Michael O’Keefe












To begin with, there are two things you should know about me. One: I abhor name-dropping. As if, because I know so and so, my staggering lack of personal or professional achievement is impossible to posit in your mind, whatever that is, and mine as well, whoever the hell I am. And because I don’t know what a mind is, and I feel that you will never believe I know myself, what I consist of, or, who I am, I name drop.

Like, “I was with ‘so and so’ once, so, how d’ya like me now?”

I consider it a specious form of self aggrandizement flaunted by persons of, at best, a dubious character.

Secondly, Bonnie Raitt is my ex-wife. Pretty cool. Right? I know.

Anyway, we divorced in 2000, after almost nine years of marriage and over a decade of being together. Because we had a prenup, it was a relatively simple chore. Except for the devastating sense of failure, loss, shame, my deplorable behavior leading up to the divorce, her understandable rage, excoriating manner, and capacity to insult me that only blues musicians adept at the dozens could truly appreciate, it was no big thing. Ahem.

When we met, we fell very much into something that some have called, ‘love.’ I find that word the iceberg lettuce of the vocabulary: no caloric value. Then one day, I forget when, we weren’t in that, whatever it is, anymore but in something more like a question than a fact.

I went from a VIP pass holder in her life, which included, dinners at the Springsteens, touring with Clapton, and front row seats at the Grammys, Rock N Roll Hall of Fame, and White House invitations to, that fucking asshole that broke Bonnie Raitt’s heart. But of course, that was just a story, not without its merits, but like all stories, shaded by those who had a vested interest in its perpetuation.

Which, of course, leads to Henrí Poincaré, genius mathematician of the early 20th Century who won a prize put up by King Oscar of Sweden to solve, “The Three Body Problem,” which, when solved, determines the location of three bodies, such as the Sun, Jupiter, and Saturn, at any given moment in time based on their relationship to each other. But you probably already guessed that was where I was heading.

Upon receiving the award, providing a manuscript of his thesis for publication, and kibitzing with his jury, Poincaré came to a horrifying realization. He’d made mistake in him math and only he knew it. He was so far ahead of his time that only he knew what was missing from his prize-winning theory. To his credit, he was forthcoming, utilized the prize money, and then some, to halt its publication and pay for the reprint, after fixing his error, and was awarded the prize all the same.

Like Poincaré, I had determined Bonnie’s location, my location, and the location of that crucial object, the relationship, and could locate all three at any point in time. Or so I thought. And because no one else was as adept as me in that determination, no one knew the flaw in my determination. And, unlike Poincaré, I am not a genius, prone to certain errors, and, am usually the last to know the truth about me. In this case, what I didn’t know would fill a thesis, the weight of which, Poincaré would find staggering. I knew what I wanted. I wanted Bonnie. What I didn’t know was that I didn’t know that I didn’t know what that meant, who she was, and, more importantly, who I was. In short, the man I was at thirty-six, was not the man I thought I was. And now that I’m fifty-seven, married again, and expecting my first child, I’m here to tell you unless you know what not knowing means, you have no idea how bad an idea self-knowledge is. Know what I mean? Probably not.

Which, of course, brings me to the Prajna Paramita Heart Sutra, the filet mignon of the Heart Sutra, that treatise on wisdom beyond wisdom Zen students, among others, have a passion for. Essentially, it’s a four-fold deconstruction of the One and the Many, leading to the capacity to see things as they are, and, more importantly, as they are not. For instance, this is a stage I stand on, but the word, ‘stage,’ indicates a concept of a place apparently solid, which is not solid but is actually moving, just as all things are, therefore this is not a stage. Therefore, this is and is not a stage and this, ‘not a stage,’ is no less a concept, therefore this is not a stage, and not, ‘not a stage.’ And all the world’s a stage. No stage, no world, no me, no Bonnie, no thing. No kidding.





See, I thought I’d located Bonnie and I, quite wrongly thought, that location to be outside of me. I thought her to be somewhere out there. Somewhere else. Somewhere other than inside me, something other than me, and that failure of determination in space lead to an eventual loss of gravitational pull between us until our orbits passed so far from their original paths that no light from any sun shone anywhere near, leading to a darker night than night, an inhuman darkness, without stars, without a moon, and without, yes, love. There. I said it.

Upon our divorce her friends became ‘her friends’ and not ‘my friends.’ This was also true of ‘our house,’ which became, ‘her house,’ and our town, which became, off-limits. And so, I was flung out of my gravitational pattern, spiraled in and out of control, in and out of bars, beds, lives, and loves until I was convinced that my life, at least my love life, most resembled an unfinished August Strindberg play, so dark and alluring that he could only take it out of a drawer annually to admire it but realize he could never finish it because even he didn’t understand what the hell it was about. Yet, he loved to contemplate its tragic pull like a junkie loves the post pop self he lives and dies for every day.

Then, I met someone who brought to me, and brought out in me, all those feelings I thought should be a part of love, but, if I am to be truthful, had only darted in and out of view before, and because I lacked insight, and thought them to be the ‘be all end all’ I’d been hoping for, I’d missed their reality. But, really, they all paled in comparison when my wife came into my life.

That was over two years ago. And now we’re pregnant. Does this essay make me look fat? No? Thanks. Really.

Anyway, Bonnie and I got over the initial hurt and have always been in touch, especially around family matters. She had a rough run of death recently, losing both her parents, one to stroke, one to Alzheimers, her brother to brain cancer, and her best friend to some other horrible kind of cancer. And one of the few people she could be in touch with who intimately knew her relationships was me. So, when these folks passed I wrote her. I wrote that I knew that no matter how much she struggled with her experience of her parents her passion for reaching out to them was evident and plain. No matter how painful the loss of her beloved brother Steve hurt, he died knowing that his sister adored him, and though her friend, and mine, Stephen Bruton, died an agonizing death in a cancer-ridden body, he closed his eyes one day knowing that, his best friend was there to take care of his legacy. See, I loved all those people too, and though my love was ancillary to their lives, Bonnie’s love was their life. I was one of the few people who could remind her of that. And that’s a good thing.

When Bonnie made her first record in seven years she called me to say, “Baby, I’m so miserable without you it’s just like having you here.” Actually, she didn’t say that. She said, “I’m cutting one of your songs on my record and would like you to come to my show at the Greek.”

“No shit,” I replied. “Wow. Um, maybe we should have lunch first to break the ice,” which we just did. We had lunch on my birthday and spent over two hours together. After reminiscing, briefly touching on the past, which I reflected upon saying, “I wish I could’ve found a better way to say, Goodbye,” we left the waterside restaurant. After a walk on the San Francisco Bay I said the words, “Bonnie, I love you.” And she replied, “Michael, I love you too.” I never thought the day would come. But it has. And that’s redemption for you. And for me and Bonnie too.












Michael Raymond O’Keefe (born April 24, 1955) is an American film and television actor.

O’Keefe was born Raymond Peter O’Keefe, Jr. in Mount Vernon, New York, the oldest of seven children in a devoutly Roman Catholic Irish American family. His father was a law professor at Fordham University, as well as also teaching at St. Thomas of Villanova College. O’Keefe attended the American Academy of Dramatic Arts and New York University, and made his acting debut in a 1970 Colgate television commercial. He is a cousin of Will Eno.


O’Keefe’s best known film role is Danny Noonan in the comedy film Caddyshack. He received a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination for his role as the oldest son of a Marine aviator in The Great Santini, starring Robert Duvall, also nominated for an Academy Award for the film. He played a Marine in 1980 in the miniseries A Rumor of War as the friend of Brad Davis’ character, Philip Caputo, and played the lead role in the 1982 film, Split Image, as an all-American college athlete who gets lured into a religious cult by a beautiful girl (Karen Allen). He has also appeared in the independent film The Glass House, as well as starring al song side Tommy Lee Jones in the 1983 pirate adventure Nate and Hayes (also known as Savage Islands). More recently O’Keefe appeared opposite George Clooney in Michael Clayton. He has appeared twice opposite Jack Nicholson, as his son in Ironweed and as the father of a murdered girl in The Pledge. His film Frozen River was in the competition at the Sundance Film Festival in 2008. He also plays the powerful District Attorney Calvin Beckett in the film American Violet.

O’Keefe’s Broadway theatre credits include Side Man, Mass Appeal, Fifth of July, and Reckless with Mary Louise Parker.

O’Keefe’s highest profile television role to date has been his portrayal of Fred, the husband of Jackie Harris (Laurie Metcalf) on the ABC series Roseanne. O’Keefe appeared on the show from 1993 to 1995. After leaving the series, O’Keefe played the husband in the series Life’s Work, which aired after Roseanne in its final season. Additional television credits include the lead role of Simon MacHeath in the short lived Boston-based series Against the Law, which aired on Fox during the 1990-91 season, and the role of Ron Steffey in the short-lived 1992 CBS drama Middle Ages. He has guest starred on Saving Grace, The West Wing, Criminal Minds, Law & Order, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, Law & Order: Criminal Intent, House M.D., M*A*S*H, Ghost Whisperer, « Brothers and Sisters », Leverage, and The Waltons.

O’Keefe appears briefly in part 1 of the film adaptation of Atlas Shrugged as Hugh Akston.

O’Keefe was married to rock/blues singer Bonnie Raitt from April 27, 1991 to November 9, 1999 when they were divorced. He has since become a practicing Zen Buddhist.He holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Bennington College.



Articles similaires