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Excerpt from Oh The Glory Of It All by Sean Wilsey, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Oh The Glory Of It All

by Sean Wilsey

Oh The Glory Of It All by Sean Wilsey X
Oh The Glory Of It All by Sean Wilsey
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  • First Published:
    May 2005, 480 pages

    Apr 2006, 496 pages


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She was invited by a producer to audition for television, and became the host of the Prize Movie (rechristened Pat's Prize Movie) on Channel 7, with twenty minutes of live on-air talk time. She wore frilly boas and long evening gowns and ad-libbed it. She became a local cult phenomenon. Pat's Prize Movie was the highest rated program on the air in the Bay Area. Mom had a fan club. She went to the opening of the opera, stuffy San Francisco's biggest deal, and was greeted by photographers and fan club members holding homemade signs that said "Pat's our Gal." Mom made her smiling entrance, doubled back outside, picked up a cameraman and mic, and covered all the (other) celebrity arrivals live, runway style. She published a book about giving parties, called How to Be a Party Girl.

Meeting Mom is like meeting a celebrity you've never heard of.

Then: Dad. Recently a widower, he read about Mom in the paper and had a friend introduce them. He phoned to ask her out, she said yes, then she canceled. He asked again. She said yes, and canceled again. He asked a third time, and she said no. There was something about his voice she didn't like.

"Please," he said before she hung up. "You could come up to my house for dinner. I live near you. My son and I are here alone for the evening. We 've just cooked a chicken."

Somehow this was irresistible. It was kind.

She didn't put on any makeup. He drove down Russian Hill and drove her back up. His apartment was at the top of a new building called The Summit. It occupied the front half of the top two floors—the space generally allotted to six two-bedroom apartments with twin baths, full kitchens, large living rooms. Dad had bought The Summit with his closest childhood friend, a real estate developer who urged Dad and his older brother, Jack, to branch out of the butterand- egg business they'd taken over when their father had died. He 'd already been married in Marin, had four kids, got divorced, raised his two sons Mike and Lad (been given the "mother of the year" award by his local PTA), discovered the woman next door had cancer (they'd been having an affair while he was married to his first wife, who'd moved to Hawaii with his two daughters), married her, watched her die in their bed, taken a shower, called the undertaker, buried her, and a few years short of fifty, moved into this massive, six-apartment-sized penthouse apartment by himself. Dad had left or been left by everyone of significance in his life. He told Mom he was just sitting up there waiting to die, and she'd saved his life by coming for dinner.

She met Lad, who was visiting Dad for the evening. They all talked for an hour, ate the chicken, and then Dad drove Mom home. It was the best evening she'd had since Sinatra. Dad was a gentleman, too. A man who could take care of her. For a second date he cleaned up her kitchen and went home. He discovered how hard it was to reach her on the phone (always busy) and asked if he could install another line so he could get through. She said yes. The telephone was red. They got married in 1969. It was a civil ceremony, and all the photographs are lost except for the photographer's set, which show Mom smiling hugely in a white eyelet dress, and Dad in a dark suit, looking quietly content, with the word "PROOF" stamped across them. Then her best friend was killed. The coroner was baffled: lower body immolated, but no smoke in the lungs; blood carbon monoxide levels less than what you'd get from a cigarette; all the doors locked from the inside; no reason why she couldn't have woken up when the fire started. The arson inspector suggested she died "from fright." Mom went to bed, mourned, got pregnant with me—and then went into labor when a huge fire started in our building. After the fire department left an ambulance came for Mom. She was forty-one.

From Oh The Glory Of It All by Sean Wilsey. Copyright 2005 Sean Wilsey. All rights reserved. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, The Penguin Press.

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