Wednesday, March 18, 2009

R.I.P. Natasha Richardson

So sad. Natasha Richardson did a lot of good for gay people and people with AIDS, having raised millions of dollars for AIDS groups in the U.S. and around the world for the past 15 years. I met her and her husband Liam Neeson back in '95 at the home of American Foundation for AIDS Research founder Mathilde Krim. Both spoke passionately about fighting the epidemic. Her father, director Tony Richardson, was bisexual (though closeted about it most of his life) and died from complications from AIDS in 1991, which obviously raised her awareness to the issue. Her mother, Vanessa Redgrave, has always been very committed to social causes as well.

Natasha Richardson's greatest acclaim came from her Tony-winning role as Sally Bowles on Broadway in "Cabaret" (while most people probably will remember her as Lindsay Lohan's mom in "The Parent Trap.") But my favorite Richardson performance was in the 1990 film "The Handmaid's Tale." I was just talking about the film --based on the frightening dystopian Margaret Atwood novel -- on the show a couple of weeks ago. It's all about a U.S. taken over in the future by a Christian theocracy where women are subjugated and blacks and gays are sent "to the colonies" or worse. It wasn't a great film -- though Faye Dunaway, as a scary Phyllis Schlafly-type, was in high camp, almost a la "Mommie Dearest" -- but it carried an important message and a warning. Natasha Richardson chose her roles carefully and tried to use her work to advance human rights when she could. She'll be missed.