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Scientific Staff The Laboratory has been home to many scientists in fields ranging from genetics to neuroscience to bioinformatics. As a visiting or resident researcher at CSHL, what experiences are your most memorable?

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Old 09-16-2005, 06:41 PM
Waclaw Szybalski Waclaw Szybalski is offline
Location: Madison, Wisconsin
Join Date: Feb 2001
Posts: 0
Default A Weekend with Audrey Hepburn, 1951

The socialite neighbors and friends of the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratories (CSHL) had the custom to invite staff scientists from time to time to their formal or less formal parties, especially if the CSHL staff were singles and did mix well with their non-scientist guests. Following one such occasion in 1951, our friends in common asked me to take care of their house guest. They had some other obligation that weekend. I was introduced to an apparently promising young European actress, who was staying at their country estate on Center Island, L.I., soon after arriving from Europe, while she was on her USA tour. I was told that her name was Audrey Hepburn. As a scientist, I really did not know at that time who she was (moreover, she was still "unknown" in the USA), but I decided that I had to help my U.S. friends. Thus, I guided her through the Cold Spring Harbor laboratories, I introduced her to the Director, Milislav Demerec, and his wife, and we had tea. I took her also to the lab of my friend Barbara McClintock, since she indicated to me that she would like to meet an outstanding lady-scientist. On Barbara's advice we visited the Whaling Museum in Cold Spring Harbor, and then I took her out for a short sail on the L.I. Sound, if I remember correctly. In the early evening, we walked and walked along the outer harbor beach and "visited" the Tiffany Estate, which consisted of a fairytale-like mansion, greenhouses and a multi-story bird house, all of them then partially abandoned and fully accessible; Audrey told me that she really enjoyed this spooky but charming experience "under the moonlight".

Though she was not a scientist, I found out very soon that Audrey was very charming, intelligent and entertaining. I really enjoyed taking care of her while escorting her during this summer weekend. The next day we visited the Vanderbilt Mansion, later we were invited to attend one or two parties at big homes on Long Island, and in the evening we went to an Annual Ball at the Military Academy near Cold Spring Harbor, all the formal black-tie affairs. She was really a wonderful and talented dancing partner.

We met several times more, and I considered Audrey my dear friend; as she became famous, she invited me to some of her theater productions, including Gigi in New York in 1951 and Ondine in New York in 1954, where she introduced me to Mel Ferrer, if I remember all the dates correctly. After 1960, when I moved to Wisconsin, I saw her only rarely, but I remember urging her around 1990 to have a colonoscopy, based on my own sad experience and also trying to invoke my authority as a Professor of Oncology. I was nearly compulsive about it. I urge practically all persons close to me to have a colonoscopy after 50, because I do not want to lose any of them prematurely. -- I was heart broken when I heard about Audrey's premature death in 1993. Why didn't she listen to me and why did I not urge more and take better care of her? I am still feeling guilty for the loss of the greatest lady of the theater and my dearest friend. She was a true Great Lady!

The years of 1950 to 1956 were wonderful days of my work at the Long Island Biological Laboratory (now CSHL), where every door was then always open (there were no locks), when we worked days and/or nights while always enjoying it, and when the social life was flourishing. Again, I like to urge all my friends to undergo a colonoscopy soon after 50 (I had over ten), since due to such neglect I lost several other dear friends and colleagues, besides Audrey, and I nearly lost my only brother.

Last edited by Marisa Macari : 11-29-2005 at 02:34 PM.
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