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Hollywood East by Mallory

Remembering That Championship Season with Jason Miller

While watching "The View," I saw Chris Noth, who said he was starring in "That Championship Season" on Broadway. I remember when Jason Miller, its playwright, starred in my life. In the mid-'70s, we dated for quite some time and had a passionate love affair.

Writers have always appealed to me and Jason was an oxymoron in Hollywood -- a literate actor who was fun to be with. We laughed and created havoc. He had a home in Malibu on the beach. Oh, not in the chic part but up aways towards Trancas. He drank like I did. Of course, we got into Irish rows, but in the end made up, and that was the best part.

If you have the opportunity to see his wonderful play, "That Championship Season," now in a revival on Broadway, what is missing is the timbre of his voice. Jason's voice is there for us in "The Exorcist" in which he played the priest and was nominated for an Oscar, but I had the privilege of hearing him in life. I loved to listen to him.

He was a troubled man and I was a troubled woman. We were a good couple. For a while. His dark Irish good looks made an indelible impression on my soul. Besides listening to him, I cannot forget looking at him. His eyes. There was a blackness to them that contrasted to the warmth in his heart.

Jason was a friend when I was so sad. He would make me laugh. Clive Barnes wrote of his play, “Mr. Miller has a perfect ear for the rough and tumble profanity of locker room humor. These coarsely written gibes go along with Mr. Miller’s indictment of society -- the sickness of small town America full of bigotry, double dealings, racism and hate. With savage humor The Championship Season probes the darkest aspects of the America dream at all costs. ”

A mentor of sorts, Jason encouraged me to read good literature like a fellow Irishman, John O’Hara who curiously was sober when he wrote Appointment at Samarra. Both Norman Mailer and Jason Miller had great regard for John O’Hara, also from Pennsylvania.

Though Jason had been born in Long Island City, Queens, he was raised in Scranton, Pennsylvania. while I had been born in Haverford. We were two transplanted Pennsylvanians who had moved to Hollywood for that brass ring. Jason almost caught it with "The Exorcist," but this did not make him happy. He always wanted his play produced on Broadway. Again. This had been his dream in the late '70s. Now his son has carried Jason’s dream to the theater with a magnificent cast of Kiefer Sutherland, John Gaffigan, Chris Noth, Brian Cox and Jason’s son, Jason Patric.

It is the story of champion basketball players whose lives have not turned out as they had hoped and return to their coach for guidance. These forgotten champions personify the broad swath of American losers.
Jason Miller began writing his Tony Award- and Pulitzer Prize-winning play in the late '60s while he was a doorman between acting roles. In the play the coach’s pep talks begin to sound hollow. Many years later these men suspect him to be a bigot a bully and a fraud.

Jason Miller had values. Listening to Jason Miller beat going to the library. His word usage was spot on and his articulateness was a dream come true in Hollywood, usually a nightmare for literary folk. But looking at him was also a dream come true. His dark swarthy good looks haunted as they did in "The Exorcist." I will always have warmth in my heart for Jason Miller who taught me to persevere and never give up on a dream.

His dream is on Broadway now and there for us all to remember him by and to learn from.
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