A Memory of Helene Hanff


Just wanted to tell about my brief correspondence with Helene Hanff. I bought a paperback edition of "84" and "Duchess of Bloomsbury Street" while visiting London in the late 1980s. The bookstore was Hatchards in Piccadilly and after I left the store I wandered into Green Park, sat down on a bench, and pulled the book out for a closer look. It was an impulse buy and I knew nothing of the story. I opened it and began to read and ended up sitting and finishing most of it that afternoon in the park. Its still one of my favorites.

So when I came back home to the States I wondered if she might still be living at the address given in "84". I wrote her a fan letter telling her about reading the book in the park. She wrote back immediately thanking me and saying while she preferred St. James' Park, she had no objection to Green! She also mentioned that "84" had been made into a film that had just been released on video.

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That's a great story! I'm somewhat surprised that the publisher used her real address in the book, especially if she continued to live there after the movie came out, but I'm sure she was happy to get a letter from a fellow bibliophile.

I don't remember how I stumbled upon the book, but I remember reading it in college and loving it. The movie certainly does justice to the book, and I'd love to see this on the stage!

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In her book Q's Legacy, Helene Hanff wrote about all the correspondence she had received over the years thanks to her real address being printed in 84. Apparently she responded to every letter, and some real friendships developed over the years. I'm glad I wrote her and that I have her letter as a souvenir to keep with her books.

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That makes me wish I had written to her when I read the book in the '80s, but I didn't realize it was a real address. I'd have a true keepsake now. And no, I'd never sell it on eBay!

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My mum also wrote to Helene Hanff and got a very nice letter back, she donated it to the Seattle PBS station so they could auction it off during a pledge drive, when they held up the letter the stamp was missing from it, as I was a stamp collector at the time lol, if I remember correctly it was a stamp of Neil Armstrong on the moon...


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Wow, that IS amazing! I read the book way back in the 80's and never dreamed it was a real address either. I loved "Q's Legacy" and "Duchess of Bloomsbury Street" even more than "84" (well, maybe) and they were both inspiring books. Neat for you!

I saw Newman's Idea of University in Border's the other day and nearly bought it just because of the movie. I wonder if such experiences with booksellers can still be had?

--Tazzy

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Congrats

I wish I had the nerve to do that. I loved her books.

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Since she's become my favorite author, I really feel very sad about having missed the opportunity to write to her while she was alive. The movie based on her writings is my all-time favorite! I'm heading for London in a few days and plan on seeing (and photographing) the plaque which was dedicated to Helene and 84 Charing Cross Road!!

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Thank you for sharing such a special memory with us. She seems like a unique woman, and you were lucky to have corresponded with her.

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I first read "84, Charing Cross Road" in 1970 when it was excerpted in Reader's Digest, which made me borrow the full copy from the library. In 1982, while visiting a friend in NYC, we went to see the Broadway stage production which had been fashioned from the book, starring Ellen Burstyn and Josef Sommer. It was very interesting to see the set, where half of the stage area was Helene Hanff's NYC apartment and the other half was the Marks & Co. bookstore.

I moved to NYC in 1985 and my first job was at the Doubleday Book Shop at 673 Fifth Avenue, at the NE corner of 53rd Street. (It is no longer there; Nelson Doubleday having sold the bookstores which bore his name to Barnes & Noble,which only kept the larger shop down, the street at 724 Fifth Avenue across from Trump Tower, but it can be seen in "The Boys in the Band", "The Owl and the Pussycat", and "The War Between Men and Women".) I worked there until 1988, my final position being one of the assistant managers. Helene Hanff loved that book store and came by regularly to see the staff and autograph copies of her famous book. I got to meet her and told her of my love of her book, play, and the David Jones film with Anne Bancroft and Anthony Hopkins, and in my copy, she inscribed, "To Ron, of my favorite Doubleday bookshop - the kind of fan every author should have! Helene Hanff".

Like Helene, when I finally made it to London in 1990, the Marks & Co. bookstore was gone, but we did manage to find the spot where it had stood. Yes, there was a plaque outside and it was at that time a record shop, but copies of the books she wrote were on sale inside. So, at least for me, like Helene says in her book..."whatever you go looking for in London...it's there." It was!

I write this in tribute to a wonderfully feisty woman who will always be with us, thanks to Anne Bancroft's magnificently warm portrayal (although Ellen Burstyn was equally good). When she died April 9, 1997, I clipped the obituary from the paper and tucked it inside my copy. Bravo, Miss Hanff!

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That's wonderful that you actually met Helene Hanff. Her letter to me was so warm and pleasant, I can easily imagine how much fun she must have been in person.

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