Margo Kidder

May 6, 1996 at 12:00 AM EDT


ROGER ROSENBLATT: Only when it happens to a celebrity does the public notice, but it happens all the time. Someone moves in the conventional, predictable circles, and then suddenly flings out of orbit, goes mad for the world to see. So Margo Kidder was discovered in someone’s backyard, bruised, exhausted, her hair chopped off, her clothing dirtied, and raving about people being after her. It is saddening and frightening to imagine her that way.


ROGER ROSENBLATT: The picture one has in mind is of Margo Kidder flying, held aloft in the arms of Christopher Reeves’ Superman when she played the hard-bitten, yet ready to melt, newspaper reporter Lois Lane. For movie goers, the new episode is hard to take. No nonsense Lois Lane, the Lois Lane who figured out Superman’s identity. Lois Lane goes mad. But it isn’t a fictional character who is suffering this distress, it is a real woman who happens to be an actress. All over America real women and real men drift out of the range of safe and balanced thought every day and are lost in plain sight. They hear radio messages in their heads. They burble in unintelligible tongues. People are after them, always people are after them.

The trouble, of course, is that not enough people are after them. Thanks to the laws that liberated patients from mental hospitals tossed them into a world without help, the country is dotted with the uncelebrated sufferers who no one is after, save the demons of their own desperate air.

When Bess Myerson, the former Miss America and New York cultural commissioner, was discovered shoplifting, it was said she was issuing a cry for help. It was probably true. She was under investigation for a number of things at the time and the pressure added to whatever torment she was suffering privately to produce an irrational petty crime.

Like the Margo Kidder incident, that too provided a terrible spectacle. It reminded people far less celebrated than Bess Myerson of how close a moment can be when everything that was sensible becomes disarrayed, when time and place are flipped on their side and the gears stick and the china cracks, and the person in front of you is after you. Yet, this unraveled world is our world too, populated by relatives, friends, people we recognize at work. One minute they figure out Superman’s identity. The next, they storm about the streets, railing at no one anybody else can see. They tug at our sleeves like ancient mariners to tell us some fantastic tale. They sit in the crevices of America, huddled in their own anarchic echo chambers of thought and memory. They are residents of a parallel universe, so close they touch, and when they touch, we flinch.


ROGER ROSENBLATT: Now Lois Lane goes mad, and we are brought back to a consciousness of life out of control. It is unnerving and unpleasant to think about such a thing, so we put the thought aside, except at a moment when someone like Margo Kidder is discovered raving in a backyard, and we look and look again and recognize that face.

I’m Roger Rosenblatt.