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Queen of the Air : Ruth Hirschman Has Built a Power Base in National Public Radio From a Quirky Little Station in Santa Monica

March 08, 1987|DENNIS McDOUGAL

Celia now works for a music video company and lives on her own. She says she owes a great debt to the woman she calls Ruth, not Mother.

"Ruth definitely has her own energy that she works off of. She's a very strong woman and being her daughter, I've learned a lot about self-motivation, management, professionalism and imaging. I mean, she's a great mentor to work from."

Even back then, during the demonstrations and the mind-cleansing days in Greece, her family was never concerned much by money. Celia understood the traditional role reversal early. Ruth was the strong one. Jack was a poet.

"There were certainly times in our lives when we didn't have lots of money and I think that our mother wanted to help us, of course. It's probably common where roles have switched.

"But it was good, too. Once my brother and I grew up, we weren't dependent upon on her in the traditional way. Before we left home, she was becoming very active at KPFK and the like. But she was still very much a mother."

Celia laughs in spite of herself at her mother's contention that those who make it to middle age with no sense of tragedy are either foolish or saintly.

Celia stops laughing nearly as abruptly as she begins. There is a long pause. Then she speaks quickly.

"Today, with AIDS, it's probably more common, but they say there is nothing harder than for a parent to lose a child. It was hard for me as a sister. I'm not going to minimalize that. David had leukemia. He died in Ruth's arms. Literally.

"For someone to die in the middle of their youth is extraordinarily painful. That's not to be worn as a badge. But it does become part of your soul. It's not to be discounted. It's not to be highlighted. But it does become part of your life. Everything you do is touched by it."

Celia stops to take a breath.

"When mother says that no one gets through life without tragedy, she's not just talking about David. It's not just that. But that's part of it. That's a big part of it."

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