With great sadness I heard of the passing,the death, of Philip Seymour Hoffman.
He was a Village neighborhood guy. I was a sympathetic acquaintance, passed him on Seventh or Greenwich Avenue. We’d nod a brief acknowledging smile and go our separate ways. My wife Vimi, and I, would see him at Good Stuff,the coffee shop on 14th Street off Sixth Avenue, a good place for breakfast. He’d be sitting alone at the counter or at a small table. The same hint of a smile, a nod, then back to his privacy.
I had seen all his films, most of them. I marveled at his choices and his chops. He was fiercely gifted. The actor of our age. I had gone to see him perform on Broadway in Long Days Journey Into Night, the great Eugene O’Neil play. He played the older son, Jamie, the one pursued by the demons of alcohol. As usual he have a uniquely singular, unusual, riveting performance. I left the theater dazzled by his artistry, hurried along to the Seventh Avenue subway at 42nd Street, returning to the safety of my comfort zone, Greenwich Village.
The local train came first and since it didn’t matter for the short distance to 14th Street, I got on. Just as the doors were closing there was a last rush to get in. I stuck my hand out to hold the door. It was Philip Seymour Hoffman.Boy he had gotten out of the theater fast, curtain calls, make up. He thanked me. A flickering smile of recognition and we talked the few stations downtown. Nothing earth shattering – his performance, a bit about the play. I tried not to gush. He was kind. We dropped it. We talked about play development, a long time interest of mine. He spoke of his profound involvement with the Labyrinth Theater Company. We got off together at 14th Street, walked to 12th Street still small talking. “I’ll see ya’round.” We shook hands. I went towards 6th Avenue he turned towards Jane Street.
I thought that when I was an actor in the Village oh so many years ago,I would have liked to have been in a play with Philip Seymour Hoffman. Then we would have become family. Now we were just neighborhood guys nodding and smiling acceptance of our Village fraternity. He was a great actor. He was a good guy. I wish that we had talked more. I’ll miss seeing him around.