About three years ago, the marginalized film director Curtis Harrington [whom I had interviewed for several publications] suggested that I write a feature story for Filmfax Magazine on workaholic cinematographer Gary Graver (Orson Welles’ cameraman in the Great One’s terrible final years… Graver also directed many pornographic films under the pseudonym Robert McCallum).
Curtis hoped to use Graver on his next no-budget film based on Edgar Allan Poe's short story THE MAN OF THE CROWD. So I interviewed Graver over a period of several months and obtained laudatory comments about Graver from Curtis Harrington. My last conversation with Graver was abruptly terminated when he had a terrible coughing fit. A few days later, I read Graver's obit – dead at 68 of throat cancer. Curtis followed Graver to the grave in May 2007. In failing health and mourning the loss of his dear friend and the cameraman he relied on, Curtis worked determinedly on the Poe project, but was too debilitated by a stroke to carry on.
I contacted Graver’s widow Jillian Kesner, told her how sorry I was about Gary’s death, and hinted that when she felt up to it, perhaps we could complete the tribute to her late husband. Jillian was very friendly and seemed willing to pursue this, but there were obstacles.
The last time I spoke to Jillian, she was quite despondent. Legal hassles involving her late husband’s estate were partly to blame. I had no idea she was battling leukemia. Jillian sounded so down that I offered to be a sympathetic ear, even though I hardly knew her. I asked Jillian to call me anytime if she felt the need. Of course, she never did, but I really should have given her a shout, just to see how she was doing.
You never know when someone will vanish from this dimension of space and time.
I was horrified when I read the news of Jillian's untimely death on December 5. Jillian – a onetime martial artist with Playmate looks and a superbly toned body – had died of leukemia at age 57.
So the Graver story is kaput. Was it jinxed? I also spoke to Ray Manzarek of The Doors, who used Graver on his movie LOVE HER MADLY (2000), based on a story outline by Jim Morrison. Manzarek was a wonderful raconteur and had nothing but good things to say about Gary Graver and Jillian Kesner. Manzarek and I had a delightful 30-minute conversation.
But will the curse of the Gary Graver story continue? Will Manzarek be the next one to go?
Or will Death claim me?