Thinking About Annabeth Gish

I was watching the (scary, excellent) Netflix series “The Haunting of Hill House,” and it took four episodes to notice that the housekeeper was played by Annabeth Gish. She was not considered stellar enough to include in the opening credits, and her name slipped by quickly at the end. But it was good to see her name.

Annabeth Gish! She’s nearing 50 now, but back in 1988 she was a stunning teenager being groomed for can’t miss stardom. The Hollywood PR machine worked diligently to present her as can’t miss Hollywood royalty, the descendants of silent movie legends Dorothy and Lillian Gish, the latter actress being both alive and actively singing Annabeth’s praises. (In truth, they were unrelated, two random Gishes in the wind.) Annabeth was awarded top billing in a major studio coming-of-age comedy, “Mystic Pizza.” The movie was a critical and box office hit, too, but Gish’s career promise was slammed in the face by a two-by-four named Julia Roberts, who had the “it” factor in such abundance that Gish, despite a more prominent role and a competent performance, seemed palid and outmatched by comparison. She never got a starring role in a major film again, because, as was immediately apparent, Annabeth Gish wasn’t a star. She was just a smart, attractive, hard-working young actress, and that was all she would ever be until she became a a smart, attractive, hard-working middle-aged actress.

Most of us have to face the reality that our greatest aspirations and potential not only won’t be realized, but that we will never approach them.  When that awful moment of enlightenment arrives, the ethical response is to just keep charging ahead, trying to get better, work harder, be a good co-worker, colleague, neighbor, friend, parent, spouse, family member, whatever it takes. That moment is disappointing, sure, but it need not be devastating, nor should it be seen as a brand of failure. We succeed in life, and become ethical human beings, not by becoming the best, most powerful, most famous, but by doing the best we can do. What levels of success others achieve is not our standard, except to recognize a fellow Earth occupant’s good work.

Annabeth Gish, like Moonlight Graham says in “Field of Dreams,”  came “this close” to her dream and then watched it brush past her “like a stranger in a crowd.” I know what it feels like; you probably do too. I’ve had the proverbial brass ring this close to my grasp, only to have the Merry-Go-Round sweep past, and to see someone else take the prize. That’s just life—my father’s favorite expression. You win by going on, not looking back, not being poisoned by regret. self-recriminations or fury at the universe.

Annabelle Gish has won. She has almost hundred TV and movie credits, and is still a working actress: A new film, “The Rum of the World,” is in pre-production. She’s been happily married for 15 years—no easy accomplishment in her field—and has two sons. She does charity work, and can look at her life so far as being positive and productive, even if she isn’t among the elite of her profession, or any profession. If we are lucky, and learn the right lessons from life’s mistakes, traps and bad jokes, most of us are Annabeth Gish. You’re Annabeth Gish. I’m Annabeth Gish. Annabeth Gish is Annabeth Gish.

Good for her.

19 Comments

Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Character, Workplace

19 responses to “Thinking About Annabeth Gish

  1. Chris Marschner

    Great message. No one can decide that which defines another’s success. No one should let another dictate if you are a success or not.

  2. Rusty Rebar

    Thanks Jack. That was a nice series of thoughts.

  3. Other Bill

    Mrs. OB and I went on a week long tour of the Hopi and Navajo reservations last week. Canyon de Chelly, Monument Valley, etc. Very enlightening and worthwhile.

    Our Hopi guide Ray was raised off the Rez in Flagstaff and attended high school with the Anglo kids (including Ted Danson). Ray ran cross country and wanted to be the best. When he was on the Rez in the summer visiting his grand parents, he’d run every morning and every afternoon. His grand parents found this strange and asked him why he was running so much and so often. “I want to get better and be the best guy on the team,” Ray responded. His grand parents shook their heads and said, “Ray, you never want to be the best. You want to be second or third best. Don’t be first. If you’re second or third best, you can watch the best guy ahead of you and watch what mistakes he makes and avoid them. If you’re the best, you have no one to follow.”

    As I said, it was an amazing trip.

    • dragin_dragon

      OB, lived on both reservations for a year each, and got to know both cultures a little. Both cultures frown on competition in any form…except, apparently, basketball. Rough Rock Demonstration School had an excellent basketball team.

  4. E2

    Wonderful post. Annabeth Gish lost the Hollywood brass ring to Julia Roberts, and just maybe her life is the better for it. She is a working actress (able to practice her profession), is happily married with children, and has great lessons to teach — to her children and everyone who may know about her. If memory serves, the brass ring didn’t do much for Julia Roberts — whose personal life has either been a mess or non-existent — and though I admire her as an actor, I wouldn’t necessarily want her life. The same is true of politicians, businessmen, and others, who by moral luck or tunnel vision, strive for the one thing, the one thing, that they think will make them a success and a happy person. This rarely works, and the number of sociopaths, drug addicts, and miserable people who have achieved their one and only goal is astounding.

  5. This whole courtroom is Annabeth Gish!

  6. Fred Davison

    I dreamt of success
    I would be the best
    I would make my folks proud
    I would be happy
    It hasn’t happened yet

    Great album, btw.

  7. Another Mike

    Why does “Best” have to be the enemy of Very Good? There is something to be said for being fully competent in whatever your chosen field might be, to the point you provide for your sustenance and that of your family and can be proud of what you do or produce.

    Feeling that anything other than The Very Best has shown to be a formula for personal disaster in many cases.

    • PennAgain

      There’s no such thing as “The Very Best” (Best is the superlative: the “very” best is impossible; so is “the best of the best”). However “Best” implies contest, competition. Are you competing with someone else who is providing sustenance for his family? Audrey Hepburn said it first (in public, where the press could spread it around, anyway): Be the best you (that) you can be. That’s all. Call it competition-with-yourself, if you like. It’s not the same — and should not be the same — as being Better than anyone else. “Good” is a grade in school that is less than The Best. In private life. Being the Good (or ‘very good’, if you like) provider is equal to being the Best.

      That’s my take, for what it’s worth.

      “Annabelle Gish”

  8. PennAgain

    I’m ashamed I didn’t recognize her from the movie. However, I did recognize her name from an ad supporting CARE (a very rare occurrence). It’s on YouTube and just for one of their many many projects.

    I have been a CARE fan since the early 60s when I saw them at work in India. They are in the business of self-help, not charity. Find the need (for instance: food). Do not give food. Do not give money. Plan for the long haul. First, in time of drought and famine, have the recipient (say a group of villages) decide who takes primary permanent responsibility for transit, accounting, oversight (the 5-person reps already in office, one per village) and decide where the food goes (a middle school; headmaster added to reps), provide a secure and healthy enclosure for storage, build a cooking place convenient to the school, hire a cook, agree to provide pots and fuel (dried cow dung), start a vegetable garden (at the school), provide access (transit for food and materials from CARE source to recipient). The villages will pay for one thing only: the cook’s salary. Before the food (bulgar wheat), CARE approved the design of structures for storage and cook-house, provided all building materials (villagers/parents built), the seeds (students plant & tend) plus cooking oil (expensive) – and off they went. In this case, a well-drilling rig (USA) had been abandoned for years for lack of lube. CARE created a project for that as well, provided the very scarce oil, and an engineer to set up the rig & show them how to use it.

    The projects CARE set up were still going eight years later as mid-day meals (per correspondence from the headmaster) and were thereafter no longer needed. At that point CARE had a party and moved on. The other “charities'” and missionary gifts were long gone: the money/goods/food stolen, unneeded, wrong for use, etc.

    • I enjoyed your post, Penn. When the Big One hits, and most of Cali falls into the ocean, you have a sponsor in Texas. We still sill enforce our rules, mind you, but you are welcome here. 🙂

      • PennAgain

        I can tell you’ve not been a reader of Science Fiction & Fantasy Magazine, Mr. Willy, or you’d have seen that great cartoon where everyone on the West Coast stands up after the shaking stops and looks eastward . . . and there’s nothing but ocean.

        Thanks for the invitation, but to tell the truth it was my mind that wanted to move to San Francisco (never to California, by the way) — my body always wanted to stay in Colorado. Guess I just like to stand on the high ground …….

        • PennAgain

          And thank you sincerely for the compliment of enjoying my writing. I never expected to have an opportunity to talk about (can you hear the rocking chair creak?) the interesting old days again. For some reason Jack’s posts and replies from guys like you seem to offer the right openings (even if they do veer off into very thin threads), and next thing I know, I’ve been up all night again, wondering how I’d forgotten all those detailsd.

  9. PennAgain

    Jack, where did you get the title “Rum of the World” and do you have any other information on it?

    Google has gone mad and no longer answers queries directly or accurately. Either that, or she really had gone invisible. When I searched for the name of Annabelle’s character in the movie, Goog came up with “Did you mean fish in Mystic Pizza?”

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