By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
The writer and blogger Cathy Seipp, who died last week at 49, once asked her friend Greg Critser if he thought her lung cancer was divine retribution for being mean. Critser, pointing out that Ann Coulter was still alive, told her this couldn’t possibly be true. Seipp had laughed, of course, and so did the 250-some friends and family gathered for her services at Mount Sinai Memorial Park Friday morning.
Laughter, which battled annoyance for Seipp’s full attention, was the tone of the day despite the sad occasion. Her aunt Jill told amusing stories of Seipp as a child fighting with (among others) her sister Michele, and as a young adult chasing a male intruder out of her house and down the street, trying to tackle him. And Sandra Tsing Loh noted that Seipp received last rites in not one but two religions because the first time Loh and Seipp’s father, Harvey, searched the hospital for a rabbi, they were unsuccessful.
“We could not find a Jew,” Loh intoned with arched eyebrow, “at Cedars-Sinai.” She brought the house down.
And that “traveling Christian” minister they did find? “Not so charismatic. He was Asian — I don’t think they have it.” More laughter.
Allan Mayer, former editor of Buzz magazine (in which Seipp regularly took the piss out of the L.A. Times under the name Margo Magee), noted that “there are some who will tell you that Seipp was an acquired taste. But I took to her right away. She was smart and funny, with a finely developed sense of the absurd. Her big eyes would sparkle or darken, depending on which direction she sensed your politics were heading. Mine were always going the wrong way as far as she was concerned. But she tolerated me as one would tolerate a well-meaning but slightly demented elderly uncle.”
During their occasional lunches, Mayer said, Cathy “sometimes drove me crazy, and on more than one occasion I would come home from lunch with her and tell [my wife] Renee, ‘I don’t know why I’m still friends with her.’ But a few days later I’d read something she’d written, and I’d laugh and send her an e-mail. And we’d go out for lunch again.”
And that pretty much says it all about Cathy Seipp: She was “opinionated,” as everyone says, meaning both acerbic and politically conservative, and she could be difficult, sometimes absurdly so. But she was also a good and loyal friend, a devoted mother to 17-year-old Maia, a caring daughter to Harvey (who lives in the bottom half of her house in Silver Lake), a protector of stray dogs and humans alike, and she was very, very amusing, whether you were laughing with her or shaking your head at her in amazement. (I, for instance, had to stop going to PTA meetings when our kids were in grade school together because she would sit with me and then greatly embarrass me by standing and complaining about some terrible political correctness being perpetrated on our unsuspecting children — you know, some horror like recycling.)
She did not suffer fools or the typical L.A. progressive gladly, but she also never let politics get in the way of friendship. And she was fearless; or, rather, she had quelled her fears, once telling an interviewer, “If you are going to care about people getting mad, you should be a social worker, not a journalist.”
Mayer also told the audience, made up largely of journalists, that he was currently involved in “a little dustup” over at the Times. His PR firm represents Brian Grazer, and it was Mayer who suggested the well-gelled producer to editorial pages editor AndrĂ©s Martinez for a guest-editor slot at the Current section. (See Deadline Hollywood on page 26 for more on the Times story.) Mayer said he was only sorry that Seipp wasn’t around to “enjoy the festivities.” That too is true and also makes a deeper point: For her friends and readers, Cathy Seipp is that person you think of when things like that happen — no matter which side you’re on. She’s the one you want to talk to about it, argue over it with, laugh with. She was consistently, truly vital, and there aren’t many people you can say that about.
Which may be why she and the story of her illness and death have touched so many, particularly in the blogosphere, where for three days last week she was No. 1 on the Technorati top-10 searches list — above American Idol or even Paris Hilton. (It’s safe to say that every one of her friends has imagined, if not actually heard, Seipp laughing about this.) And that’s why it was so incongruous to hear Critser speak so elegantly of grieving for her. And why it seemed so unreal, moments later under a blazing sun, as two workmen lowered her coffin into the ground, measuring the depth with a long piece of rebar. And downright surreal as Rabbi Karen Fox tried to deliver her final words over the engine noise of a waiting limo. (Now that would have annoyed Cathy. Couldn’t he park down the street?! Couldn’t someone manage this?!) Then, in the Jewish tradition, her dozens of friends, colleagues and admirers stood in a slow, somber line to shovel dirt into her grave — one last earthly touch. And the sun went on blazing.