wore no makeup and flashed a _big movie-star grin, exuding charm and energy. She was wear-_ing khaki pants, a white turtleneck under a blue chambray shirt, and she had a red sweater tied loosely around her neck. As I approached her, I tried to take in as much of the room as I could-the high ceiling, pictures on the walls, a fire blazing in the fireplace, nothing ostentatious except for huge bouquets of flowers everywhere.

"Did you use the bathroom?" she asked again, before I had reached her.


"Well, don't you think you should?"

"No, thank you. I don't think that's necessary."

"Well, I think you should probably go back downstairs and use the bathroom first." I repeated that I didn't think it was necessary but that I would do my best.

Two minutes later I returned; and as I reached the top of the stairs, she asked, "Did you use the bathroom?"

"Well, actually," I said, "I did, thank you."

"Good. You know my father was a urologist, and he said _you should always go to the bathroom whenever you have to . . . and you see, you had to. So how do you do? I'm Katharine Hepburn."

"Yes, I know you are." We shook hands, and from her chair she looked me up and down and smiled. "You're tall." A little over six feet, I told her. "Tennis?" No, I said, but I swim regularly and work out with weights at a gym. "Boah." A little boring, I concurred, adding that it was the most time-efficient form of exercise for me.

"Do you smoke?" she asked.

I started to laugh-feeling as though I had walked into a production of The Importance of Being Earnest-and said, "No, Lady Bracknell, I don't." She laughed and said, "I used to. Gave it up. Disgusting habit. Well, I hope you drink."

"Fortunately," I said, "I do." With that, she sent me to the table behind her, on which sat a wooden African mask of a woman with unusually large, wild eyes and prominent cheekbones. "Somebody sent me that," she said. "It looks just like me, don't you think?" Except for the tribal paint, it did. Next to it sat a large wooden tray with several bottles of liquor and three thick glass goblets. "Do you see anything there you like?" I did-a bottle of King William IV Scotch. She asked me to make two of them, according to her specifications-which meant filling the glass beyond the brim with ice, pouring a shot of the whiskey slowly over the cubes, then topping it with soda. She directed me to sit on the couch to her right, white canvas covered with a red knit throw. She took a sip, then a gulp of her drink and said, "Too weak." I doctored it. "Yours looks too weak," she said. Fearing a replay of the bathroom episode, I stood my ground, saying, "I feel the need to stay one ounce more sober than you."

While we discussed the interview I had come to conduct with her, Phyllis Wilbourn climbed the stairs. I started to get up, as the neck-braced septugenarian appeared a little wobbly; but my hostess assured me she was just fine. "You've met Phyllis Wilbourn?" Miss Hepburn inquired, as the older woman passed a tray of hot cheese puffs. "My Alice B. Toklas."

"I wish you wouldn't say that," Phyllis insisted. "It makes me sound like an old lesbian, and I'm not."

"You're not what, dearie, old or a lesbian?" she said, laughing.

"Neither." With that, Phyllis fixed her own drink, a ginger ale, and sat in a chair opposite us; and I continued to soak up the room. Hepburn watched me as I gazed at a carved wooden goose hanging on a chain from the ceiling. "Spencer's," she said. Then I noticed a painting of two seagulls on some rocks.

"Do you think that's an exceptional picture or not?" she asked.

"It's amusing," I said. "Fun."

"Me," she said, referring to the artist.

The fire was dying, and Hepburn asked if I knew anything about fireplaces. I told her I was no Boy Scout but that I could probably kick a little life into it. "Let's see," she said, preparing to grade me in what was clearly an important test. I used the pair of wrought-iron tongs to turn a few logs over, and they went up in a blaze. She was visibly pleased. "How about those on the mantel?" she asked, referring me to a pair of small figurines, nude studies of a young woman. "Me," she said.

"You sculpted these?" I asked.

"No, I posed for them." Upon closer scrutiny, I could see that was the case and that she was pleased again.

Over the next few minutes, we made small talk-about my hometown, Los Angeles, our mutual friend director George Cukor, who had died there just a few months prior, and our impending interview. She asked how much time I thought I would need, and I asked, "How much have you got?"

"Oh, I'm endlessly fascinating," she said, smiling again. "I'd say you'll need at least two full days with me."

As my fire-tending had made the room warmer, I stood and removed my blue blazer, which I set on the couch. "I don't think so," said Hepburn gently but firmly. "Now look, I want you to be as comfortable as you like. But look where you've put that jacket. It's right in my sight line, and it's, well, somewhat offensive."

"Yes," I said, "I can see that." As I started to put it back on, she said that wasn't necessary, that there was a chair on the landing and I should just "throw it there"-which I did. Upon re-entering the room, I instinctively adjusted a picture on the wall, a floral painting which was slightly askew.

"Oh, I see," said Miss Hepburn with great emphasis; "you're one of those." She smiled approvingly and added, "Me too. But nobody was as bad as Cole Porter. He used to come to this house, and he'd straighten pictures for five minutes before he'd even sit down. Listen, while you're still up, I'm ready for another drink. How about you?"

Again I made mine the weaker. It was not that I was afraid of falling on my face. It was more that I felt as though I were now walking through an RKO movie starring Katharine Hepburn, and I didn't want to miss a single frame of it.

As the clock on the mantelpiece bonged seven, Miss Hepburn said, "Look, I only invited you for drinks tonight because I wasn't sure how we'd get on, but you're more than welcome to stay for dinner; there's plenty of food. But I can tell by the way you're dressed, and I must say I like that tie, you've got another date. It's probably better if you go anyway because we're starting to talk too much already, and then we won't be fresh for the performance tomorrow. Shall we say eleven?" I explained that I did, in fact, have a dinner date; but for her I would happily break it. "No," she said, "we don't want to run out of things to say to each other." We shook hands goodbye, and I exited the room, grabbing my jacket from the chair.

When I was halfway down the stairs, I heard her shout, "Use the bathroom before you leave!"

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

"Hepburn sounds off plenty...A worthy look at a candid Kate." —People

"Engrossing...leave it to Hepburn to make a grand exit." —Newsday

"Sharp, funny, and poignant." —New York Times

"Intimate, thoughtful, and considerate...an intensely personal book." —Salon.com

Customer Reviews

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Kate Remembered 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 40 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I wish I had been aware of 'Me' long before its vague mention about halfway through Berg's 'biography'. I felt forced to slog through Berg's accounts of how many reculsive actors from the old days he has managed to befreind because I believed this was the only accurate source material about Hepburn's life. I think Berg must have known many readers would believe that, too, and used it as a sort of blackmail to tell his own memoirs. In the first three chapters, I learned nothing new about Hepburn, but I learned all about Berg's meditation schedule, breakfast menu, and illustrious career as a biographer.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I was disappointed. This was less a biography of KH, and more of a diary of the author's experiences with her - along with what appeared to be LISTS of details of her movies, etc. The author seems to be a back-slapping, self-crediting hanger-on who seems to think he had more influence over her than what is probably true. He was also kind of a petty gossip. The book got very long & tedious. Sorry, Katharine. You deserved better.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This got a one star rating because there wasn't a zero star option! This book mentions Scott Berg more that it mentions Hepburn or anyone else. He needed an editor to delete loads of pages about his own life and that of people other than Hepburn he's interviewed to write about. He is so excited and impressed with himself and the famous people he interviews, you'd think he was a wide-eyed adolescent, and untrained in sticking to his subject.
Jua on LibraryThing 5 months ago
Wow! I know the author is honored to have been able to become a part of Katharine Hepburn's life. It's hard to get to know such a private person. But Kate allowed Mr. Berg to do just that. His writing is wonderful.
librarianjojo on LibraryThing 5 months ago
I was a big fan of Kate, as an actress. While the author respected her, I'm not sure I'd have felt the same if I knew her. Ah...but the gal did know how to act!
hrissliss on LibraryThing 8 months ago
It was a decent book. Not stupendous, nothing that I'm going to force my friends to read. I don't generally read biographies, so that might have accounted for my lackluster response to this, since Scott Berg seems relatively experienced at writing biographies. What made it interesting was the 'character' of Hepburn. She was an interesting woman: never married, one of the few actresses who continued acting on stage after she hit gold as a movie star, and one of the few actresses who carried her career into her 80's. Typically, she's my favorite actress. (And seeing her and Humphrey Bogart together in "African Queen" made me so incredibly warm and squishy inside.)While the personal nature of much of the book was appreciated, I had wanted more of a biography of her life and not an account of her friendship with Berg. I really don't have much more to say on the book. No real impression. 6/10
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have this book two times. It is a great book.
RKL More than 1 year ago
This is a warm, affectionate, honest portrait of Katharine Hepburn written by her friend. While some have criticized the author for putting too much of himself in this, I think that's a little unfair; he is telling us what it was like to know her, to spend time with her. Berg doesn't focus on details that have been covered dozens of times in standard biographies, he does focus on what it felt like being with her, and dealing with her famous, feisty personality. There are a few places where I feel he goes too far in what he reveals, but overall this is a rewarding book for Hepburn's fans.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
It's a book about Kate Hepburn and the author's friendship when she was alive. It also mentions facts about the people who were in her life too.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This was the most excellent biography of Katharine Hepburn, and most compelling about her life. Warren Beatty was a real con man, seducing Kate to perform a small role at 85 years old so that he can tell everyone that he directed a movie with her. Michael Jackson just wanted a photo with her as a publicity stunt, but at least he was straight-forward with Kate and not sleezeball as what Warren Beatty did. I highly recommend this book or audiotapes but make sure you are not operating heavy machinery at the time, or else you will be totally distracted because this will pull you in and not let you go until the end. But is it all true??? Only Kate knows... --GIF
Guest More than 1 year ago
If there is a Kate Hepburn movie on a classics channel ... I'm watching it! So, I know and love that Hepburn voice and debated a bit before choosing the CD Audiobook (for my daily half hour vehicle commute) over the hard copy. Well, I HAD NO IDEA that Tony Goldwyn's reading of this book would be such a special treat; he was brilliant! Many thanks to A. Scott Berg for sharing the tender details of his relationship with this extraordinary woman in such a sensitive and entertaining way! I have NO DOUBT that Kate would have been pleased with this work!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I never knew much about Kathryn Hepburn until after reading A. Scott Berg's wonderful book She is now my 'Idol'. Thank you to Scott for doing such an incredible job of bringing her into 'my' life!! I never want the book to end.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I have not seen many Hepburn movies but I read this book. It was one of the most touching bio's I have read.I highly recommend this book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I truly enjoyed the book. I have been a Hepburn fan for many years, and I am enamored by her films. A. Berg got off the beaten path quite a few times to boast about himself and his accomplishments in obtaining interviewees for his previous books. But, in all, he captured the essence of the great Kate: strong in spirit, independent, head strong, rebel. An unique individual in her generation. A standard bearer for women in the future.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The mark of a good book is whether or not you can react to the story. This book made me laugh out loud as well as cry. Kate was a great lady and Scott Berg did her story true justice. I enjoyed the way that the references to Spencer Tracy were vague and kept their (Kate and Spencer's) diginity by not becoming gossipy. This appears to be her true story and not soap-dish nonsense.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a great read, more about Kate than about her career, and that's what I had hoped it would be. I'm not quite finished, but I think that's because I don't want it to finish. I'm anxious to read Scott Berg's other books.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Scott Berg honorably held a national treasure in his hands until she faded into yesterday...and he did it with genuine integrity and love... I loved this book...Kate was right to trust this author with her friendship and her story...I am so at peace with Mr. Berg's portrayal of this superstar in her twilight years that I will look no further for my own sake...his book allows closure for a universally loved heroine who loved to live, laugh, struggle and win! Hepburn was a pricesless jewel and Mr. Berg's sincerity polished her shine even in the face of the inevitable...
Guest More than 1 year ago
What is special about Berg's book is his luminous, larger-than-life subject, of course. But then it's his loving, tender, admiring and well-written account of what SHE said that makes this lovely and fascinating story a one-of-a-kind record of the great lady's life and thoughts. It's a treat if you love Kate, or if you love life, or if you love old Hollywood stories, or new Hollywood stories. But mostly it's a treat if you are looking for inspiration for living each moment of your life with zest, grace, class, honesty, strength and humor. Well done, Mr. Berg. Well done.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I never read ME by Katharine Hepburn but I did read Berg's book and at first enjoyed it. Until that is I recently saw the Biography of Katharine Hepburn in which she talked about her life and her book. I realized that about 80% of what he wrote in his book were HER words and nothing new. Aside from the tidbit about Michael Jackson and her friendship with Cynthia McFadden, Berg brought nothing new to the readers. what a disappointment. I would have never bought the book if I knew I only needed to watch about her life on Biography. I could have written pretty much the same book by quoting everything she said and then adding things here and there. that's what he did. with a little research and TV watching, we could all be writers!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Even though I had admired Miss Hepburn's work over the years, it wasn't until I read this book did I realize how utterly human she really was. I think this book was the best bio done on a famous person due to the fact that the author knew the subject personally and his love and respect for Miss Hepburn shows all throughout the book. Even though I knew the ending, I cried when he was describing Miss Hepburn's last years but Mr. Berg did show Miss Hepburn in a dignified light in describing her last years He is a wonderful writer! I had never heard of him before but now I can't wait to read his other books. I am going to tell everyone I know to get this book because even though all might not of have been fans of Miss Hepburn, this books tells a wonderful story of a person who wasn't afraid to take chances and live! I would like to meet Mr. Berg and thank him for writing such a book that moved me deeply. I will never be able to look at a Hepburn movie in the same light ever again