“Happy Soap saved my life.”*

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Doris Day died. Even though she was 97, I am still very sad. I have written about DD before. She was one of those people who was really good at everything she did–exceedingly competent. She could sing, she could dance, she was funny, and she always looked great–perfectly groomed–doing it. And you didn’t hate her either, because she didn’t appear to take her beauty too seriously.

She made everything look easy and I think that’s one of the reasons she was always underrated and never won an Academy Award etc. And she didn’t wear her suffering on her sleeve. She had a work ethic.

Well, her life has been picked apart and criticized and psychoanalyzed by many, many people–some of them the kind of fans who resent it when the object of their passion declines to be interested in them or even pretend to care anymore. Why should she? She retired thirty-something years ago. Let it go.

A couple of old guys were talking about Doris in the hallway of my flyover institute yesterday. They were saying how much they had loved her back in the day. One of them said, “I always thought she would have liked me, if we ever met…” Yes, Terry, you would have had a shot with Doris Day…but that was one of the secrets of her success, right? She seemed attainable!

Well, she brought a lot of joy into my life and she will continue to entertain people long after her death.

By the way, John Updike was a big fan too. She fascinated him and he wrote a novel whose main character is based on her–In the Beauty of the Lilies, published in 1996. And he wrote this poem:

HER COY LOVER SINGS OUT

Doris, ever since 1945,
when I was all of thirteen and you a mere twenty-one,
and “Sentimental Journey” came winging
out of the juke box at the sweet shop,
your voice piercing me like a silver arrow,
I knew you were sexy.

And in 1962, when you
were thirty-eight and I all of thirty
and having a first affair, while you
were co-starring with Cary Grant in That Touch of Mink
and enjoying, according to the Globe,
Doris’ Red-Hot Romp with Mickey Mantle,
I wasn’t surprised.

Now in 2008 (did you ever
think you’d live into such a weird year?)
when you are eighty-four and I am seventy-six,
I still know you’re sexy,
and not just in reruns or on old 45 rpms.
Your four inadequate husbands weren’t the half of it.

Bob Hope called you Jut-Butt, and your breasts
(Molly Haskell reported)
were as big as Monroe’s but swaddled.
Hollywood protected us from you,
they consumed you, what the Globe tastefully terms
the “shocking secret life of America’s Sweetheart.”

Still, I’m not quite ready
for you to breathe the air that I breathe.
I huff going upstairs as it is.
Give me space to get over the idea of you –
the thrilling silver voice,
the gigantic silver screen. Go
easy on me, Clara, let’s take our time.

–John Updike in “Endpoint and Other Poems”

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Into paradise may the angels lead you, Doris. At your coming may the martyrs receive you, and bring you into the holy city Jerusalem.

(Mark your calendar for June 9 when TCM will show Doris Day movies all day.)

*Beverly Boyer (Doris Day) in The Thrill of It All (1963)