It was the 23rd anniversary of the death of Emile Ardolino this week, known most widely for directing the beloved classic Dirty Dancing.
But Emile was actually most attached to his PBS roots via his work on Dance in America, the series that brought the best of dance to your living room. Emil worked with Balanchine, Robbins, Ailey, Paul Taylor and many other choreographers who at first resisted the idea that dance could shrink to the small screen but because of his brilliance and patience with these geniuses, he was able to overcome their fears
I was lucky enough to inherit some of this brilliance when I produced a comedy pilot for PBS. Ha. I know. PBS is not that funny. But we had writing stars like Chris Durang and Lew Black and John Guare and actors like Griffin Dunne and Alice Playten to launch us. And we had Emile.
Emile and I grew close during this renegade production over late nights. He had been in Oh Calcutta the racy off Broadway hit and I had been in SAB so we forged a deep bond. Emile then won an Oscar for He Makes me Feel like Dancing, his doc on the National Dance School and Hollywood beckoned.
I too had sold a few feature projects in LA and eventually moved out to LA around the same time as Emile. He lived near my children's school and so on my carpool days I would sometimes stop in for a coffee and we'd trade tales of our successes and failures.
But Emile had a secret. He had AIDS and was getting very sick. He never told me or many of his friends but felt he had to hide this. The meds available at the time were not effective and he relied on steroids to get him through
At the end I belatedly realized he was near death and tried to regroup but he was adamant that he not be seen. I was heartbroken.
Today you can still see his work-- and for this I am grateful. He died before Dancing with the Stars became a hit but nothing has the raw energy and grace that he imported into seeing dance on film or tv.
I miss him.