Saturday, March 10, 2007

Marilyn Levine

My mother just passed away after a long battle with cancer. She was 78. I’m maybe the one person in the world who did not come from a dysfunctional family and much of the credit goes to her. Always loving, always supportive, always cheerful, mom brightened the world of everyone around her. What humanity there is in my writing can be traced right back to her influence and example.

She was the perfect daughter, wife, mother, grandmother, and unofficially – agent. My partner, David and I might not have a career were it not for my mom. It’s one of those true “Hollywood” stories. We were writing spec scripts, going nowhere, not even getting read at most shows. Then one day my mother found herself playing golf with Gordon Mitchell, one of the story editors of THE JEFFERSON. Like any good mom she said her son was a brilliant young writer and would he consider reading a script? Frankly, I’m a little surprised she didn’t have a copy in her bag but still. As a favor to her, Gordon did read our spec, liked it, and to our amazement, gave us our first assignment. In so many ways my mother has been a true angel in my life.

Her favorite song was “Stardust” as sung by Nat King Cole. The words, by Mitchell Parish, express better than I ever could the lasting love and devotion those who knew her will feel for my mother forever.

And now the purple dusk of twilight time
Steals across the meadows of my heart
High up in the sky the little stars climb
Always reminding me that were apart

You wander down the lane and far away
Leaving me a song that will not die
Love is now the stardust of yesterday
The music of the years gone by

Sometimes I wonder why I spend
The lonely night dreaming of a song
The melody haunts my reverie
And I am once again with you
When our love was new
And each kiss an inspiration
But that was long ago
Now my consolation
Is in the stardust of a song

Beside a garden wall
When stars are bright
You are in my arms
The nightingale tells his fairy tale
A paradise where roses bloom
Though I dream in vain
In my heart it will remain
My stardust melody
The memory of loves refrain

You will remain in my heart always. I love you, mom.


Anonymous said...

My thoughts are with you, Ken. I lost my mother several years ago, and even though it was completely expected (we knew her heart condition was terminal, and she was nearly ninety years old) it was still overwhelming.
One thing about life that seems to be simultaneously totally fair and totally unfair is that the pain of losing someone is directly proportional to how much we love that person. The better they were to us, the more it hurts to lose them. But the only way to avoid the hurt would be if they did not matter so much. It's a kind of emotional calculus that I just can't solve, and of course isn't meant to be solved.

Grubber said...

Sorry for your loss Ken, it is always hard when you lose someone close to you. My thoughts are with you and your family.

Kind regards,

Eric Weinstein said...

May your memory of her be for a blessing.

All my best during this difficult time.


Anonymous said...

Ken, as a daily reader, my deepest condolences on your loss. Your words on her passing are well said.

Frank in Seattle

Anonymous said...

That was beautiful. Thank you for sharing her with us.

Webs said...

My condolences, Ken. May I offer you a virtual casserole?

Unknown said...


Best wishes of peace to you and your family, and everyone touched by the life of Marilyn Levine.

Anonymous said...

My condolences to you and yours.

Anonymous said...

I check in on this blog quite a bit and never say anything, but today will be different. Your mother sounds like she was a beautiful woman who changed the world. It was inspiring, truthfully, for this young mother in my small corner of the Midwest. I hope to earn even a fraction of such a tribute from my own. Strength and comfort to you and your family.

It doesn't matter how old we are when it comes to our parents.

Anonymous said...

Ken - Please accept my heartfelt condolences to you and your family. Take comfort in the wonderful memories of your mom that you will always have.


Anonymous said...

I join the others in sending you my condolences on the loss of your mother. The lyrics of Stardust are truly beautiful and remind me of a lost time when lyrics were poetry and brought a tear to your eye rather then a pain to your head, like what passes for music today.
May I share a poem with you I found and read at my father's funeral 28 years ago, a poem I have shared with many dear friends over the years when they lost a loved one:

Do not stand at my grave and
I am not there. I do not sleep.

I am a thousand winds that

I am the diamond glint on snow.

I am the sunlight on ripened

I am the gentle autumn's rain.

When you awaken in the
morning's rush,
I am the swift uplifting rush
of quiet birds in circled flight.

I am the soft stars that shine at

Do not stand at my grave and
I am not there. I did not die.

She must have been a fine woman to have produced such a fine son.
God Bless her and God Bless you and your family at this difficult time

Ian said...

What a lovely tribute, Ken. Your mother was right when she told Mr. Mitchell that her son was a brilliant writer. My thoughts are with you.

Anonymous said...

I haven't lost a loved one (yet, thank God), so I don't presume to understand your loss, Ken. I DO understand, however, what it means to be a product of a loving home, surrounded by parents who bless you everyday with their presence, who nourish your aspirations (no matter HOW crazy those aspirations appear to be), and who inspire you with their unique view of the world.

My condolences (sp).

Willy B. Good said...

Sorry to hear about your mother Ken as she sounded a very fine woman so my thoughts are with you.

Anonymous said...

Ken, I'm truly sorry for your loss. Your mother sounds like an amazing woman and it's clear that she meant so much to you. Thank you for sharing a piece of her with us.

Mike Barer said...

I wish to express my deepest sympathy.

Dwacon said...

My condolences.

I lost my mom a couple years back... it's a tough spot to go thru.


Cedricstudio said...

My deepest condolences. There are truly no words to describe the love of a mother.

Howard Hoffman said...

Your Mom was a terrific lady, Ken. I'm glad all the good folks here now know her, too.

I'll always remember what the rabbi said at my Dad's funeral - it left an indelible mark on me:

A person never dies until no one remembers them. As long as you keep them in your mind and in your heart, they will always live on.

That simple statement turned my sadness into a giant grin. It's the reason why when any of my friends pass on, I cannot bring myself to remove them from my mailing list. I see their names and I remember - and smile.

We'll all keep smiling for the gift of your Mom. We're all richer thanks to her.

Cathy Fielding said...

My deepest condolences on the loss of your mother. I know the pain well. Be happy knowing that she is, at last, free.

Kindest Regards,
Cathy Krasnianski

Anonymous said...

Your kindness, humor and generosity are lasting tributes to Marilyn Levine. May memories of her love guide you gently through your mourning. The thoughts and prayers of your friends (many of whom you may have never met) are with you.

Anonymous said...

The greatest song of all time for - lucky you - an all-timer...

Thanks for sharing your wit, your knowledge, and this. Much love to you and yours.

Anonymous said...

I read your post and the lump rose in my throat and the screen blurred. Lost my Dad (god, is it five years now?). No words make it better.

So I send you that wordless hug and the look that understands.

All that she was is still there, in your mind and in your heart. May it always be so...


Rob Spalding said...

My condolences to you and your whole family.

Gail Renard said...

I've heard it said by someone wise (oh please don't let it be Oprah) that when someone you love dies, you acquire a guardian angel. You've always had one, Ken, and you still have. I'm sending you a big virtual hug.


Beatiful words.
You have all my sympathy.

Beth Ciotta said...

I'm so sorry for your loss, Ken. Your mom sounds like an amazing woman. How wonderful that someone so warm and supportive blessed your life.


Anonymous said...

I send my condolences, as well. At least you had some time to prepare and adjust. One summer day eight years ago I left the house in the morning and returned that evening to be told my father had a fatal heart attack that afternoon. But as my mother says, Marilyn must have accomplished all she was meant to do, so it was time for her to move on...and a fine set of accomplishments it is.

(of course, now you CAN say she had a copy of your script in her golf bag to show Gordon Mitchell, without contradiction--makes the story just PERFECT--:)

Anonymous said...

Dear Ken: I don't know you, but sometimes I feel like I do. I didn't know your mom, but gee, she sounds an awful lot my wonderful mom. My deepest sympathies.

Anonymous said...

My mother didn't exactly do it like you did, in meeting a story editor of The Jeffersons, but there have been many times where inadvertently looking at sections in two newspapers have led to me working at those newspapers for a time, and then recently with an inadvertent look at the staff list for Palm Springs Life in the magazine and finding out that the editor who gave me my start had been and still is the editor-in-chief for quite some time.

As writers, it helps having mothers like that, and based on your blog and what you've contributed to sitcoms in the past as well as other parts of your career, she did more than just a mitzvah for the world.

My condolences, thoughts, and prayers are with you as well as anything else I can think of giving.

Anonymous said...

I'm so sorry to hear of your loss, Ken. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family. I hope that in time, your focus can turn from the pain of loss to the warm glow of your memories.

Robert Hogan said...

Condolences on your lost. It’s wonderful people like your mother whose light and love becomes a legacy that far out lives them and continues to touch lives far after they have left us.

Anonymous said...

Death frees our memories of those who pass. Your mother is now with you in all facets of her wondefful life ... not just the last stage when there was perhaps pain and sadness.
Funny how mothers sometimes supply us with our best material. My mother is 98 and still lives on her own. The day after my father died, there was a phone call. I picked up the receiver upstairs, but by that time my mother had already answered in the kitchen.
MAN: Is Mr. Whelan there?
MOTHER: I'm afraid Mr. Whelan passed away yesterday.
MAN: Oh ... I'm terribly sorry ...
MOTHER: Is there any message?

I'm so sorry for your loss.

Charlie Kennedy said...

My prayerful thoughts and sympathetic sentiments are with you, Ken.

The Minstrel Boy said...

my deepest sympathy for you and your family in this time. stardust is one of the greatest classics. it is one that should, nay must, be played with taste and sensitivity.

your mom sounds like a classic too. kiss your wife, hug your kids.

again, my condolences.

Anonymous said...

sorry for your loss my deepest condolances

Barefoot Billy Aloha said...

Our condolences to you and your family at this difficult time.

-Bill and Maureen Oxley

Miles said...

Your mom sounds like a wonderful person. You were lucky to have her and she was lucky to have you. May she rest in peace.

VP81955 said...

My condolences on your loss. I thank her for raising a son such as you.

Richard Cooper said...

Our thoughts and prayers are with you and your family at this time. Your mother sounds like a beautiful soul, and obviously had a great influence on you--for which we have all been blessed.

Anonymous said...

It's always sad to lose someone, anyone, with whom you have such a deep, abiding connection.

Thankfully, she was able to not only see your success, but, (As any/every mother would.) be able to brag about getting you your big break!

Wishing you all the best.

Anonymous said...

Ken, so sorry to hear of your mother's passing.
If there's television in heaven.
I'm sure she'll be watching one of the many shows you've been involved with.
She'll be smiling down on you, having a good laugh too.
Best to you, my friend.
May your Mom rest in peace.

Diane said...

What a lovely tribute.

Anonymous said...

Please accept my condolences on your loss. She was obviously a remarkable person.

Anonymous said...

my condolences to you and your family, ken.

Beckylooo said...

God bless.

Anonymous said...

That was a moving tribute. My heartfelt condolences to you and your family.

Anonymous said...


As a long time reader and lurker, my first comment to your site will be with sincere condolences... and appreciation for such a wonderful tribute to a wonderful woman...

All best,


Anonymous said...

My sincerest condolences to you and your family.

Isaac Ho

Goedi said...

My thoughts are with you.
May she rest in peace.

maven said...

Ken: So sorry to hear about the passing of your wonderful mother. She certainly sounds like she was your inspiration. I know my father's mother was his and where he got his humor from.

The loss of a parent is terrible and I'm truly sorry for your loss.


Anonymous said...

My condolences, Ken. I'm sure she's working the room in heaven to make sure you get a good table.

Jack Ruttan said...

They give us a lot, don't they? And put up with it, too.

Deepest condolences from Montreal.

Anonymous said...

Ken, my condolences on your mother's passing. I lost my father on March 1st unexpectedly. He was a good man who did the things a father is supposed to do: taught me to ride a bike, slipped money into my pocket when I was a poor college student, and taught me to love baseball.

It's tough. We can tell ourselves all about natural cycles of life, about our souls abiding with God, but in the end sometimes I just want my Daddy again.

Anonymous said...

My deepest condolences. Beautiful words.

Anonymous said...

So sorry for your loss, Ken. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family.

Anonymous said...

Very sorry to hear of your loss.

This year will be the tenth anniversary of my mother's passing, and she died about a year younger than your Mom. (shew was a BIG fan of MASH & Frasier, though she disliked Cheers tremendously. She didn't drink and found nothing amusing in a show which "Celebrates getting drunk" - her words, definately not mine.)Now I can't give her one last chewing out, for never taking up golf.

Grief is the price we pay for loving. It's a high price, but it's worth it.


Len said...


My deepest sympathies to you and your family. Having lost both my parents, I can share some of the associated sensations.

May all the good memories flow forever.


Adam said...

Ken, I'm so sorry for your loss. I hope that you realise that all the "functionality" and warm, friendly good humour that you got from your mother are played out daily in your blog, and that though most of us didn't know her she changes us all as you make us slightly better people with your wit and your wisdom (which must obviously come from her - I'm from a very disfunctional family and am neither witty nor wise).

God bless you and your mother.


Dave O'Hara said...

I was raised as a Southern Babtist (The American Taliban). You may not know how lucky you are to have been to have had a mother who was also a friend.

Hang in there.

Anonymous said...

Condolences and regards to your family.

Anonymous said...

Ken, I offer my deepest condolences over your loss.

wcdixon said...

Sorry for your loss...

Tom Dougherty said...

Very sorry, Ken.

Anonymous said...

Sorry for your loss.

Anonymous said...

Dang! Having lost both my grandmother and father in the same month (nearly 50 years ago, Yikes!) I can seriously appreciate what you are going through.

Stardust is and has always been a favorite. The lyricist, Mitchell Parrish, recited the words as poetry over an orchestral background many many years ago on one of the Sunday night variety shows, probably in the late 50's. Afterwards, he pointed out that, while Hoagy wrote the music to the song itself, he did not write the intro. In those days, such things were given over to music hacks in Tin Pan Alley to write. Stardust was no different, and to this day, we do not know who wrote the intro.

It is, however, just as sweet as the song itself, as Sinatra proved.

Anonymous said...

My thoughts and prayers are with you...

Anonymous said...

Please accept my condolences, Ken. I never knew your mom, of course, but I do know what kind of son she raised: One who, beyond being so talented, is also unfailingly thoughtful, respectful, and goes out of his way to help others. I wish you and your entire family all the best during this difficult time.

Anonymous said...

God Speed, Ken ...

Anonymous said...

We are thinking about you.
Words can't express my sorrow for you.
Your Mom sounded like a wonderful person.
Take care

Unknown said...


My deepest sympathies to you and your familly.
May the wonderful memories of your Mom
always stay with you.

Scribe LA said...

I am so sorry for your loss, Ken. Nothing can ever prepare one for the pain that comes with the passing of a life close to you, so essential to your own life. May your memories and the feeling of her keep you sane in this time of sadness.

Tom said...

A lovely tribute. My thoughts are with you and your family.

? said...

I offer my condolences, Ken.

Anonymous said...

I'm very sorry to hear this, Ken. It sounds like she was a wonderful woman, and you wrote a wonderful tribute to her.

Anonymous said...

My deepest condolences, Ken. That was a beautiful tribute and thank you for sharing it with us. Sending you and your family a warm hug.

Maria from Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.

Anonymous said...


All the best to your family. Mothers are amazing creatures, yours sounds like one of the best.

My thoughts and prayers to you and your family.



Anonymous said...

I lost my mom sixteen months ago and it hurts as if it were just yesterday.

Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson wrote in Illuminatus! that "Mourning never ends."

I am so sorry for your loss. May she always shine in your memory.

Anonymous said...

Hi Ken: I'm part of the silent majority who read the blog, enjoy it hugely and don't usually comment. I read you in London and came to it via Walcott.
I'm sure you know from the outpouring of love and respect on this comment list that you have a lot of fans who enjoy your blog and give thanks that your mom gave the world such a talented, funny man who helps brighten our days, wherever we are.Just wanted to let you know that there are many, many people who are thinking of you at this trying time. -- David Ellis, London, UK

Tom said...

Any woman who loved "Stardust" and gave her son his first break sounds like a winner to me. This is a great tribute to her, I think she'd be very proud. Sorry for your loss, Ken.

Anonymous said...


My sympathies of course are with you and your family. What a lovely tribute to your mother.

Coincidentally, or maybe not, 'Arthur' was my late mother's favorite movie. She saw it a number of times and laughed every time, even when she was very sick. I never see 'Arthur' or hear of it without thinking of her. So thank you for that memory.

emily said...

May her memory be for a blessing. May you be comforted.

Anonymous said...

Ken, I'm sorry that I wandered away from your blog only to come back to such sad news. Your tribute was lovely... and your mother had great taste in music.

Anonymous said...

Condolences to you and your family Ken. Hopefully, in time your special memories will give you joy and comfort, and a feeling of spiritual closeness with your mother. Your wonderful tribute speaks volumes about a very special lady and mother.

Anonymous said...

ken.. i am a ceramics student at edinboro university in pennsylvania... i am looking for a ceramics technique used so well by your mother.. i am amazed by her realism getting clay to look like leather... i was wondering if u had any suggestions to what stains or underglazes she might have used.. or to anyone reading this.. any help would be awesome.. thx