The first time I called Lynn Cullen’s talk radio program was in 1999. I was living in my parents basement while finishing graduate school. I have no recollection of why I called or what I wanted to say, I just remember what she said to me. Her sister Susan was on the air with her and they both repeatedly told me how much they liked my voice. “Your voice belongs on radio” they said.
I was so incredibly flattered, melting like butter at the compliment from two women I really admired.
Last night I found myself sitting directly behind Lynn Cullen at a play in a small community theater in Carnegie. She arrived while I was in the lobby and I noticed people approaching her, her responding with gracious appreciation. I didn’t approach her. I don’t think Lynn Cullen knows who I am by site, but she might know of my blog.
My wife and I slid into the second row and I looked up — there she was. And then the lights dimmed.
The play was ‘Etty’ and it was engrossing, horrifying, and exhilarating.
Lynn was directly in front of me, her lush grey hair pulled to the side with a ribbon so I could see a thin chain around her neck. She barely moved during the performance, except for some knowing nods. I was in her shadow, I thought. I also have long graying hair, albeit streaked with purple.
The phrase “sitting in Lynn Cullen’s shadow” ran through my mind repeatedly as I made mental notes about my review of the actual show. Was it because we are both progressive women? Was I daring to equate my blog with her storied journalism career? Did she pave the way for me to be a woman with opinions who didn’t cower to what others expected me to say or think?
Perhaps because we see her face front on video or only hear her voice on the radio that seeing her from the back was food for thought. She did not cast a literal shadow in the theater, it is pure metaphor. But I felt a connection being aligned with her in those moments both of us listening to the words of another woman who chronicled her experiences.
Running into someone ‘Pittsburgh Famous’ is usually a thrill as that veil between them and us everyday folx lifts just enough to remind us how fragile it is, dare I say to expose the expanse bridging our experiences…