In 2005 I met with the producer Stanley Rubin and his wife, actress, Kathleen Hughes (Stanley says theirs is the “longest platonic romantic relationship in Hollywood”) at their home to talk about Stella. I began the interview by reading a letter I had that Stella had written to Stanley.
“Dear Stanley, you have seduced me as a woman, made me a fan of your work, created a talented and gracious evening for me and extended your friendship to me with warmth. I am unashamed and unafraid to say I love you. Oh. Dear Kathy, I wrote Stanley a love letter.”
Many of Stella’s letters to people came across as love letters, but she was especially appreciative in this letter as Stanley and Kathleen had arranged a party at their house one summer day for Stella with the coup de grace being an airplane flying by at just the right time with a message under its wings that read: “We love you Stella!”
During the interview, Kathleen brought out an inch thick pile of letters Stella had written to them over the years. Some of the letters were addressed to Michael, their youngest son. Michael is “slightly brain damaged,” they explained to me from being strangled by the cord at childbirth. Michael adored Stella and once they were visiting in New York and Stella took Michael out for ice cream. Regarding Stella’s thank-you letter I had read to them, Stanley said it was ironic because it was not he who had seduced Stella, but the other way around. I already knew this because I had heard the story Stanley told at Stella’s Memorial Tribute after she passed, which is as follows:
My wife, Kathleen Hughes, began studying with Stella and each time she came home from class I got an earful. How brilliant Stella was. How insightful Stella was. And I should only hear her script interpretation classes of playwrights and their plays and finally, how beautiful Stella was. And when my wife was through I’d hear more of the same from my wife’s friends.
Well, I got to the point where I didn’t even want to meet this theatrical paradigm. But alas a meeting became absolutely unavoidable. At Kathleen’s house I was invited to and attended one of Stella’s parties. And then a second party and then a third party. And then slowly I fell under Stella’s spell. Yes, spell. That’s the only appropriate word.
One evening she looked across her living room at me, and the look summoned me. I rose and took the chair next to her and somehow I reached for her hand as we talked a little about world politics, a little about her role smuggling weapons to aid the Jews in their fight to establish Israel. We talked on and on and I held her hand until suddenly she interrupted me. “You’ve been resisting me, she said, “You didn’t want to love me,” she said. “That’s true,” I said, “I heard too much about you, too much praise. I thought it had to be flattery gone mad and I would be the one who didn’t succumb.” She pressed my hand harder, “And now?” she asked. “I surrender,” I said.