Spaulding Gray, R.I.P

“…and then I had a thought. I had a flash. Suddenly, I knew what it was that had killed Marilyn Monroe.”

 -the last line from [i]Swimming to Cambodia[/i], 1987

I can remember riding beside the Barrington River on the back of my mother’s bicycle and she was shouting out and celebrating because we had just dropped the bomb on the Japs in Hiroshima, and that meant that her two brothers were coming home.

–The first line of Sex and Death to the Age 14

Oh, and everything’s true except the part about the banana.

Sometimes people tend to lose their heads when they hear the magical word “high-tech”.

– Spalding’s character unknowingly predicts the dot-com boom in True Stories

I tried to read Spaulding Gray, but I just didn’t ‘get it.’ Could someone here suggest why they (and others) found him appealing? I’m thinking about trying to read him again.

Magnetic personality plus he really had something to say. You don’t get that combination too often. His one-man shows/diatribes were impossible for me to turn off.

Hmmm. I never actually saw him perform, I just read part of one of his books. Maybe I should watch him first. Now to find out if Hong Kong has any of his performance DVD.


Mdowdle, you should be able to find Jonathan Demme’s filmed version of Swimming to Cambodia. It was a major theatrical release and would probably be floating around any video rental place.

And I think it helps to see one of his monologues before reading him. He’s got a pointed intelligence that comes through visually. Sharp eyes, a smart brow, a sort of eerie knowing look. It’ll illuminate anything you read later.

Oh, and to amend the trenchant closing line from Swimming to Cambodia: “I had an inkling. I had a flash. Suddenly, I thought, I knew what it was that killed Marilyn Monroe.”


I saw “Monster in a Box” live. It was great. I was pretty bummed when I heard he was dead. He had (relatively little) kids, too. :(

Back in 1997 I saw Spalding Gray at the Dinkelspiel Auditorium (Stanford). The entire performance consisted of him answering questions submitted by the audience before the show. He answered all of mine, one of which was: “If your name was Dinkelspiel, would you let someone name an auditorium after you?”. Everybody cracked up. For a brief shining moment (er, about two minutes, until he read the next question) we were the Comedy Team of Spalding And Sparky.*

He will indeed be missed.

*[size=2]Well, in my mind, we were. But in my mind, I am also a dashing zeppelin pilot with a much smaller nose who is good at math.[/size]

That’s golden.

I saw him perform twice in New York and he definitely has a charisma that can’t be matched by just reading his work. I can’t eulogize him as well as Sparky did, so I’ll leave it at that.