Advice from Katharine Hepburn…

or is it from Lee Israel?

Thursday night, Jim and I watched “Can You Ever Forgive Me?,” starring Melissa McCarthy. It told the true story of author-turned-con-artist Lee Israel. For a short period in the early nineties, she paid the rent by using her witty writing skills to forge typed and signed letters from famous people. The con caught up with her pretty quickly, but the movie suggested hundreds of her letters are still at large among dealers who value sales more than authenticity.

(And you know, a good portion of the collectibles market operates on the “greater fool” principle. If you bought something that turns out to be “not right,” your task is to find someone stupider than you to take it off your hands.)

Anyway, I’ve always loved this letter that Katharine Hepburn wrote to someone who apparently pitched her an idea.

I think you have a very vague notion. Whether it is any good depends on how you work it out on paper. You can’t just speculate and interest anyone but yourself. Work it out.

Letter from Katharine Houghton Hepburn to a Mr. Rolick, March 17, 1976.

Work it out. It has just the kind of punchiness, Lee Israel prided herself on. And Lee did break through to the big time with her profile of Hepburn for Esquire magazine in 1967.

The note on the back says Jim bought the framed item in 1997 from a local picker and drinking buddy. And he paid a lot.

I started to take the frame apart to examine the photo and letter more closely, but lost interest. What the hell. I like it. But caveat emptor, chiquititos, some day I might try to sell it to you.

Wine poured.

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