I can’t add very much to Charlotte Hays’s lovely tribute to this brave, tough, and talented lady who as I write doesn’t have much time left after a long battle with cancer that doctors predicted she would lose years ago. It was Charlotte who discovered Cathy, one of the few Republicans in the Los Angeles writing world (or any other writing world)–and what a find! For three years Cathy’s monthly articles for the IWF home page were models of acerbic wit and sharp commentary on a variety of liberal foibles. Her “Maureen Dowd Watch” alone–an IWF exclusive–was worth its weight in diamonds. Here’s a sample from 2004:
“Maureen Dowd entered May with a sonic boom of idiocy that was felt as far away as Australia, and exited with a Memorial Day weekend column so patronizing it’s still ringing in my ears. In between she went, as usual, to the movies — the metaphorical movie palace of her mind, that is, where she set up ‘Rummy’ and Cheney as various screen idols and then tossed popcorn at them.
“In her May 9 column, for instance, she scolded the vice president for ‘being more Jack Palance than Shane’ (whatever that means), and Rumsfeld for resembling a Jack Nicholson character. But that’s just Maureen at the movies, fluffy and inane as usual. More remarkable was the deep thinking she attempted at the beginning and end of last month.
“Dowd’s May 6 column found her at the White House Correspondents’ dinner — Yay! She went somewhere! — where she described Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz as ‘swanning around in black tie’ when they should have been back at work, fixing Iraq. (I don’t know where she’s been picking up Brit terms like swanning around, by the way, when she hardly ever leaves the office; maybe she’s been watching a lot of BBC America.) Wolfowitz narrowly escaped a scolding from Maureen’s psychotic schoolmarm persona when he stopped by her table: ‘I wanted to snap, “Get back to your desk, Mr. Myopia from Utopia!”‘
“That would have showed him, all right.”
Writing doesn’t get much better than that.
Cathy was also a regular contributor to National Review Online and the Los Angeles Times, but it was her own blog, Cathy’s World, where she shone. Her life wasn’t easy, as she raised her daughter, Maia, now 18 and a freshman at the University of California at San Diego, essentially by herself after a divorce and on the none-too-generous income of a free-lance writer. But Cathy had a gift for making friends–dozens and dozens of them, including such well-known Los Angeles fellow writers as Mickey Kaus of Slate, Ruth Shalit (formerly of the New Republic), Sandra Tsing Loh of the Atlantic, Bob Sipchen of the Los Angeles Times, and Amy Alkon. These people didn’t just like Cathy, they loved Cathy, and during the last few months as Cathy’s health failed, they took care of her and Maia, bringing her meals and driving her to the doctor. On Cathy’s World, Cathy chronicled the warmth and gregariousness of her life, along with, of course (this being Cathy) many a witty sling and arrow aimed at the politically correct cant that coats nearly all of our public institutions. The fans who filled the combox connected to Maia’s last post with their farewells and prayers was a Who’s Who of journalistic luminosity: Kathryn Lopez, John Podhoretz, Virginia Postrel, Christopher Hitchens. Both Charlotte Hays and I had the honor of meeting Cathy (and Maia) on one of my trips to Los Angeles and one of her own trips to Washington–what a pleasure.
Cathy blogged and wrote her columns until the very end (her last post, a nice jab at the Weather Channel’s grant of star status to Laurie David because–hey, global warming is weather!–came only last week). She used to send around her writings to a long list of e-mail correspondents, including me. One of the last ones–written just a little over two weeks ago–was a terrific Cathy-esque takedown (read her blog version here) of Ben Ehrenreich, underemployed son of Barbara, who wrote a whiny op-ed about the no-frills treatment in Los Angeles’s county hospital’s emergency room that his girlfriend, who’d never bothered to buy herself health insurance, got after she broke her ankle in New Mexico and then flew to L.A. to get free medical care for it on California taxpayers’ dime. Long waits! Not enough chairs in the waiting room! Dirty restrooms! Boo hoo! What do you expect for nothing? (Ben also used his mother’s blog–talk about hiding behind the apron–to whine again, about having to make a copayment–boo hoo again!–after his insurance company picked up most of the tab for the appendectomy he himself had had at another Los Angeles hospital, and wondering why the doctors and nurses there didn’t work for free. Ben Ehrenreich, scourge of non-socialized medicine.) At any rate, after Cathy had nicely ripped Big Baby Ben to shreds (“The Sorrows of Young Ehrenreich”), I sent her a congratulatory e-mail telling her about my own experiences in a crowded hospital emergency room after breaking my wrist in 2005. Sure, I’d had to wait for hours for treatment, but so what? It was an emergency room!
I didn’t hear from Cathy in response to that e-mail, but I knew that her health had started to fail seriously, and I figured that she was in no condition to reply. Then, yesterday, when the announcement appeared on NRO that Cathy had checked into the hospital for what was clearly the last time, I clicked onto her blog hoping for some news–and discovered that she had posted my e-mail! I burst into tears. I am so grateful that in her very last weeks of life, I was able to amuse her, just a little.
Gosh, we’ll miss you, Cathy. We need your voice so much in a world that grows steadily more insane. You fought a magnificent fight that we the living can only hope to carry on in your name.