Diane Keaton in Real Life

BlogHer Original Post

A bulimic from age 22, Diane Keaton binged and vomited for three years until Woody Allen made her go see a psychoanalyst.

She thought her nose was too big, so she slept with a bobby pin pinching it at night, “hoping the bulb would squeeze into a straight line.”

Her mother was the “most important, influential person in [her] life,” but she didn’t really get to know her until after she lost her Mom to Alzheimer’s disease and adopted two children of her own.

None of this is what traditionally jumps to mind when you think of the legendary ANNIE HALL actress - which is what makes her new memoir, “Then Again”, such a page-turner.

Keaton turned the pages herself when she read from her book recently at the historic 6th and I Synagogue in Washington, D.C. The beautiful building was the perfect backdrop for an actress, author and artist whose masculine sense of fashion once set off a women’s craze for big hats, baggy men’s trousers and floppy ties.

In fact, even today the leading lady strode into the venue wearing a long olive green trench coat, matching big-brimmed hat, black turtle neck and yes, baggy pants.

THEN AGAIN: [Left] DIANE KEATON ON THE SET OF ''ANNIE HALL''.1977.(Credit Image: © Globe Photos/ZUMAPRESS.com) ; [Right] DIANE KEATON.ACTRESS.SOMETHING'S GOTTA GIVE.2/6/2004.BERLIN FILM FESTIVAL. / 2004.K35366(Credit Image: © Allstar/Globe Photos/ZUMAPRESS.com)

The sold-out crowd cheered and gave her a standing ovation before she uttered a single word. She smiled broadly at the house packed with adoring fans, mostly women but a few men, too, all of whom came to see the woman whose forty-year career has given them many of their favorite movies.

Before she’d appeared, the audience was treated to a short collage of some of those films: Annie Hall, of course, Reds, Waiting for Mr. Goodbar, Manhattan, First Wives Club, and The Godfather trilogy. The cinematic collage was appropriate, given the big part collage art played in her family. The inspiration for Keaton’s memoir came from the 85 journals her mother filled with writings and picture collages of one sort or another, and her brother Randy is a successful collage artist. In her book, Keaton writes that, upon returning home to southern California after an art trip to New York City, she decided to collage an entire wall of her bedroom.  “Mom was way into it,” she reports, “adding pictures she thought I might like, like James Dean standing in Times Square.” (Does that sound like YOUR mother?! )

After thanking the audience for their generous welcome, she began reading from the memoir’s introduction. The book is really a love letter to Diane’s mother, Dorothy Deanne Keaton Hall, who died in 2008 after losing a 15-year battle with Alzheimer’s disease. Dorothy’s dreams to attend college had been dashed when her father abandoned her mother, Dorothy and her two sisters. But she soon met Keaton’s father, Jack Hall, and life began anew.  Dorothy’s parenting style might strike some today as unconventional. “She didn’t particularly value education,” Keaton said. Instead, persistence and a strong will were the traits that mattered most.  Keaton appreciated the guidance, given her "consistently C-minus" performance as a student.

“Like the rest of the nation, I was tested for intelligence in 1957,” she writes. “The results were not surprising.” Evidently, Keaton excelled in only one area: Abstract Reasoning. She rushed home to tell her mother, who promptly congratulated her on being a master of the only topic that really mattered. Keaton says that, to this day, she has no idea what Abstract Reasoning actually is, but she appreciates that her mom made her feel so good about it!

After the reading, Keaton took questions from the audience. One woman wanted to know who she’d prefer to be stuck on a desert island with: "Alvy" from Annie Hall or "Jack" from Reds? Of course, the clear question was, Woody Allen or Warren Beatty, her costars in those films, and beaus in real life. Keaton laughed and said there was “no way” she was going to answer that question. 

But her book may betray her answer -- she writes,

“I miss Woody...He’d cringe if he knew how much I care about him, but I’m smart enough not to broach the subject. I know he’s borderline repulsed by the grotesque nature of my affection. What am I supposed to do? I still love him.”

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