It was Rob Long who first told me about Cathy Seipp. My friends at the National Post in Canada were looking for a Hollywood insider to write regularly for them on tinsel town. They asked for suggestions. Rob Long couldn’t do it himself but suggested Cathy. She was a brilliant writer, he said, and she needed work to pay horrendous medical bills.
His second point tended, alas, to cancel out his first one. My cynical heart sank. But I was wrong to doubt Rob’s stern professionalism — and Cathy’s. The article she sent to the Post was wonderful — witty, shrewd, sharp, and utterly at home in Hollywood while observing it with a cool and wry detachment. If Raymond Chandler had been reincarnated in 1990s L.A. as a girl with a can-do attitude, the result would have been someone like Cathy Seipp (and not very like Raymond Chandler.)
So I was astonished to learn from her obituary that she was born in Canada and first arrived in southern California as late as her midteens. She had sloughed off her Canadian identity completely and she seemed to know more about Los Angeles than the Los Angeles Times (though, as she repeatedly pointed out in her media criticisms, that wasn’t very hard.)
A year or so later I remembered Cathy’s article when Claude Salhani and I were recruiting columnists for UPI’s lifestyle section. She agreed to write a regular column for us that would cover Hollywood in general and preview television sitcoms and series in particular. It was as brilliant as we both expected. Claude used to ring me on the office intercom to read passages aloud when her column arrived, both of us laughing uncontrollably. Eventually I asked him just to send her column to me as soon as it arrived. I didn’t want to wait even the few minutes needed for him to make the minor edits her work hardly needed. I suppose you have to be an editor to realize just how rare work of that quality is.
Cathy came to UPI’s Washington headquarters towards the end of my time there. She was accompanied by her precocious daughter, Maia, who even then had started her own blog. Claude and I took them out for a drink. I remember thinking what a marvelous contrast the two women made — Cathy blonde in a light yellow dress, Maia more serious in darker hues, but both youthful bohemian sprites, little immortals like Puck, making clever mischief in our workaday Washington. I sometimes wish I had asked Cathy to stay and devote to the Beltway the same suspecting glance that she directed at the glitterati. But this highly professional cobbler would probably have stuck to her last.