Meg Myles is alive, well and thriving in New York City.
That’s the bottom line of the response to last week’s column, which reported a former Tracyite seeking her whereabouts had been told that she had died two years ago in a Southern California rest home.
It was third-hand information, which I reported as the most-accurate information available, but I was remiss in not stressing that the information was not as solid as it needed to be, and unconfirmed. I’ve been in the news business long enough to know better, but I suspect I was just a bit too anxious to chronicle Meg’s long and interesting career.
"I plead guilty as charged," I told the former Billee Jean Jones over the phone Wednesday afternoon, after she had sent me an e-mail reporting that her death, as Mark Twain said of himself a century ago, "was greatly exaggerated."
In her e-mail and over the phone, Meg was really quite gracious, saying she thought it strange, but almost funny, when she first heard the news of her premature demise from New York friends and former Tracy High classmates. After she thought it over, though, she said she was a bit concerned if the erroneous report could cause angst among friends and could result in possible professional problems.
Meg said she first heard of her supposed death in a phone call from Joan Gregson Herrold, a fellow Tracy High 1950 classmate living in Concord. (The classmate with whom Meg had retained the closest ties, Helen Haynie Kastner, died several years ago in Stockton. Had she still been alive, Helen would have been my first contact.)
A message from a friend in Seattle followed, and then her New York friends followed suit.
"I realize that with so much information, speculation and celebrity worship in our world of today, and with the Internet, any anonymous being can create a Web site and post anything they want to say about anybody," she wrote in her e-mail. "I do not have a Web site, nor do I want to. I do not want to be in Facebook or any other sites that present me, but there seems to be little that can be done to stop that."
She noted that one Web site proclaimed "Meg Myles is dead," and that message "had grown into a whole thing about me, with pictures, comments from friends whom I have never heard of or seen."
I assured her that my next column (this one) would proclaim her to be alive and active in the Big Apple.
And active in the theater world of New York she continues to be. Meg told me over the phone Wednesday that she had recently appeared in "Snapshots," which included short one-act plays.
Meg remains co-artistic director of the American Renaissance Theater Company, described as a workshop of theater professionals including Meg, who as one friend said, "is currently an active and vital member."
She also is an active member of New York City Playwrights Workshop.
"As a lady of certain age, 76," as Meg describes herself, "I’m still living on Riverside Drive with a view of the Hudson River and Miracle Plane Landing. I have never lived in a nursing home anywhere. My hair is natural, auburn underneath a frosting of grey..."
For a number of years, Meg has been involved in a project saving injured wild birds.
At her age, Meg told me, she should be playing grandmotherly roles on stage, adding, "But I just don’t look like a grandmother." There are plenty other roles, however, she is performing in her wide variety of stage activities.
And if I needed any confirmation of her place in the New York theater world, the scores of e-mails I have received in recent days from her friends and colleagues certainly provided that — in spades.
Typical of the e-mail messages from Meg’s friends is this one from Carolyn Young Braverman: "Just got an e-mail from Meg this evening. Seems she’s not dead after all. Don’t think they’ve yet perfected e-mail from ‘the other side.’ She’s as feisty as ever and as creative and artistic as well. Hope you can tell the world Meg Myles is alive and kicking."
For me, one positive aspect of this whole episode is that I did have a cordial, lively half-hour telephone conversation with Meg, along with several e-mails. From what she told me (and sounded like), I expect Meg to remain active in her long and very successful acting career for many years to come.
• Sam Matthews, Tracy Press publisher emeritus, can be reached at 830-4234 or by e-mail at email@example.com.