Still Me - Exclusive Interview with June Fox
In "Acknowledgments" at the beginning of Still Me, Christopher Reeve had
this to say about the woman who assisted him by transcribing his words:
I am especially indebted to June Fox, who became much more than a
transcriber of my thoughts. I literally could not have written the book
While maintaining this website, I was fortunate to have been contacted
by June, who graciously agreed to an e-mail interview. Here she answers
a number of questions we at the Christopher Reeve Homepage had put
together. Thank you June! :)
Q: Would you please tell us a little about yourself and your work?
June Fox with Chris Reeve
June: I'm primarily a science editor. Most of my professional life has been spent
in New York working on college textbooks, with two years spent working in San
Francisco. I've been extremely lucky, because the authors I've worked with
have often been fascinating and occasionally eccentric. Several
have become dear friends.
Q: Is Christopher Reeve the first author with whom you have worked? If not, can you tell us a little about previous projects and when in your career they took
June: Chris was the first author I worked with who wasn't an academic. The
experience was unique, because I had always worked with physicists,
mathematicians, musicologists, psychology professors. My favorites were the
physicists. My theory is that their deep feelings about the enormity and
majesty of the universe and the powerful forces at work here seem to give
physicists a particular kind of humility that I admire. Interestingly,
Chris shares this quality.
Q: What are you working on now?
June: I'm writing copy for a website called CraftArt that will be selling crafts online starting July 1st. And I'm working with a friend who is a therapist on a sort of self-help book for gays. It's a potentially fascinating project.
Q: You mentioned that Roger Rosenblatt, who was originally signed to co- author "Still Me", bowed out because Chris felt no one else can "get into my
head" and that he needed to work alone. How far into the book did Chris decide
this and how did you become involved?
June: Roger conducted a series of private interviews with Chris, then drafted
several chapters based on these discussions. I think there were about 70
hours of taped conversations. I don't think the collaboration worked as well
as Chris had hoped. Anyway, it turned out that Chris was more than capable of
doing the book solo. He had no way of knowing this before he started, as this
was his first book.
And I think that Random House was initially more comfortable with the idea
that there would be a coauthor. They liked knowing that an experienced writer
would be working with this previously unpublished celebrity. But as the book
progressed, it became clear to everyone that Chris has a talent for writing.
He not only has a fascinating story, but an exceptional ability to tell it.
He is amazingly articulate. He has delivered polished and entertaining
speeches with no notes or advance preparation - commencement addresses at
universities, even speeches for Congress. He is one of the most organized and
lucid people I have ever met.
Q: What was the procedure you and Chris followed for writing "Still Me"? Did you work from his house and how often did you meet?
June: We worked at his house in New York, in his study overlooking a wooded area and a pond. He would dictate, and I would read back to him. During the summer, I also spent a few days working with him at his home in Williamstown,
Massachusetts (the picture on the cover of STILL ME was taken there). He and
his wife Dana are still involved with the summer theatre there. We worked
several days a week over a ten month period.
We usually started at about 11:30 A.M., because it takes Chris and his aides a
few hours to ready him for the day. We always worked nonstop until dinner
time. He has a lot of energy and self-discipline. I usually stayed for
another hour or so inserting changes and printing out fresh copies of the
After I printed the day's work, I put a copy of it on a music stand in his
office. The next day, we would go through it, page by page, making
revisions. Chris is a perfectionist, so we went through each chapter a
minimum of four times, making improvements.
Q: Was there an outline where Chris went back and forth between his injury and
his previous life or did he just talk and organize it later?
June: He didn't work from an outline, but he had one in his head. He had an amazing ability to organize as he went along. He never just free-associated - he
always knew where he was going. He tried to organize everything he wanted to
say around certain key themes (the accident, his time in rehab, his career,
his childhood, his courtship with Dana, and his life now). There was very
little reshuffling that had to be done later, just some duplication of
material that had to be trimmed.
Q: Parts of the first two chapters describe Dana's activities in the first days
after the accident while Chris was unconscious. How was that part of the book
done? Did you transcribe Dana's recollections?
June: Dana and Chris had done a lot of talking about those days, so they had already worked out most of the details together. Dana read the chapters after Chris
was finished working on them. She made a few corrections to things that she
recalled somewhat differently , and she suggested a few additional anecdotes
that Chris hadn't included but that she believed were important. The most
notable one involved something Will said to her and other family members when
Chris was still hospitalized: about how Chris wouldn't be able to walk or
play ball but would still be able to smile. Dana came in one morning while we
were working and recounted the incident, and I typed it up as she spoke. Then
Chris and I revised and finalized it. We all worked well together. It all
Q: Could you tell us a humorous story about working with Chris?
June: There was this very large, peaceful dog named Oliver that spent a lot of time at Chris's house. Occasionally he would wander into the study while we were
working, just look at us for a minute, and wander out again. I think he
belonged to one of Will's baby sitters. One day, I looked out the window as
Chris was dictating, and I saw Oliver, trotting happily across the yard, with
one of the neighbors 'chickens dangling from his mouth. I rose from my chair
with an involuntary cry -- "ohmigod" or something like that. Chris, who was
always sure that some computer glitch was going to erase everything we had
done, immediately shot back an alarmed, "What's the matter??? Did we lose
everything?" Much of the rest of the day was spent trying to figure out what
to do with the dog and, especially, how to break the news to the neighbors.
It was pretty funny at the time. Maybe you had to be there. Really, the
funniest things were certain anecdotes Chris put into the book -- his stories
about Robin Williams, for example. And whenever Chris spoke about Katharine
Hepburn, he would do an uncannily perfect imitation of her voice, which always
made me laugh. And then there were funny little details I can't reveal --
such as when he told me who the poor boyfriend actually was, in his anecdote
about the girl Chris was.... well, never mind.
Q: Could you tell us a serious story about working with Chris?
June: The most upsetting thing for Chris is when something confines him to his bed. While working on the book, this happened a couple of times. One day his
doctor told him that he would have to stay in bed for a month in order for a
wound to heal. Chris was so depressed about this that he sent me home. He
asked me to do what I could on the current chapter on my own, and to come back
the next morning. By the next day, he was in complete control of his
emotions and we were able to continue working. I just moved the laptop and
the music stand with the manuscript on it into his bedroom. By then one of
the aides had set up a computer monitor, so that Chris could see what I was
typing, and we moved that in there, too. I have tremendous respect for the
way Chris always overcomes these emotional and physical setbacks. He does it
through the sheer force of his own will and self-discipline. He refuses to
give in to self-pity. I don't think many people could do what he does.
Other serious moments centered around sensitive material that he decided to
cut from the manuscript. Most of the people Chris writes about in the book
are still living, obviously, and he was very concerned about not hurting them
unnecessarily. He often cut something to protect someone's feelings.
Frequently, these were passages that were particularly powerful or emotional,
and there were a few I felt were important and wished he would leave in the
book. We had several discussions about this issue. I tried to convince him
that his openness and honesty would only serve to make his book even more
valuable to readers with similar experiences or challenges. My bias is
generally in the "leave it in, tell it like it is" direction. Sometimes I
could persuade him, and sometimes his caution prevailed. The wonderful thing
was that he was always willing to give me a hearing.
Q: What is your most memorable moment from working on "Still Me"?
Chris Reeve with his son Will
June: I really don't have one. It was all memorable. I was particularly touched by his interactions with his children. When Will came home from school,
everything would stop for him. He would come running in to see Chris, and
even if Chris was mid-sentence, Chris would stop short. He would give Will a
big smile, ask him questions about his day, let him crawl all over his dad.
Sometimes Will would sit on my lap and type. This would slow things down enormously, and Chris was very conscientious about deadlines, but they were just not as important as spending time with Will.
I met his older children, too, Matthew and Ali, and they are lovely. Chris
always has time to stop and listen to his children., no matter what else is
going on. They come first, and you can see how close this has made them feel
to him. They come to him for advice on everything.
Q: What is your favorite part of Chris's book?
June: Probably the romance with Dana. I'm a romantic.
Q: Did Chris ever mention the greatest lesson he has learned during the past
June: That the way to grace and salvation is through the giving of love. This is
the enormous lesson he elaborates in the book. The importance of his
relationships with his wife and children.
He never said anything to me like, "the most important thing I've learned" or
"if this accident has taught me anything" or anything like that. But it's
pretty clear what he has taken from it. He says something else in the book
that is very moving. Something about how his acting experience had always
trained him to be "in the moment"; but that when "the moment" is so
difficult, it becomes an entirely different challenge. More than anyone else
I know, he has taken responsibility for his life and what he chooses to do
with it. There is no trivia, no frivolousness. Everything he does is because
he knows its value, from lobbying for scientific research to listening to his
wife to playing with Will.
Q: You recently went to Random House's book publication party on May 13, 1998, in honor of the release of "Still Me". Could you describe that day? Did you have a chance to talk to Chris?
June: The day was heaven. Pure euphoria. Just entering the party, wending my way through the crowds outside and the paparazzi was delightful. Everyone at the
party was floating, because we had learned that on Sunday, the book was going
to be #2 on the New York Times best seller list. I did get to speak to Chris,
and he was just basking in the success of the book. He gave a lovely little
talk to the crowd after being introduced by the president of Random House. He
thanked Dana and he thanked me, which, of course, made my night -- my week,
probably my year. I spent a lot of time talking with his mother, who is very
gracious, and with his brother Ben. I also spoke with Alec Baldwin, who is a
friend of Chris's from an organization called Creative Coalition. It's a
night I won't forget.
Q: Do you know if Chris is aware of the Christopher Reeve Homepage? Do you know what he and others associated with him think of it?
June: I've written to Chris about it, but I haven't gotten his reaction yet. I
know he will get to it. He has been overwhelmed by the onslaught of
interviews and mail that have followed the book. There wasn't time to speak
with him about the homepage at the book party, unfortunately. There was a
line of people waiting to speak with him and I didn't want to take much of his
time. I doubt he could focus on anything that night, anyway. Too much
Q: So many people love Chris and his family. Some, like members of the Light a
Star Network, are even donating their time and skills to raise money for
spinal cord research. Do you know if he is aware of the work that people are
doing and the depth of feeling for him?
June: I know that he is. And I know how much it means to him. He is very moved by the caring and the love. And hardly anything escapes him; he is a shrewd
observer of everything that goes on around him. He is still surprised at what
an icon he has become. But he is always deeply appreciative.
Q: What is Christopher Reeve REALLY like--based on your experiences, of course?
June: Gallant. Grounded. Exceptionally diplomatic and sensitive to the feelings of people around him. Gracious. An incredibly involved parent. The most self-
disciplined person I have ever met.
Q: In public, Chris always seems so confident that he will be able to walk again,
perhaps by his 50th birthday. When he is out of the spotlight, does he seem
as sure that a cure for spinal cord injury is near?
Q: When interviewed by David Letterman on May 12, Chris said that he would like to write another book after he is cured. Would you like to work with Chris
again if you have the chance?
June: What do you think?
Once again I would publicly like to thank June Fox for taking the time out to answer these questions, and for agreeing to do the interview.
Copyright notice: Photographs Copyright © 1998; June Fox. Used with author's permission.