tv Andy Warhol Was a Hoarder CSPAN December 31, 2016 5:15pm-6:21pm EST
librarian upstairs in the virginia room, and i'm thrilled to welcome you to the city of fairfax regional library. thank you for coming. today's event is part of the 18th annual fall for the book literary festival. be sure to pick up a program or visit fall for the book.org for information about other author events throughout the region. the web site also has an app that you can download on your phone or tablet. please help us out, also, by improving the festival by filling out a survey over there. at the end of this event, books will be available for sale and signing just outside the door there. thank you also to one more page books for providing us with this service. our guest this evening, claudia kalb, is a local journalist and author who specializes in the fields of medicine, mental health and science. her articles have appeared in "newsweek," smithsonian, scientific american and numerous other publications both in print and online.
kalb broke features and stories for "newsweek" for 17 years, and her reporting has won numerous awards including a front page award from the news woman's page of new york. originally from hong kong and the daughter of an american journalist, kalb has been steeped in news since childhood. she is passionate about innovative, informative and compelling storytelling with engaging, accessible writing. her book, "andy warhol was a hoarder: inside the minds of history's greatest personalities," was published earlier this year ands has received enthusiastic reviews. kalb's well-written exercise in applying modern psychiatric theory to historical figures from marilyn monroe to charles darwin certainly makes for entertaining armchair speculation. and so, ladies and gentlemen, please join me in welcoming claudia kalb.
[applause] >> thank you so much for the wonderful introduction. thank you to fall for the book festival, to the fairfax library and to all of you for coming out on a rainy night. i am so thrilled to see everybody here. so i wanted to tell you some stories tonight, some reporting stories that you may not find all of them in the book and also give you a sense just to begin with of what this book is. i covered medicine, health and science at "newsweek", as chris mentioned, for about 17 years and wrote some wonderful stories, but most of them had to end at about a page, two pages, three pages. this book gave me the opportunity to really delve into a subject that i'm passionate about, and it's the mind and brain. it's what makes us tick. why to we behave the way we do, why does this person do that and this person do something else. what are the behaviors that we exhibit mean about ourselves.
the journey to this book began about three years ago in pittsburgh. i took a trip up there on a fall day. it was pouring rain, kind of like today to go visit the warhol museum. i don't know if anybody has been to the warhol museum, but it is a fascinating place. one museum dedicated to one artist. warhol was a pittsburgh boy. and i went for an event that was one of a kind events that day, it was in the theater at the warhol museum, packed audience. and on the stage under the bright light was a box. and the box was a cardboard box that was kind of roughed up. it looked exactly like a box you would have in your basement with all your papers in it, and there were two catalogers from the museum there. and this was a big event because it was one of warhol's 600-plus time capsules. so warhol, for many years, filled mostly cardboard boxes with stuff. you could call it junk, you
could call it stuff, you could call it memorabilia. some of it was worthwhile, some of it, a lot of it wasn't. there were odds and ends, there was junk mail, there were old toothbrush containers that were empty, there were empty prescription bottles. the box that day was up on the stage, and the two catalogers had blue gloves that they put on like they were about to do surgery to protect their hand oils, i guess, from doing anything to the contents, and they went into the box and began pulling out the items that were in this particular box. one of them, very appropriate for this season, was a letter to warhol from playboy magazine, from the editor asking warhol if he were president what would he do first. [laughter] there was a prescription bottle in there. there was an outdated bill that had not been paid to the surgeon who saved warhol's life. he was shot in '68 and barely survived, and the poor surgeon had to keep sending overdue
bills to warhol saying pay up, pay up. this one was for $3,000. there were old magazines. pizza dough, old date nut bread. anything and everything thrown into the box. that was the beginning of the journey and the beginning of the question, what was going on with andy warhol. in mental health there's a new condition as of the latest american psychiatric diagnostic manual which is hoarding disorder. it's not completely new, but it's new as a stand-alone disorder. and the symptoms and characteristics line up with many of the behaviors that warhol exhibited. so he was an endless, endless consumer and shopper. he spent days and days in new york city going from low-end flea markets to high-end art shops, and he bought so many things that his townhouse was chock full when he died. the sotheby's appraisers came in, they could not enter some of the rooms. the dining room was jammed with
stuff, some of it not owned, leaning against the fireplace, the table unusable. there was a picasso stuck in a closet, there were jewelry gems inside the bed. there were 175 cookie jars. thousands and thousands of items. warhol said in his writings he wished he could throw stuff out. he just couldn't do it. he wanted a clean space. he didn't have it. he couldn't help himself. he kept bringing stuff home. a collector likes to display. a hundred teacups, come in and see them. a hoarder has trouble with the amounts of stuff, it's messy, and they don't invite people over to look at the goods, and this was classic for warhol. warhol collected, in many ways, and hoarded not only stuff, he taped conversations, 4,000 hours of audiotape of conversations, everyday conversations, not special ones, just everyday.
he went around in groups. he always appeared places with an entourage. his paintings, think about his paintings with the multiple images. there's some sense there that he was more comfortable with a lot. and connecting warhol to hoarding was the beginning of a story, this story, this book of trying to figure out what was behind famous minds, what was going on inside and what don't we know and didn't we know about the people we thought we did. i started this with warhol, and i then proceeded to spend lots of time in libraries looking at biographies, autobiographies, calling experts in the field, mental health experts to talk to them about mental health conditions and talk to them about some of these famous minds. it was a treasure hunt. it was looking for letters that may have been buried for years, looking for -- in the case of darwin -- finding his health journals. darwin had so many symptoms of various kinds of mental conditions as well as physical
conditions. he was constantly complaining about stomach aches and head aches -- headaches and nausea and vomiting and shaking and fatigue, a long list of symptoms. he kept a health diary that was almost obsessive with notations saying what every day he was feeling, what symptoms and whether he was good that day or poor that day or good-ish or poor-ish. he was very concerned about his children's health. he was a bit of a hypochondriac concerned about his own health. he had a little bit of panic disorder as diagnosed by some mental health experts who looked at his condition. and before he left on his big journey on the beagle, he was so stamm nottic -- symptomatic with anxiety, he worried about how the journey would go and would he be claustrophobic on the boat that he thought he was going to have a heart attack. there was a lot going on to. we may not know looking back
thinking about his great writing and the works he produced and during that whole time, did we not know he was suffering. he was very much suffering with a multitude of symptoms. so i'm going to talk about a few of the characters and some of the themes that developed as i started researching and got into this book. george gershwin is one perp i want to talk about -- person i want to talk about in connection to a theme on childhood conditions today. and gershwin was, as a child, a very, very energetic, rambunctious boy. he ran out into the streets, he didn't do his homework, he wouldn't listen to the teachers, he skipped school. the energy just poured out of him. so i went one day, another reporting trip, to hear a psychiatrist who also happens to be trained as a pianist by the julliard. this is a brilliant man on both psychiatry and music. his name is dr. richard cohen,
and he was giving a performance at a beautiful art center in new york about gershwin. so i arrived, and it was a wonderful room with velvet seats, and dr. cohen came out and proceeded to talk about gershwin's life and about his mind. and as he described these childhood symptoms, dr. cohen raised the proposition that were gershwin alive today, it's almost certain that he would have been at least referred to a school psychologist, and if not diagnosed with a condition like attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. he was not saying he should have been diagnosed, but just raising the question and the issue in today's time. take that historical figure, bring him to now, 2016, and it's likely that a young kindergartner named george gershwin would have gone off for an assessment and possibly be prescribed a medication like ritalin. gershwin's story and the energy
that poured out of him is fascinating. he, one day, woke up and read the newspaper in new york city. there was an article that said there's going to be a big concert at a hall in new york city, and it listed the performers, the composers and the musicians who would be playing. and there on the list george gershwin saw his own name, and it was an oh, my gosh moment. he did not remember having committed to this concert, and the concert was going to be happening in about a month. he had nothing. maybe an idea, but he did not have his piece. so the story goes as he told it he got on a train, he had some business up in boston. he got on a train and took that train to boston, and along the way as he listened to the propulsion of the train, the clacking of the wheels on the rails, the tooting of the horn, that whole noisiness of the train, that by the time he got to boston, he had the entire plot of rhapsody in blue worked out in his head.
and he went back to new york, and within three weeks he had produced this masterpiece to a standing ovation audience. he said he heard music and noise. gershwin was somebody that needed in some ways that noisiness around him to focus. and when i called up an expert on adhd to talk to him about gershwin, he said a lot of people believe with adhd that you're unable to focus, and it's actually that you can focus better than even people without the condition if you find your passion. and with gershwin it was music. and gershwin even said it took music to make me a good boy, from a bad boy to a good buy. he knew it was when he found music as a child, it was not -- he was not coming from a musical family. he found it by hearing it on the streets and learning to play on his own. when he found music, he found his passion. he was energetic, busting with energy for his whole life.
he cracked peanuts during rehearsals, he tap danced when waiting for elevators. kitty carlisle wrote about going to a prize fight with gershwin, and he spent the whole time knocking her in the ribs with his elbow, just couldn't sit still, and she came out, she remembered, black and blue. that was gershwin, up late into the night entertaining, playing, pouring out that energy. so that question that dr. kogan raised about gershwin and adhd raises the question as well, had he been put on a medication like ritalin, would we have had rhapsody in blue. and it's a great person to ponder. there's another person in the book i profile, albert einstein. and he also falls into this theme of take a historical person from the past and look at them in today's environment, what's going on with einstein as a child. he was somebody who was not socially engaged as a young boy.
he did not speak until he was about 3 or 4. his parents were very concerned. they took him to the doctor. he was somewhat isolated in the sense that he did not connect with his cousins when they came to play. he was more interested in building card towers 14 stories high. when his father bought him a compass as a gift, he was immersed in that object, what did it do, what did it mean, what was it. much more concentration than a typical 5 or to 6-year-old at the time. throughout his life he himself talked about not being all that well connected in terms of socially to other people. he could be brash. he didn't do so well as a teacher. he was kind of disorganized. and he talked about thinking about things in his head through pictures, through images. he was not, despite leaving many letters, wonderful letters that you can read online, he said he was an image, picture person in
the sense that he saw things in images. somebody else who sees things in images is temple grandin who maybe you know. she's a wonderful woman who is a ph.d., a scientist with animal science, and she's very outspoken and speaks and educates on autism. she has the condition herself. she identifies, she says, with einstein because of some of those characteristics, that way of looking at things and images, that somewhat lack of connection sometimes socially with other people. so in this case of einstein as well, bring him up to 2016, and there is pretty much no doubt that given his characteristics, the late talking and the social issues, that today he would have gone in for an assessment. it would have raised a red flag for autism. autism is something everybody knows about. pediatricians are on the lookout to be sure they catch it early, because treating early helps.
and so einstein today may also have been somebody who would have been diagnosed and treated and whose life may have been different. i want to just share another great reporting story about einstein, because this is so much fun. i went to philadelphia because i've heard you could see einstein's brain in the medical museum. and it turns out that it only got there a few years ago, and it was donated by a scientist who herself or had received this. she worked at the hospital in philadelphia, and this box of slides -- there's slides of brain tissue. they're not chunks of the brain, they're slide tissue of einstein's -- in a case that looks like a cigar box. and they're very beautiful. they look kind of like rorschach, sort of tea leaves. they're beautiful sort of graphic, geometric images.
she herself, this scientist, was bequeathed the slides by another colleague who was getting older and decided he had been holding on to these slides. when einstein died, his brain was preserved and cut into pieces, and these slides landed at various labs around the country. one of them being with a doctor who then was at philadelphia. so he came in one day and gave this box of slides of einstein's brain to this scientist named lucy adams. and when she turned, i think, 80, she decided she was going to donate them to the museum. and i met her. and what made me -- i just couldn't believe she had stored this box with einstein's brain in a file cabinet. i sat there, and she said it was right there, she had put them in there, and they had been there for decades. they are right in there, and she had finally donated them to the museum. but einstein's brain now for all to see, and it's worth the trip. there were other themes that
emerged as i wrote this book and reported on these various individuals. so another theme that comes up is childhood and the impact on a person's life. so marilyn monroe m -- i think everybody can picture her. i open that chapter with her singing to jfk in new york city, madison square garden, on his birthday. and if you look it up on youtube, you can see this video of her coming out in a sequinned dress glittering from head to toe. it was reportedly sewn onto her. it just was just marilyn in this dress sparkling, and out she came, and she sang. and just a few months later, she was gone at age 36. and marilyn monroe despite this glamorous and vivid and seductive appearance that she had on stage and that i think we all remember and conjure up, she was a very, very, very troubled woman.
she was -- her childhood is where it started. it was very difficult for her. she was born to a mom who also had some mental health conditions, could not care for the baby and took her -- she was then norma jean was her name, marilyn's name, and she took her at just two weeks old, she was taken to a foster home where she lived for about seven years. and in about the seventh year, her mother took her back and tried to care for her. marilyn was delighted, thrilled, wonderful to be back with her real mom, and yet she couldn't do it. and within a number of months, the young norma jean witnessed her mom having a breakdown, coming down the steps of the house screaming and crying and laughing, and she was taken off to a mental health institution where she was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. and marilyn herself talked about a feeling, never really knew who her father was, didn't have her mother, a feeling of emptiness,
a feeling of loneliness. she didn't have an internal scaffold. she talked about having, being a superstar with no foundation, and she just at no time have the -- didn't have the identity. she was on a quest throughout her life, a search for identity. and this is the fundamental characteristickic of a condition called borderline personality kiss order. disorder. and borderline has long had a reputation as being very difficult to treat. and, certainly, when marilyn monroe was struggling in the years that she was with these impulsive behaviors that are also characteristic of this, she had treatment that experts now know is not the way to go. so she had treatment with classical psychoanalysis where there was a lot of dwelling in the past and the pain. if marilyn monroe were around today and diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, she would likely receive a much
better -- for that condition -- treatment which is much more hands on. it's accepting of a difficult past, it's an acknowledgment, it's respecting the patient, but it's also saying we need to learn some skills, and let's figure out how to move on and cope. and it's possible, i asked one of the experts i interviewed about borderline personality disorder, what about marilyn monroe? could she have had a different life story had she been around today and treated, and he said, yes. the other real, real childhood story that's, i think, so interesting also is frank lloyd wright. so frank lloyd wright, beautiful homes, architecture that stands out as just stellar and will last forever, the creative genius of frank lloyd wright is seen everywhere from the guggenheim to office buildings. he designed homes including homes right here in virginia.
frank lloyd wright, when he was born, he was the favorite of his mother. she was his first -- he was her first son. she had a couple of stepchildren, her first child. and frank lloyd wright remembered that as a baby she had hung in the nursery images of cathedrals, and she had determined that this boy would be an architect from the very, very beginning. and it was almost as if there was an unfulfilled wish. this is something an expert i talked to about this that possibly in the case of frank lloyd wright which is narcissistic personality disorder, there can be a sort of unfulfilled wish that's passed from parent to child. did it happen with frank lloyd wright? it's not possible to say one way or the other for sure, but the stories and the writings and reminiscences about frank lloyd wright are phenomenal in the way they describe him, the characteristics of entitlement, of sort of his enormous ego,
feeling always that he was right to the detriment of people around him, stepping on people's toes. every one of these characteristics that is listed clinically as narcissistic personality disorder, classic in frank lloyd wright. and this is different from garden variety narcissism because narcissists are a dime a dozen, you know? we all know them. the disorder is a much more entrenched condition, much harder to deal with and much more, having much more of an impact on the people around the person. so the stories that emerge from frank lloyd wright, he designed the guggenheim. and if you've been to the guggenheim, you know it's built around this wonderful with spiral that you go up. so when frank lloyd wright designed this building, the original design had that spiral, but the paintings -- because of his design -- were going to be slanted in presentation. so you can imagine that you would walk up the walkway, and
as a viewer you would have some trouble because the paintings were going to be at an angle. and this was just representative of frank lloyd wright's aesthetic vision over everything else. forget about the client, forget about the practical needs of the viewers. this is my vision, this round stairway has to be this way. and it got bad enough that as the guggenheim was just being built, 21 artists signed a letter of complaint saying he had callous disregard for their work and, ultimately, they fixed it, so now the paintings came back up. he was known for homes that had leaking roofs and sagging planks and all sorts of things that didn't make clients happy, and yet they were meant to be filled with gratitude for living in a wright home. so he designed several buildings stand out in terms of stories. a synagogue in philadelphia. one of the first services,
apparently, the water poured down on the congregants. he designed the johnson wax building in wisconsin, the corporate headquarters, and he designed it with these astonishing lily pads, he called them. they were very skinny, tall poles to hold the roof up. but the roof had continuous to problems with leaking, so much that the workers had five gallon buckets on their desks at all times to catch the drops. and the head of the johnson wax building also had his home designed by frank lloyd wright. and one night he was having a dinner party, and the story goes he says the water started dripping down on his bald head. so he called frank lloyd wright in the middle of the party and said, the roof is leaking. and frank lloyd wright said, move your chair. [laughter] so the stories go on and on about frank lloyd wright. i'm going to read you, so you know it's not just me saying
this, but i have a part of a letter from arthur miller. an interesting connection, but marilyn monroe who married arthur miller, he was her third husband, they had a country house in connecticut, and she decided to call frank lloyd wright to see if he could design a home on this land. so he came up, and he then did send them some plans. years later arthur miller wrote a letter that was collected in a collection of reminiscences about wright to describe what happened about this, this house. and i'm just read you a *ing blurb from it. it was a gray afternoon -- here he is taking frank lloyd wright out to the spot in karat. it was a gray afternoon by time we got up here. he and i walked up to the high ground where there was an old or chard which faces north but had an endless view over the hills. he took one look and then period and said, good spot. we walked down the hill back to the house. his vitality was amazing, never drew a deep breath going up.
some time passed, how long i can't recall, probably a couple of months, not more, and the drawings arrived. he had never so licited our ideas or even our needs, and what discussion of in this kind we had, i had initiated emphasizing that we wished to live simply, would not be having big parties, etc. the drawings were simply impossible. a circular living room with stone columns covering a 60-foot diameter, if i recall. it was more of a conference room. and, indeed, there was a conference room too with long tables and a dozen chairs just like in the movies, plus a native stone swimming pool jutting out over the grade which would have meant a retailing wall 12 or more feet and would have cost a mint all by itself. the place was very formal but with very little sleeping room. rather an entertainment house, i thought, fit for a corporation and not two people in the country.
he simply had us all wrong. and that was a story that sort of tells that story of frank lloyd wright, the incredible aesthetic vision, the incredible artistic genius, and he had a personality that was very, very disruptive and difficult. i have to read one more little thing about him because it's written by his own son who recalled -- who both admired his father and also had some issues with him. he worked for him for a short amount of time. his son, john, was also an architect and went to help his father build a hotel in tokyo. and he talked about going and expecting and had agreed upon payment for his work. he was, after all, a professional, and he was taking time off to do the job. but his father never paid him. and so he would every now and then stuff a $20 bill in his pocket and think that would be just fine. so here when john raised the issue, his father looked at him reproachfully. quote: he then proceeded to figure out what i had cost him
all during my life, including obstetrics, john wrote with. [laughter] whatever the amount wrote, which i could not comprehend, be i never received salary for him for the rest of my life, it would still be too much, and he would be justified in the matter. when john decided at some point to just take a chunk off money out of a payment that came in to his father which he thought he was certainly owed, his father cabled him the next day and said, you're fired. so the stories, the stories are just wonderful and endless in describing the depth of sort of humanity and behavior. all of these conditions, all of the ones i've mentioned so far and more, they exist on a spectrum. every one of them. so you can have a kind of mild case, you might call it, and more severe. and one of the questions about any one of these conditions is how much does it affect a perp's life, how much does it -- a person's life, how much does it impede with living and being functional. and that's a question i looked at in each of these characters and tried to explore.
i mentioned darwin, and it impeded his life. what might have been anything from a tropical bug bite that gave him his initial symptoms possibly to a coarsing anxiety that seemed to run through him, he avoided social situations, he talked about the stress of his work, the connection between his brain and his stomach. he really suffered and suffered for years. and after on the origin of species was published, after two decades of working on that, on that piece -- on that -- [laughter] on that large study, at the end of his life when he was writing about earthworms, the symptoms dissipated. there seemed to be a connection between the stress and the anxiety. and i wanted to read -- darwin's life brings up this question in terms of mental health of how to you distinguish one condition from another. so when i talked to the experts in the field, they talk about this kind of constant overlap of symptoms.
depression can look like anxiety in some cases. bipolar might look like depression. add in children is different from adults. all of these conditions are complicated. and sometimes they're just personality traits. how do you figure out what is going on? when i studied darwin, i was amazed to colorado the ex-- to discover the ebb tent to which he had been diagnosed in the field. i looked at numerous medical studies written by doctors and mental health experts trying to figure out what was going on with darwin. why was he so sick. i just want to read you this list, because i think you'll be pretty much as astounding as i was. i call it an alphabet soup of diagnoses. i'm going to go through it pretty fast, but they're all so interesting. agoraphobia, anxiety, appendicitis, arsenic poison toking, bacterial infection, an infection from a tropical bug
bite, crohn's disease, cyclical vomiting syndrome, depression, gastritis, gout, hepatitis, hypochondria, irritable bowel syndrome, malaria, mite con drill disease, obsessive/compulsive disease, peptic ulcer, pigeon allergy and social anxiety. the only thing anyone can say with any certainty is that darwin died at age of 73 of heart disease. but those were all of the proposed diagnoses. and it gives you a sense of how complicated this whole arena is and how do you figure it out and how do you help a person once you do figure it out. lincoln, i want to mention briefly because lincoln was another individual who suffered as a child when his mother died, he was a very young boil. his sister, who cared for him after that, died in childbirth at a young age.
his father was not somebody that lincoln connected with. his father was very hard on his son. lincoln struggled to some degree throughout his life with what he called melancholy and what his contemporaries described as very, very, very distinct melancholy. one of them calling it just dripping from lincoln as he walked. another one saying he had the saddest eyes i've ever seen. and when he was in his late 20s, lincoln had his first depressive episode and was even suicidal. friends were concerned about him, taking the knife away, making sure he didn't do anything unsafe. and i just wanted to give you a glimpse of what he appeared as by his contemporary, his law partner named herndon kept very detailed notes of lincoln and described what he looked like and how he appeared. and he talked about lincoln's mood could shift from cheerful and good natured to a sad,
terribly gloomy state. during these periods lincoln often rested his chin on the palm of his left hand and gazed into the distance. some mornings herndon would find lincoln sitting on a chair with his feet on the window sill, so completely withdrawn that he failed to acknowledge his colleague's arrival. herndon's good morning was received with nothing more than a grunt. i at once busied myself with pen and paper, ran through the leaves of some books, he wrote, but the evidence of melancholy and distress was so plain and his silence so significant that i would grow restless myself. at these moments herndon would find an excuse to leave the office for a while, he recalled, and before i reached the bottom of the stairs, i could hear the key turn in the hock, and lincoln was -- in the lock, and-in con was alone in his gloom. almost gives you the chills. he was clearly a man under deep distress about the events around him, the civil war, the loss of lives. he lost two young boys. he saw two sons die.
he had a difficult, difficult experience in life, and yet somewhere deeper than that, several experts have proposed, there seemed to be what would be described as clinical depression, that there was that running through him in addition to just a sadness or the difficulty that any person who experienced these hardships in life would experience. more upbeat story in some ways but not necessarily is howard hughes. and i say upbeat only in the sense that some of the habits that he had are almost humorous in how obsessive and detailed they are. and i'm going to read you one. howard hughes suffered from what we would now call obsessive/compulsive disorder, ocd. i talked to the o to cd expert -- ocd expert who coached leonardo dicaprio on thousand
to exhibit ocd in "the aviator" which depicts howard hughes' life, and you see some of those characteristics of o to cd emerge during the movie. but howard hughes grew up at a time when germs were very prevalent, and fear was very big about things like typhoid and dysentery and policy owe with. his mother -- polio. his mother was very concerned about germs. it may have been carried down to hughes himself, because by his 20s he also developed a very, very severe fear of contamination of germs to the point where he was then asking his aides to come in with three newspapers so he could pull out the middle one and avoid any contamination from the top or the bottom. they were to open the medicine cabinet in his bathroom with at least 15 kleenexes to make sure that it was clean when it was opened. and i just wanted to read you one description of what he required his aides to do to open
a can of fruit. so it was three pages long, this memo about opening a can of fruit. one step required his assistants scrub it from a point two inches below the top of the can. the label was to be soaked and removed and the can cleaned with a sterile brush over and over until all particles of dust, pieces of paper label and in general all sources of contamination had been removed. serving the fruit mandated a new set of rules, requiring the server to always keep his head and upper body at least one foot away from the and to present it -- the can and to present it with no talking, coughing, clearing of the throat or any movements whatsoever of the lips. so you can see the kind of demands hughes put on the people around him. and it raises a really interesting point about the cost of fame and all of these individuals being famous people and living in the public eye and
in some ways being taken care of. many some cases these behaviors and symptoms may have gotten worse because they were not addressed in a way that might have helped the person. so when i talked to the ocd expert about hughes, he said, you know, he thinks that hughes' aides catered to him out of necessity to serve their boss. and so most people -- this expert said -- even if you have ocd, you have to go to work, you have to have a paycheck, you have to take care of your families. your symptoms cannot overtake your life to the point that you demand these kinds of rules and regulations of other people. but it's in a way an exaggerated story of what many people struggle with outside of the limelight. i wanted to talk also a little bit about the realization that with any of these conditions there seems to be an interesting tug between the upside in some cases and the downside.
and that's not to say there's any positives to suffering or any positives to psychological distress. but in some cases the very characteristics or symptoms or behaviors that can make somebody sad, let's say in the case of depression, are very, very, very withdrawn can also provide, in lincoln's case, people have written depression can provide a sense of realism, a sense of empathy, a sense of understanding other people that can actually help and may have, in fact, helped him as a leader. and the way lincoln dealt with his melancholy was so interesting. he didn't have anything that really helped medically. but the two things that helped were work and humor. so he poured himself into work, and he advised a friend who was feeling melancholy, get to work, get to work. that's going to help you get past this. and he told stories. he was a wonderful storyteller or, and he was very funny. and he entertained people. there are stories of people who
worked with him early in his life sitting on a log in illinois listening to his stories and listening for so long that the log got worn thin until it finally disintegrated. he made them laugh is and laugh and laugh. so lincoln's method for getting past the melancholy, he said, the way he vented his moods was through humor. and so this is the question of the upside and the downside, and that emerges with some of the other individuals i've talked about as well with einstein, his ability to withdraw so completely and to sometimes alienate himself at the same time gave him this concentration and fortitude of mind to come up with the theory of relativity. einstein -- gershwin, excuse me, gershwin and his music. i talked about his boundless energy and that kind of, you know, just zest for life and noise that he poured into his music and that came out in those
melodies, was it something like adhd? it almost doesn't matter, it was that those characteristics at some level gave him, gave us these wonderful, wonderful melodies forever. so it's a question, i think, that is worth thinking about with any kind of condition in a person's life, are there upsides, and we pull those out and focus on those and still help relieve some of the difficulties that can emerge. one of the -- i'm going to wrap this up with just a final few thoughts, and i would love to take questions. but i wanted to just answer the very obvious question of why do this in the first place, why explore these lives, why study them. and i point to several characters in the book as my answer really. three i can talk about very briefly. christine jorgenson was the
least known name in the book, i'm sure, but she was the first well known transgender american. she went in 1950 to copenhagen, and she came back george, she was born george, and she came back christine a couple years later. and there's some incredible stories of her trying to figure out who she is, who he was in the beginning, figuring that out and then going public and coming back to the united states, get ago lot of attention -- a lot of it not very nice -- and being able to embrace it way, way, way back when in the 1950s, long before caitlyn jenner and be able to sort of leave the light for people coming after her. betty ford, who is just remarkable in her openness about what she went through starting with her breast cancer diagnosis early on before people were sharing that information, just when they had arrived in the white house, and then her addiction which she wrote about in autobiographies and then
started the betty ford center. she went public wit. she helped other people -- with it. and finally, princess diana who was very public, ultimately, about her struggle with the eating disorder bulimia. and she spoke about it in a television interview and talked about using it in a way to wrap herself with some kind of security, she was so unhappy from very early on in her marriage and in the palace. after diana went public with bulimia, the number of diagnoses -- they studied the effect, the impact on the population, and there was researchers who looked at this and said it had a remarkable impact on people. they heard her speak, and they went for help themselves. the numbers rose in terms of diagnoses of bulimia in that period. so i point to those three women as beacons in that sense for raising awareness, chipping away at stigma and really being open
and honest about what everybody struggles with. and that's really the point of the book, is to tell stories and by telling stories educate, or chip away at stigma. and i think -- because i know it's true for me, and i know i've heard other people say it -- when you read about these people, you'll connect at some level. you'll -- somebody will look familiar, some symptom of a friend, of a family member, of yourself. and it's a way of better identifying with all of those mixed-up things we all have, the good and the bad that we struggle with at times and just an openness toward accepting ourselves as flawed individuals but also as all of these people show, capable of reaching great heights. ..
behaviors can exist on this very broad continuum and figure out when it is becoming a problem and when it isn't and help people in an individualized way, there's no one fix for everybody to help become more productive. you had a second part of the question. >> the second part of the question is we try today apply the standards of 2016 to historical figures, do we risk -- >> right. >> do we risk damaging future? >> it's a risk do doing this in the first place, to looking at historical figures in the past. obviously i couldn't meet them, no doctor has met them, no psychiatrist has assessed their health. all of the chapters rely on the hypotheses put forward on experts themselves. i'm not trained as psychologist,
these are not my theories, these were taken to the experts and journalistically unraveled. how did they reveal themselves. it is risky to -- to do it in a way, i think, that exploits a person and then also might be in terms of labeling, nobody wants to be labeled and labels can be very -- can do damage, but my goal in this book is to do this with complete respect and complete sympathy for the struggles that they went through and sort of bring out so people can have a discussion and i've gotten some really wonderful responses from readers who find some solace, some who are struggling, signed so las -- solace, high-achievers and
invincible and were not. characteristics of marilyn monroe which was death at a young anal and to get therapy to figure out if there's something going on and address now before it gets worse. do you need to be off to be a genius? i think by understanding them, you don't take away from the genius in some cases you better figure out the journey they took . >> did you consider any
personality to be high on the happiness scale. [laughter] >> i could have written of 12 writers or authors. i had trouble coming up with 12 individuals, from scientists to a president to an actress to musician, to a princess. i wanted a real span of history so not just when you know era. this spans from the birth of lincoln and darwin both born on the same day in 1809 and february all the way to the death of eddy ford in 2011. two years of history.
that was one of my criterion to see the evolution of mental health, by looking at different eras in which individuals lived and then scientific backings, so as i mention the reporting came out by theories of medical experts, the two of them speaking openly about themselves and their condition. i didn't want to include anybody where i didn't feel the case was strong enough, these are conversations. if the medical information didn't add up, if the expert said that's just -- you're reaching, those were all elements of making decisions about who to inlewd. -- include. and the happiness scale, i really didn't go there. i guess i would argue that the
exuberance made me happy. i also don't know if there really is anybody truly off the charts without also struggling. some of the people may, in fact, appeared to be happy people but weren't necessarily. it's an interesting question and something i would love to look into more. yes. >> are there people that you would have liked to include in your book and you didn't have the pages to do? >> i had the whole list that ended up in the cutting floor, some of them were issues of scientific backing and just enough to be said but i was interested. there are a lot of artists and writers, questions about creativity and mental illness, specially with bipolar and moodies orders, so there's many
names come up from sylvia, bay -- bethoven. georgia keith. she acted like she didn't know who she was and what was going on. there was something going on at the time in her writing life. she need today get away. there was something that was going on that we are not sure about. that's the case. i decided, in fact, i couldn't, i couldn't fit it in and i al did not in the period i need
today get the book done have enough to support a chapter and so many others, janice, a lot of addiction, speculation about ptsd, and even with florence, going back way back to -- to her anxiety with somebody like emily dickson, picasso is sort of the classic that people point to and there are stores along those lines. so there are so many more and conditions that i would have loved to explore. at a certain point 12 seemed like a good number and plenty for readers to digest. yes.
that's a good question. when i know i was talking about respecting, so i actually, this is in book publishing, this was not, responsible for the writing and the publisher and the part department, any that's catchy so that somebody would open it. it looks like every other book on the table, it's probably not going to catch your attention. to me, i guess the word car
caricature, in some ways more -- i don't know how describe in the way that they sort of illustrate the person . alternative would be to photograph more realistic drawing and i think this was an effort to make the cover dynamic and also lively and, you know, in a way you can think about it too. there's also element of not taking ourselves too seriously because we all do struggle with all of this. yes. >> brought up to mind the fact that her husband left her which impacted her life and chose
different characters, whether you thought about a seminole event in their life that perhaps influenced the rest of the direction. >> right. >> a seminole event, i think that the event that you had mentioned, i think that all happened around amnesia event. so, yeah, i think in some ways i point to some of that because i think you could argue, people have argued that it was for lincoln and darwin the loss of mother early in life, that there's connections medically in the literature of loss of a parent as a child can lead to depression and anxiety. in both of the cases, klein ud to go research those were seminole events. the way you might think about experience with his mother and her determination about the future of his career, which she went on to do, he remembered
that as seminole event. the questions just pouring out. where is it going? all of that, he remembered that and described it as a seminole event. princess, diana had reminiscences of parents' divorce, trying to care for her brother crying in the bed lonely at night and not being able to help him. her memories are difficult, family life and the divorce being a very big peace of it and
somehow contributing to the same emptiness that marilyn monroe seemed to have. one of them when he was a young student, he was not in class, i guess he decided he was not going to attend the concert in the auditorium and heard a classmate play the violin and he apparently figured out who the kids was and found the house in a rainstorm, but, you know, took
a lot of effort, the two became friends and and max, he grew up to be a famous musician, that student. that was a seminole event because as i mentioned, did not grow up in a musical family, music came to him. he was in the street when he was even younger and a couple of moments of music in a way finding him and then he found music and it was his outlet for all of that sort of somewhat disruptive energy. i think looking back seems to be a moment whether defies a difficult life experience or encounter, did that encounter -- it didn't necessarily contribute to any kind of condition but the way he found in a way his release from some of that abuntan energy, so, yes.
>> how did ira come in george's life? >> started very young working together, pretty much lived either with each other or within a stone-throw of each other their whole loves. gershwin died very young from a brain tumor. it's amazing when you think about it that he was able to produce so much in that sort life, hundreds and hundreds of peaces of music. ira was the stud use one. ira saved him, he would go talk to the teacher and george was the, you know, the abusive one. they were the soul.
the wife described the relationship as unusually close. it was very difficult for the rest of ira's life because he lost his brother and best friend so young. any other questions? yes. >> how did this affect your thoughts about yourself. [laughter] >> good question. it affected me, you know, i have to say the person that told my story is darwin, so reading about darwin and his struggles, i really identified with him as a writer. he was a perfectionist, it took him 20 years in part because he
wanted to make sure every t was crossed and checked everything. he wanted to be prepared for what the critics were going to say about it and have a chapter ready to go that said, sort of talked back at what they might say. darwin as a writer was stress symptoms, an site, nervous, some -- stomach aches. to some degree like some of the readers have told me in some ways, took solace from that. a community of human beings who do have these various, you know, behaviors or things that -- that, you mow, make them go and sometimes make them want to corral -- crawl under a rock. it made me,ic, i came to it with much sympathy because i covered mental health and understand how the conditions could affect
people and i just came out with even more and determines to really speak openly about it and start conversations and let people be honest so there can be change for the better and helping people individually. there was a question back there. >> what was research like, did you do all your research first and writing? >> the question is about the research and writing process and did i focus on one person and finished on, i really wasn't able to do that as much as i might have liked because of just tight deadlines and trying to get organized and lined up, so as i was working on the first few which included marilyn monroe, they're not in order when i wrote them, they happened to be the first ones in the book.
i was looking for who else was going to sort of make the cut, there were moments when i had to put everything aside and write and there were moments where i was doing a juggling act reporting on one person and researching another, doing interviews about, you know, ion sign one day and howard hughes the next. in some ways that made it exciting. it allowed me to make connections that i might not have otherwise made if i had been working on one at a time and made it challenging in a good way. we took a vacation, august a couple of years ago when i had a big deadline, i was supposed to turn six chapters, we went to duck north carolina and we rented a house just off the internet and walked in and i knew i had to pretty much work