Hollywood Producer, Talent Manager Joan Hyler In Critical Condition

From the Daily News:

Authorities say Hollywood producer and talent manager Joan Hyler was in critical condition after she was hit by a car Friday night on Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu, California.

Hyler, who has represented Bob Dylan and Madonna and is a former president of the nonprofit Women in Film, was hit as she was heading to a home in the area.

In a posting on the Web site of UCLA Medical Center, her family says she sustained "severe and multiple injuries."

A hospital spokesman says Hyler remained in critical condition Sunday.

Nikki Finke broke this story Saturday morning: "The Hollywood talent manager’s friends tell me that she was going to a party in Malibu last night when she was struck and thrown by a passing automobile on Pacific Coast Highway.  "She is at UCLA hospital in critical condition but hopefully stabilizing. The doctors said she’s a real fighter and in great physical shape so they’re optimistic," a pal tells me. I’ve long known and admired Joan, the CEO of Hyler Management, which is why I’m posting this."

Joan is an active member of the Jewish community. For years, I have seen her at shuls and homes around Pico-Robertson and at LimmudLA. We took Torah classes together.

Here’s a Saturday update from UCLA’s carepages.com:

Dear Friends and Family,
Thank you so very much for all of your support and love. (This post is being written by Jessica Roberts, and Nancy and Louis Berlin, her sister and brother-in-law).
Joan had just parked her car Friday evening, August 16th, on Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu, when she was struck by a passing vehicle, and sustained severe and multiple injuries. LA Sheriff officers were first on the scene, and she was taken to Pepperdine, and transferred by air to UCLA Westwood, where she is undergoing treatment.
Because she had a piece of paper in her hand with the address of the house she was going to, the officers were able to let friends and associates there know what happened, and they were able to go to UCLA and maintain a vigil overnight, and through the day Saturday.
We do not have any further details on what happened, who was involved, why, or even where her car is, and which police agency has her purse, keys etc. It’s the weekend in California, and everything is closed. Police said that a preliminary report on what happened would be available in 2 weeks.
Nancy and Louis flew in this morning, and met Larry, who also flew in in the AM.
From late Friday through mid-afternoon Saturday, doctors worked constantly to assess the injuries. It is still too early to know the extent of the damage or the severity of the injuries but Joan is responding to commands to wiggle her fingers, etc., which is encouraging.
Joan is receiving wonderful care. We will update this site regularly to keep all who know and love Joan informed. Please check here regularly for more information. Please do NOT call the hospital—the nurses are very diligent about taking the name and number of everyone who calls, and it takes them away from providing care to Joan and the other patients in the ICU. They have requested that Jessica, Larry, Louis and Nancy be the conduits for information about Joan to her friends and associates.

Here’s a Sunday update from UCLA’s carepages.com:

The reports are more encouraging, but Joan is not out of the woods yet. There are plenty of positive signs, but still a lot of unknowns, so it’s a wait and see scenario. Medically, it is way too complicated to describe, but from a non-professional, here are the positive signs:

–Joan does not need any more blood. She did go through 40 units, however, and the medical staff here was quick to suggest that people who want to participate in her recovery, emotionally, should give blood to replenish the blood bank supply. It won’t go directly to Joan, but it will make sure that there is more available for other patients in the coming weeks.

–We’re going in and talking to Joan. She seems to be responding. I spent some time davening schachris (praying the morning prayers), and she stirred a lot, which I took as a sign that she understood something of what was going on. While I was there, the critical care support team came in to do an assessment, and did “move your right hand, left hand, toes” etc. And the appropriate parts of the body moved, to the small extent possible!

Until more medical progress is made, the only thing friends can do is provide emotional support. Joan is a very spiritual person. I firmly believe that we can directly support her with prayers. My tallit is on her feet, and my tefillin are in her room, so there is a physical presence of the “ruach hakodesh” (spirit of holiness), and I explained to Joan what I was doing. You can pray for her, and keep her in mind when you are donating blood.

It is also appropriate to keep Joan in mind as you do acts of hesed (kindness), either with her English name, or her Hebrew name, Miriam bat Jane v’Yehoshua. Hesed is one of those magical, non-quantifiable, actions that has strange, unpredictable, unintentional beneficial qualities. For instance, the blood Joan received was donated by strangers as acts of hesed. They had no idea who would receive it, and what it would mean to someone eventually. Charity is another—you never know who it will help.

A side benefit of hesed—it helps you as well. For instance, giving blood forces your body to work harder, refreshing your own supply, and making you stronger. You benefit directly. Charity works the same way. It reinvigorates your soul. You can give charity in Joan’s name to any appropriate place. In the past, one of the vehicles Joan has used to give money is my website, and I’ll set up a page specifically for Joan tomorrow. In the meantime, you can log onto the donation page at www.lamedvuvnik.org, if you want, and note in the memo field that it is a segulah for a refuah shlema (an amulet for a complete recovery), if who wish to donate that way. We’ll put the money to work in Israel, with some of the people we met when Joan was part of our family “tikkun olam” (world repair) tour in ’04.

The first result in Google today for Joan’s name is a page on Rabbi Shlomo Schwarz’s ChaiCenter.org site:

JOAN HYLER founded HYLER MANAGEMENT with partner Larry Scissors in l995 after having been a Senior Vice President of the William Morris Agency where she represented such icons as BOB DYLAN, ANDY WARHOL, MERYL STREEP, MADONNA, PETER O’TOOLE, ANN-MARGARET among others. JOAN HYLER has additionally specialized in the development of talent at both William Morris and HYLER MANAGEMENT and her long term current clients have achieved great success and great acclaim. Included among these Tony, Emmy and Oscar nominated clients are: DIANE LANE (Oscar nominated for Unfaithful); ERIC MCCORMACK (Emmy winner and star of "Will and Grace") ALFRED MOLINA (Doc Ock in Spiderman and Tony nominated for both "Art" and "Fiddler on the Roof") among many others. 

Other long term clients include RUTGER HAUER (with whom HYLER produced the feature film "Precious Find"), RICKI LAKE, ALYSSA MILANO, ANNABETH GISH, SHARON LAWRENCE who starred in the television comedy "Ladies Man" for CBS which HYLER produced with ALFRED MOLINA; and client BRUCE VILANCH. HYLER co produced the Miramax documentary "Get Bruce" as well as his hit off Broadway play "Almost Famous". 

A former President of Women in Film, JOAN HYLER created both the Morning Star Commission and the Entertainment Council of the National Foundation for Culture. With Howard Bragman they created and produced the successful Jewish Image Awards. A visiting professor at USC, JOAN HYLER travels and lectures all over the world on film as well as womens’ issues retaining a Board position on the Women in Film Foundation.

LUKE SAYS: This news hit me like a punch in the stomach Monday morning. I found out about the accident from LAObserved.com.

Though I’ve been acquainted with Joan for over a decade, I’ve only gotten to know her over the past few months.

Joan has an approach to Torah that drives me crazy. She’s very spiritual and I am not at all spiritual. She’s sensitive to the presence of God while God feels very distant to me. She’s always looking for mystical meanings in text that I just don’t see. It always seems to me like she’s coming from left-field. I want to scream and shout. She drives me nuts. I love that about her. When I listen to her Torah thoughts, I grit my teeth and ball up my fists and want to shove them into my mouth to stop myself from screaming "No! No! No!"

So now I’m looking at the entries devoted to her on carepages.com and I want to say something supportive and I’m utterly stymied because I’m not good at supporting people. I feel more comfortable shredding people. But I must say something so I type out a complete lie: "Dear Joan, I’m praying for you."

I don’t pray for anyone (except for when I do, and when I do, it is so tortured by lack of belief that it’s just an incoherent cry). I don’t believe in petitionary prayer. It doesn’t seem rational to me.

I’m going nuts because I know I’ve discussed these things with Joan and I know that her views on these matters drives me crazy.

I’m reading comments on Joan’s section of carepages.com such as "HaShem will watch over you because you’re such a wonderful person," and I want to scream.

As a cry from the heart, I understand the comment. As a rational statement, I don’t buy it.

I don’t deny it either. God may extend more protection to good people. It doesn’t seem to me to be the way the world works.

Joan, you drive me crazy.

Why do bad things happen to good people?

Well, why shouldn’t bad things happen to good people? Should there be an immunity from traffic accidents if you’re a good person? That doesn’t make any sense. We can’t expect God to come down and erect a shield around good people, though that is precisely what the Jewish Bible and Jewish prayer book says.

In the sh’ma, it says that if you obey God’s commandments, he will make sure that nature treats you right.

I don’t think this assertion is absurd. I believe that in a vacuum if we live according to God’s law, if we don’t despoil nature, that nature will be more likely to treat us in ways we like.

Yet, we don’t live in a vacuum. We can live righteously and yet evil can intrude into our lives and wreck things.

In Joan’s case, she was struck by a car. That driver had free will and Joan had freedom to walk where she wanted. So I don’t see car accidents — and I don’t see car acidents as "accidental" — as God’s responsibility.

Now I’m rummaging through my prayer book. It was given to me by Debbie in 1994. I’d answered a singles ad she’d placed early that year for a friend in Orlando, Florida, where her dad lived (and I lived until March 1994). She turned over everybody who’d answered the ad to her friend except me. She wanted me for herself.

She flew out from New York to LA and spent Memorial weekend (1994) with me. On Friday night, we went to Avi Davis’s house for a gathering of Australians (Debbie is a Yank).

In July, she paid for me to fly to New York to stay with her on the Upper West Side for three weeks.

I was totally broke. She gave me spending money. She took me around the city. She took me to a couple of shows on Broadway. I remember in one of them this really hot chick was naked and she was just a few feet from me and I wanted to clamber on stage and join the play.

Debbie bought me a beautiful tallit (prayer shawl) and prayer book and the self-improvement book "Begin Again."

She gave me a ton of unsolicited advice. I was needy and confused and in need of guidance but I got so much advice from Debbie, I just shut down on my first day in New York and shut her out of my heart.

While I was staying with Debbie on Broadway and 78th and living off her dime, I placed singles ads in various New York publications to meet other women. Debbie found at least one of the ads. She paid the $1.99 to call my mail box and heard my charming Aussie accent trying to pick up other chicks.

She was not thrilled.

I still got her to lend me $300 so I could buy two hours of the time of this New York talent manager who was featured in a recent  issue of Life magazine.

When I left New York, I left my wallet at her place. She went through it and found the address of a woman I’d met at B’nai Jeshurun on the Upper West Side (we ended up exchanging a few letters and some guy knocked her up and that was the last I heard).

Debbie’s therapist told her I was exploiting her and she dumped me.

Back in LA, I went back to this wonderful woman B. I was seeing prior to my trip to New York (when I’d mentioned where I was going, I got the ol’ Spanish Inquisition the night before I left about who I would be staying with and what sorts of things would we be doing together and then B. cried much of the night but she still drove me to the airport).

I get back to LA. I talk to B. She’d met some great guy while I was gone. She’d brought him back to her place. For some reason, he’d looked under her bed and found all the stuff I was storing with her. He gave her the ol’ Spanish Inquisition and that was the end of that.

So I’m back in LA. Debbie has dumped me. B.’s not real thrilled with me but she can’t deny our animal attraction.

On the nights I’m not spending with B., I’m living out of my car.

My car breaks down. It needs repairs I can’t afford.

B. says she’s talked to her family (the night I met her parents in Orange County, I holed up in their living room and watched a VHS tape of my greatest performances from acting class), friends and therapist and they all advised her to dump me. They say I’m exploiting her.

I ask her if I can borrow $500 to fix my car.

She says yes. She wants me out of her apartment that bad.

I tell her I’ll stay with a friend while my car gets fixed.

I know she has a date Saturday night.

I hang out at my friend’s doorstep in Beverly Hills. His name is Alexander Denk. I’d met him in acting class.

Twelve years later he would become famous for possibly being the father of Anna Nicole Smith’s baby Dannielynn.

It’s about 11 pm. It’s cold. Alexander isn’t home. I go into the woods next to Beverly Hills High School. I lie down and try to sleep. It is not comfortable.

I walk over to B.’s place. I wait till her lights go out. I assume that means her date is gone. I ring her buzzer and explain I need a place to stay.

She isn’t too happy with me but she lets me up.

She says she was going to sleep on the couch.

I persuade her to let me sleep on the couch and she can keep her the big warm bed all to herself.

The next day I walk seven miles to Venice and pick up my car, which would be my home for the next six months until I total it in the rain on Kanan Dunan Road while racing to a rendezvous with this beautiful woman from my acting class.

I never got to work through those scenes with this hot chick. Instead I bought the hideous vehicle I’ve been saddled with for 13 years now and my social life has never recovered.

Oh, 1994, those were the days. I was a ruthless exploiter of women. Such a shame I’m old and fat now.

I realize you must think this is the most hideously disrespectful post I could make about Joan’s car accident but trust me, when she reads it, she’ll understand that this is my way of saying, "I’m praying for you."

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see Amazon.com). My work has been covered in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and on 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (Alexander90210.com).
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