Christopher Reeve (1952-2004)
by Warren Allen Smith
A real super man, Christopher Reeve lived a life of courage since the 1995 riding accident that left the actor paralyzed from the neck down. The 6' 4" hunk with next to no detractors has been universally hailed as an inspiration to all.
When 9, he was cast in a Gilbert and Sullivan operetta, was in Actors Equity when 15, and after graduating from high school toured the country as Celeste Holm's leading man in The Irregular Verb to Love. Holm, who has recently recovered from hip surgery, was devastated by the news of Reeve's death.
Reeve was in 150 or so plays, once saying the theater is "like a family to me," a reference to family problems before marrying Dana Morosini, mother of Will, his 11-year-old son. Ms. Gae Exton, with whom he lived but never married, is mother of his older children Matthew and Alexandra.
A liberal Democrat, he once demonstrated in Chile on behalf of 77 actors the Pinochet regime was threatening to execute. He was a liberal supporter of causes such as Save the Children, Amnesty International, People for the American Way, and his own paralysis foundation's fight for expanded stem-cell research.
Not so well known is that Reeve played piano, loved tennis, liked sailing at a vacation home in Williamstown, Mass., and that twice he flew solo across the Atlantic.
On TV in September, Oprah Winfrey asked if he thought he would ever walk again, he said he thought he would. And what if you won't be able, she asked. "Then I won't walk again," the humanist and pragmatist responded. In 1998 on a Larry King telecast, he had been asked the same, and he said he would. When King asked him if with paralysis he had any sexual feelings, Reeve jovially hinted yes.
When asked outright about God, Reeve was discreet, saying in the King telecast that "while I don't believe in God per se, I believe in spirituality. And I believe that spirituality actually is automatically within ourselves, but we have to learn how to access it, and what that is, is realizing there is a higher power; there is ... more than just us, there is an inner strength, there is something, y'know, that comes from -- I don't know where exactly it comes from, but it's -- it really is the best that humans can be and perhaps what it is -- perhaps really what it is is love."
Reeve's brother, Benjamin, a non-practicing Massachusetts lawyer, told a reporter in 1997 that Christopher didn't get his courage from God. "We're devout atheists, so that wasn't it," he added.
On Oct. 12, two days after he died of cardiac arrest, the Reeve Family commemorated his death in a small ceremony at his Pound Ridge, N.Y., home. It was officiated by a Unitarian Universalist minister. One hundred family members and close friends attended the service. The family has requested that, in lieu of flowers, donations be made to the Christopher Reeve Paralysis Foundation.
Warren Allen Smith is the author of Celebrities in Hell and WHO'S WHO IN HELL.
More of his articles: Humanist Studies
His website is located here.