Yesterday Kathryn Joosten died.
She was, of course, best known for playing Martin Sheen’s executive secretary, Mrs. Landingham, on The West Wing, but actually, the first time I saw her in anything was a couple of years before I even considered The West Wing. On Scrubs, she played the old lady in “My Old Lady,” from season one. “I’ve got a ton of bricks for a Dr. Dorian?”
I haven’t watched Scrubs in years, but every time I think about the show, I think about “My Old Lady” and how devastating it was the first time I saw it. The voiceover at the beginning was about how one in three patients who come to the hospital won’t leave it alive, so imagine my surprise and sadness when none of the three patients the episode focused on made it. Ms. Joosten’s arc was particularly poignant, because she, the dying woman, had to comfort the green young doctor on the occasion of his “first” death.
And then of course, there’s this:
It’s really iconic. Ms. Joosten and Aaron Sorkin created a character that may even be the most beloved of the whole cast, even though they killed her off after two seasons (though she does reappear in a flashback in my favorite episode of season three, “Bartlet for America”).
The following meme has been floating around my Facebook news feed since the news of Ms. Joosten’s death hit the internet:
But I keep coming back to Mrs. Landingham and that gorgeous scene in the Oval Office. Not even the obvious bits like “But if you don’t run because you think it’ll be too hard, or because you think you’re gonna lose, well, God, Jed, I don’t even wanna know you,” but a line that actually belongs to Bartlet.
MRS. LANDINGHAM: You don’t know how to use the intercom.
BARTLET: It’s not that I don’t know how to use it, it’s just that I haven’t learned yet.
I’ve been dealing with a bit of doubt on the singing front lately. I’m doing some rather important young artist program auditions, and I’m a little nervous that I’m not up to scratch. I can’t sustain notes higher than a high C, and even my high C is iffy sometimes. I’m not offering any repertoire that shows the high C. All of my audition repertoire feels a little collegiate and lame.
But here’s my new philosophy. It’s not that I can’t sing a high D–I just haven’t learned how yet. It’s not that I can’t sing more sophisticated repertoire–I just haven’t learned it yet. And as Kathryn Joosten’s life and career proves, you are never too old to learn, never too old to change directions, never too old to follow your dream. [NB: I don’t actually think I’m too old–I currently tend to have the opposite problems!–but when I look around at my friends and colleagues and what they’re singing and presenting in auditions, I feel like I’m way behind.]
Thank you for everything, Ms. Joosten. You will be missed.