ILENE KRISTEN

We are walking together on East Second Street when a woman standing in doorway to our right shouts out, “Hey, Delia! You’re my favorite bitch!” The shouting woman, who wears an ear-to-ear grin, is shouting to my companion who, upon being told she is the woman’s favorite bitch, is now also smiling. My companion waves to the grinning woman and says, “Thank you!”

It is some time in the 1980s and my walking companion is Ilene Kristen. At the time, Ilene was playing the role of Delia Reid in the ABC soap opera Ryan’s Hope. She now plays the role of Roxanne “Roxy” Balsom Holden in One Life to Live.

Delia, as you may guessed, was not a pleasant character. Ilene’s ability to play the role with uncanny expertise was and is testimony to her truly superb acting skills. How do I know this? Because I have known Ilene since we were something like 12 or 13 and were students at Professional Children’s School in New York City. Professional Children’s School, or PCS as it is more commonly know, was a private k-12 school for kids involved in the arts: musicians, models, painters, actors, dancers, composers and more.

While I was never liked school a whole lot, I loved PCS. It was like being among an endless supply of siblings. And, for me, PCS meant going to school with the two most beautiful girls in the world: Meg Gordon, a dancer, and Ilene, an actress.

Meg Gordon was in my class. She went to the New York City School of Ballet, had long straight glistening dark hair and looked like an Indian Princess. Ilene, then and now, has as beautiful a face as I have ever seen. I can think of no face more beautiful. Both Meg and Ilene were what I would, in later years, come to call, kneebucklers. My ability to look at them without my legs giving out from under me (or dribbling) was nearly always in question.

But while Meg was nice, she was distant and reserved. Ilene, on the other hand, could melt through any nervousness with genuine warmth, charm and kindness. She was and is amazingly smart, thus when I would talk with her I would find myself caught up in the conversation and lose track of the fact I was looking into a gloriously beautiful face with a smile so full of charm and warmth I swear it could turn ice into hot tea in instant.

Ilene, then and now, was never about her looks. She was about being Ilene, being the best actress and performer she could be, and she was and is anything but full of herself – and she is no bitch.

We were walking down East Second Street those many years ago because she was co-directing a short film I’d written called, It Was Your Heart I Wanted. While the film was never completed (my fault, not Ilene’s or anyone elses), it was about a couple whose marriage had ended because his violence had destroyed it. I named it It Was Your Heart I Wanted because then and now I think almost always two people could say that at the beginning of the relationship and they would be telling the truth. Moreover, the film was my way of continuing to work out what had happened in my first marriage. My violence destroyed that marriage. There is no easy way to say that other than honestly and openly. While I can never undo the past, I can at least be proof that it is possible to free of the disease of violence, which, like alcoholism, is its own form of addiction and requires intensive and likely lengthy treatment. To this day I believe, I know, that had I not had this hideous disease, my wife and I would still be together.

I reached out to Ilene to help me direct the film for several reasons. I knew I could trust her completely, I knew she was strong willed, brilliant, and fiercely committed to the quality of any work she was involved with. I also knew, and told her, that while I had no doubt I would direct the work honestly, I would be doing the work an injustice if I did not have a woman involved in directing it. And so Ilene jumped in with all her heart and believe me, her input was amazing.

Recently, as some of you who have been reading this blog are aware, I have had to re-apply for disability, a step I had hoped never to take. I have received help from some. Recently there was an e-mail from Ilene which read, “Hey darlin’, sent you a little something…..you’re in my thoughts.” It brought me to tears. People who love you no matter what can do that to you. Well, to me anyway.

A few months back, maybe longer, there was a reunion at PCS. Ilene let me know and offered to go with me and give me a place to sleep for the night. I couldn’t go, not because I didn’t want to, but because at the time the combination of brain injury, PTSD and depression was keeping me from getting out the door. Of course I wanted to go; not only would it have been wonderful to see Ilene and others, it would have been kind of heady to walk in with the most beautiful woman there on my arm.

Oh, one last thing…visit her website. She is truly a good and loving person and while she is definitely beautiful, it’s a shame you can’t take pictures of a person’s heart and soul; because her heart and soul are 100 times more beautiful then the beauty of her looks, and that’s saying something. If you go to her personal collection of pictures, you can click back to the days when I first knew her…if you look closely at her smile…you may just get a real feel for how warm and loving her heart is.

http://www.ilenekristen.net

Love you, Ilene

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