Thursday, June 24, 2010


She would have been a young 44 today, but her life was cut short during a burglary on the first day of November in 2006, almost 4 years ago.
She was born Adrienne Levine in Queens, and was raised on that Long Island in New York. She always wanted to be a performer, and began when she was 9 years old at the Stagedoor Manor Performing Arts Training Center, a performing arts summer camp which throughout the years has trained thousands of aspiring actors. She and I were very different in this respect. She had the guts and clarity of vision to know what she wanted to do with her life, and the energy and direction to follow through. At 9 years old I was lucky if I knew what time it was, let alone what I wanted to do, or how to do it. And she was always much prettier than I was or am today. Much (I know it's hard to believe, but just take a look at the pictures above dear readers!).
She loved baseball, and took her stage name Shelly from the first name of her father, Sheldon, who passed away when she was only 12. In that we were alike. My father left us when I was 11, one month away from being 12.
She made her professional debut while still in high school in New York, in a summer stock production of the musical "Annie." She went on to Boston University, majoring in film production.
Like I said above she was a very lovely woman, and an exceptionally talented actress and writer. She got her big break when cast by Hal Hartley as the lead in his first two feature films, "The Unbelievable Truth," playing a beautiful teenager with great life expectations who falls in love with a mysterious, possibly dangerous man (oh, how the girls love those bad boys!), and "Trust," playing a pregnant high school drop out with family problems.
Few of her subsequent acting roles lived up to the promise of her two first films however, and she had the talent, interest and ability to change career directions and began working as a writer and director, making her feature length film directorial debut in 1997's "Sudden Manhattan," wherein she took on the daunting task of directing herself as a self-obsessed New Yorker (she should have gotten together with Woody Allen as they seemed to be made for each other... professionally).
In 2000 she won the Film Discovery Jury Award at the U.S. Comedy Arts Festival for her direction of "I'll Take You There," which she also wrote, and starred along with Ally Sheedy (of "The Breakfast Club," fame).
Adrienne played in major roles in over two dozen off Broadway plays, many at Manhattan's Workhouse Theater. She guest starred on television shows like "Oz," and "Law and Order," the later show paying a kind of homage to her by dramatizing the circumstances of her murder in the 2007 episode episode "Melting Pot."
I first saw Adrienne in the film "Factotum," which mainly deals with the life of the Los Angeles writer, Charles Bukowski. She had a very small part in that film, but she certainly caught my interest, and I took it upon myself to learn more about her, after which I became aware of her life and death, became a fan, and I rejoice in the life that she lead, her achievements, and her courage.
Last night I watched the film "Waitress," the last project she worked on before she died. She wrote, directed, and acted in this remarkable, award winning film (outstanding performances by the entire cast, including Adrienne, Keri Russell, Cheryl Hines, and a rare appearance from Andy Griffith). A perfectly realized movie, brilliantly written. I highly recommend it to anyone who has not yet seen it.
Just a few moments ago my computer mysteriously finished downloading the film "Serious Moonlight," which Adrienne wrote, and which her husband, Andy Ostroy produced after her death. I'm looking forward to watching it.
On November 1st, 2006, Adrienne was working in her Greenwich Village office when she was strangled to death by a 19 year old illegal immigrant from Ecuador who was had entered in order to steal money from her purse. This man admitted to her murder, and is currently serving a 25 year sentence without possibility of parole for first degree manslaughter, a plea bargain.
Her murderer will become a free man again in the year 2033, at the age of 45.
Plea bargains.
Since her death her husband founded The Adrienne Shelly Foundation, which is "a non-profit organization that awards scholarships, production grants, finishing funds and living stipends through its partnerships with academic and filmmaking institutions." This is it's Mission Statement:

The Adrienne Shelly Foundation supports the artistic achievements of female actors, writers and directors through a series of scholarships and grants, providing recipients with financial support and consultative access to the Foundation's advisory board of actors, directors, producers, composers, law, publicity, academic and trade professionals. Reflecting Adrienne's spirit, generosity, courage and whimsy, our goal is to recognize the tremendous passion and commitment of women artists in creating their own work, and provide them with support and guidance particularly during periods of transition and struggle.

And this is what her husband says about his amazing wife who died much, much too early:

"Adrienne was fiercely dedicated to the art of filmmaking and, at 5’1”, stood tall in an industry where women face many challenges and hurdles to climb. But she did it, and on her own terms. She was able to successfully make the transition from actor to filmmaker, having written and directed three features. Her last directorial effort, “Waitress,” premiered at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival, was sold to Fox Searchlight Pictures within hours of its screening, and went on to become a smash box-office success nationwide. In the brief weeks and months after her death, Adrienne had finally reached the critical acclaim of which she always dreamed." -Andy Ostroy

And this:

"Adrienne was the kindest, warmest, most loving, generous person I knew. She was incredibly smart, funny and talented, a bright light with an infectious laugh and huge smile that radiated inner and outer beauty... she was my best friend, and the person with whom I was supposed to grow old"

They had one daughter together, Sophie, who is now 6 years old I believe, and who appeared with her mom and Ms. Russell in the very last scene of "Waitress."

On August 3rd of last year Andy established The Adrienne Shelly Memorial Garden, a tribute to his beloved wife. It is located on the Southeast side of Abingdon Square Park in Greenwich Village at 8th and 12th Streets. It faces 15 Abingdon Square, the building where Adrienne died.
I've never been to New York, but I'll probably make it there eventually. And when I do go there that garden is sure to be one of the places I visit.
She lives on as a role model and inspiration to me and thousands of others who aspire to succeed in whatever field they choose.
In loving memory of Adrienne Shelly, June 24, 1966 to November 1, 2006.

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