Personally, I would love to be a recluse, withdrawn from society and enshrouded in mystique, with only a bagel shop and a P.O. box as my daily destinations. But for some reason, “recluse” is regarded as a pejorative word, as I discovered when I profiled Sly Stone for Vanity Fair—his family vehemently denied that his secretive, shadowy life qualified as reclusive—and again when I worked on my just-published V.F. piece about the late filmmaker John Hughes. Hughes’s sons, like Sly’s relatives, were adamant that their father, contrary to popular belief, was utterly engaged in the world.
I have to agree with them: Hughes was disengaged from Hollywood, which made him a recluse in the film industry’s eyes, but he otherwised lived a normal, out-and-about life in his later years, going to restaurants and hockey games in the Chicago area, opening his home to his and his kids’ friends, and inveterately schmoozing waitresses, garage attendants, and cab drivers when he traveled to New York and London. His was the quiet life of a successful man uninterested in fame, not the misanthropic world of a crank like J.D. Salinger—or the perpetual twilight of the drug- and paranoia-addled Sly.
I’m especially pleased that, as a sidebar to the main piece, we (V.F. and me) are able to present for the first time some short, light fiction that Hughes wrote for fun in his later years, under the pseudonym JL Hudson. One story, “The Things That Bother Jeanne Marie on Friday, January 16, 2006, 4:04 p.m.,” seems to directly acknowledge (and mock) the idea of withdrawn, self-involved crankiness.