Paul Mazursky Remembered by Mel Brooks, Richard Dreyfuss at Memorial Service

Tonya Wise/Invision/AP

"The best capturer of human behavior on film was Paul"

It’s almost impossible to top either film clips or Mel Brooks at an event, which is probably why the organizers behind Paul Mazursky’s memorial Sept. 5 at the Writers Guild Theater wisely saved them for last. The 84 year-old actor-writer-director died of cardiac arrest June 30 at L.A.’s Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.

The late afternoon/early evening tribute and reception was emceed by Sam Wasson, the author of the 2011 book Paul on Mazursky, who spoke to a crowd of roughly 300 that included Buck Henry, Elliott Gould, Hawk Koch, Jeff Berg, Ed Begley Jr., Nick Nolte, Jeff Garlin, Jerry Moss, Alan Ladd Jr. and Mazursky’s wife of 61 years, Betsy. No explanation was given for why there was a poster-size picture of Indian guru Meher Baba on the stage; or why the photo of Mazursky had him in a black cowboy hat with his shirt off. From the back of the theater it looked like a still from a Billy Jack film.

The speakers opened with Jill Mazursky thanking all those who helped the family during her father’s final days; and then actor Michael Greene, who described himself as one of Mazursky’s “hangout buddies,” told a pretty good story of being with Mazursky in a remote part of the Amazon eating smoked monkey meat with a tribal leader. He ended his remarks with a line many of Mazursky’s friends could have echoed: “He was a great guy and we had a lot of fun together.”

George Segal, who arguably had his best role in the Mazursky-directed Blume in Love, said: “You knew Paul a little; you’re going to miss him a lot.” He was followed by Molly Ringwald, who was 14 when she co-starred in Mazursky’s The Tempest in 1982.

“He was the best director I ever worked with,” she said. “He kind of spoiled me.” She then sang "I'll Be Seeing You" accompanied by her father, Bob Ringwald, on piano.

Amnesty International’s Steven Hawkins spoke of Mazursky’s longtime support for the human rights organization; next was  Richard Dreyfuss, who starred in three Mazursky films but proclaimed himself “an asshole” for declining to do Next Stop, Greenwich Village. “When I was around Paul, I wanted to be Paul,” he said. “And I like being Richard. But I wanted to be Paul.”

Greg Pritikin spoke about the group that included Mazursky who gathered daily at the Farmers Market; Carly de Castro talked about what it was like to have him as a grandfather. Lisa Lucas, who co-starred in An Unmarried Woman, sang “Maybe I’m Amazed” with Pritikin on piano.

But all the speakers who preceded him were like opening acts when Mel Brooks came on stage. He began with joking comments on Mazursky’s personal thriftiness and said “there was not a scintilla of jealousy in him; there was an armada.” But he also said: “In my assessment, he was our Fellini, our De Sica. The best capturer of human behavior on film was Paul.” He ended with the words "Paul, I forgive all your jealous excesses.”

The excellent 15-minute montage of film clips and interviews was done by Jeff Kenew and the evening ended with Ellen Greene singing “Goodbye, My Friend.”