The Strange and Mysterious Death of Mrs. Jerry Lee Lewis
In his classic 1984 essay, Richard Ben Cramer wonders if Jerry Lee Lewis got away with his wife's murder.
Richard Ben Cramer died one year ago this week and he is still sorely missed. His career began at the Baltimore Sun during the Watergate Era, blossomed at the Philadelphia Inquirer, where he won a Pulitzer for his reportage in the Middle East, and broadened in the 1980s when he conquered the long magazine profile with his enduring Esquire piece on Ted Williams. Cramer then dove headfirst into publishing with an exhaustive account of the 1988 presidential election in What It Takes, and followed that with a bestselling biography of Joe DiMaggio. At every turn, Cramer was a masterful storyteller.
“I’m the guy on the barstool, telling them the story,” Cramer told Robert Boynton in The New New Journalism. “And they’re in the armchair listening. As long as I can keep them from remembering that they’ve got to go home tonight, we’re good.”
I got to know Cramer over the last six-and-a-half years of his life. Met him on the D train going to Yankee Stadium one day and spent that afternoon watching a ballgame with him in the press box. He made me feel like a peer, like I belonged—no small gesture. He was charming and generous, as he was to so many others, and I was in good company in calling him a friend. Not an intimate friend, not mishpocheh, exactly, but a friend.