Nothing funny will be said here tonight. I thought you should know that right up front, because tonight I went to say goodbye to someone who is losing her battle with cancer. Texts were pinged. Emails were sent. Calls were made. Come say goodbye. It’s time. I had no idea she was even dying. See. No chance of being funny.
Her name is Bonnie Tiegel and if you’re a celebrity – you’ve probably met her. She is almost always – the only person smiling at you when you walk up to Mary Hart or Mark Steines or a host of other hosts as you make your way down that blood red sea of media folk. She is the bubbly smile and warm hug that greets everyone everyday no matter her mood – no matter where she is – no matter who you are. Everyone loves Bonnie and Bonnie loves everyone. She is a mother figure to so many people it’s impossible to keep count. But WE didn’t always have the best of relationships – in fact we barely spoke – and that is why this news – has hit me like a ton of bricks – because the second I got the terrible text – I knew I had to see her. I suddenly felt drawn to “right” what now felt like such a “wrong.” How do you say goodbye to someone when you have so much more to say than that one oh so definite word?
The hospital was packed with friends and family and the tears instantly poured down my face. I wasn’t going to be able to keep it together. No way. No how. I couldn’t even look at the people who were there because I thought I was going to lose it completely. The last time I saw Bonnie was at her office at Entertainment Tonight. It’s right down the lot from where we shoot Baby Daddy and yet – I never go there. Many know why – but mostly – it’s the scene of so many crimes I just can’t go in there without feeling doomy and awful. But I went specifically to go see Bonnie who I had heard was sick but had kicked cancers ass. I wanted to go see that she was okay. Bonnie and I had been through a lot together at ET and quite frankly NONE of it was good. I was the new guard arguing with the older guard and we were always pitted against each other and I was too stupid to realize that none of it fucking mattered. She was just trying to do her job. She just didn’t want to be fired. I remember when we were in London together covering the Alice In Wonderland premiere. It was Bonnies job to get Mary on the greeting line to shake Prince Charles and Camillas hands. We would have a camera crew cover it. It was a huge deal because we had already shot the wrap arounds that said Mary met them – it had to happen or we were screwed. This was a big fucking deal – like life threatening. Long story short – we got Mary on that line – and although we were quite battered for it – for the first time Bonnie and I realized – we were actually on the same team. We weren’t the enemy. We knew who it was – but it wasn’t either of us. We stayed up all night in our bathrobes and ate room service that cost way more than we were allowed on our per diem. But we didn’t care. We had won. Victory was ours. Sadly, once back home, our new found friendship went by the way side. I’m sure it was my pig headed stupidity. I have to have everything my way at work. We were back to being scared people at a crazy job – fighting to stay sane and keep our bank accounts in the black. Bonnie has given her life to that job and that job has taken it. Thats what the news business does. But she gave it gladly – with a smile on her face and hugs from her heart.
And so tonight I went to be there with her and hope that somehow she would get this message from me – that hearing what she was going through made me realize that none of it mattered – none of it. That’s right – I got hit with a big fat cliche.
I walked into her room, her eyes barely open, and said “Really Bonnie? You know they don’t let me in nice places like this.” For the first time in my life I think I really understood the expression – her face lit up. It did. Mark Steines had come into the room with me as the three of us have shared some amazingly awful times together. He said – look who I brought Bonnie. She just kept saying “oh my god, oh my god, oh my god.” I knew then that coming was a good idea. But to me it seemed like the only thing TO do. Mark told some stories and she laughed. I sat by her side and held her hand. After a bit Mark had to leave but I couldn’t get up. I literally could not get up out of the chair. I couldn’t let go of her hand. Her eyes were closed. I didn’t even think she could hear me. Her breathing was so soft and deep and peaceful and again I just burst into tears. I kept wanting to ask her – where she was – how she felt – what was she thinking about. I was desperately looking for some clarity as to what it all means and for some reason I was convinced she would give it to me if I could just ask. There were so many people waiting to say goodbye and so I said “I have to go Bonnie.” Suddenly her eyes popped open and she spoke with such clarity as she said over and over again – “I love you so much. I miss you every day. I think about you all the time. You are always in my heart. I never stop thinking about you.” It was like she HAD to tell me. I said all the same things back to Bonnie, because I HAD to tell her too. I told her that I would always keep her in my heart and my mind. I also told her I was going to write about her. She said – “please.” I will never forget that moment. The tears were literally pouring down my face onto her skin. We never stopped holding hands. I know I’m not the first person to face losing someone and realizing that it’s important not to sweat the small stuff when the big thing is right out there looming every day. But I feel the clarity now. I will definitely think differently about the way I war with people. Sometimes it’s so damn silly. And while this may seem like making someones death all about me – this is just what i do – I write about things to set my mind straight. So, just deal with it.
I used to call Bonnie – Mrs. Tingle – it’s so long ago that I don’t even remember why – but I do know this – she is loved and I’m so happy I got to say goodbye.