This month's New Yorker has a nice article on Elizabeth Tashjian, otherwise known as the Nut Lady, former curator of the world's only Nut Museum, now stripped of her belongings and kept in a nursing home against her will.
Steiner is working on a book about unusual museums, titled “Performing the Nut Museum.” He sometimes has difficulty discussing it with Tashjian, because, for one thing, it’s not solely about her, and, for another, she would prefer to be writing it herself. Don Bernier, the director of a documentary called “In a Nutshell: A Portrait of Elizabeth Tashjian,” which had its New York première last week, capitulated on a similar issue: he had planned to make a film about several roadside museums, but Tashjian insisted that he narrow his focus. Genius demands its due. Years ago, at a Christmas Eve lunch at the home of Katharine Hepburn, who was Tashjian’s neighbor, Tashjian began to sing her composition “Nuts Are Beautiful.” Before too long, “away flew Kate into the kitchen,” she recalled. “It irked her that I was a polished artist—she didn’t want the attention not on her.”
Tashjian is distressed that Bernier’s film reveals the untidy state her house was found in while she was in the hospital. “Liz Taylor never showed you the interior of her house,” she said. “Whereas showing the museum proper leaves a happy taste, showing those dirty dishes in disarray belittles me, as though I am”—her voice faltered—“insane. But it happened that my kitchen drainage was stopped up, and I was ill. I was dillydallying, let’s say, gaining my poise to call a serviceman.”
Don Bernier is my brother-in-law. “In A Nutshell” is showing at film festivals all over the country; upcoming shows include Dallas on April 23, Boston on April 23 and 24, Baltimore in early May, and San Francisco in mid-May. Go! See!