New Yorkers Share Memories of Philip Seymour Hoffman

Monday, February 03, 2014

Memorial outside of Philip Seymour Hoffman's apartment in the West Village. Memorial outside of Philip Seymour Hoffman's apartment in the West Village. (Stephen Nessen/WNYC)

We asked our followers on Facebook to share their memories of crossing paths with Philip Seymour Hoffman in the city. The stories they shared are just small glimpses of his life, but they add a nice touch to the way we will remember a man who was not only an award-winning actor, but a neighbor.

Here are the memories we've collected, edited lightly for clarity. Please share your own in the comments.

"I saw him locking up his bike outside the Film Forum about a month ago. Just engrossed in conversation with a friend walking happily down the street, with no one bothering him. He had a big smile on his face and had a hearty laugh." —Lisa Wilkie

"Often saw him at Bar Pitti, Da Silvano, and getting take-out at Piccolo Angolo. He was a neighbor, a true Villager." —Richelle Lyndon

"As any true Villager knows, when it's 4 a.m. and you are trashed, you go to the Waverly Diner. And on just such a night myself and three friends did just that. Once seated in a booth, I realized that Phillip Seymour Hoffman was at the booth behind us. I leaned into my inebriated friends and slyly and quietly said, "GUYS THAT'S PHILLIP SEYMOUR HOFFMAN" to which one of our companions said "WHO?" We shushed our foolish pal up and ate our greasy spoon cuisine. The merriment continued unabated in what was surely a loud and drunken fashion and soon we forgot our Academy Award winning neighbor was even there. Mr. Hoffman got up to leave, put on his coat and turned to our table and just stood there and stared us down. Thinking our waiter had come back to the table we all turned and met his intense gaze. We all lost our celebrity staring contest within seconds and burst out laughing. He held his stern position at the head of the table, flung his scarf round his neck, and exited. Thanks Phillip for putting up with a bunch of drunk fools and leaving us with that memory." —Garth Schilling

"I didn't know him personally but I have friends who did. He felt like a neighbor, a fellow parent and New Yorker and lover of the city and the arts. And he was so incredibly talented. One of the several times we crossed paths in person was at BAM Harvey in 2012, he was a couple rows behind me clearly LOVING watching Simon Callow "Being Shakespeare." Such a terrible loss for everyone but especially his family." —Holley Atkinson

"I remember seeing him on Washington St. in the West Village a few years ago. He had on a big parka and seemed engrossed in whatever was on his headphones. He could have been a million other people." —Loren McMahon

"Saw him at Strand Books." —Max Doumanian

"I went to see "A View from 151st Street" and sat swinging my foot while conversing before the performance. Hoffman came out and just about face planted on my spastic leg. He caught himself, smiled, and went on to talk about the show (he was the artistic director). I, on the other hand, was mortified. But that's what made him such a great character actor-he had this awkwardness about himself that I admired. He was with us and accessible and real. I think about that when I stumble, trip and have moments of humility." —Teriscovkya Smith

"Saw him in 'Death of a Salesman,' it was an unforgettable, brilliant performance that will always haunt me but now for all the wrong reasons." —Siobhan Taaffe

"Philip Seymour Hoffman lived near the station, so I have three stories about him. 1) I saw him walking his daughter to school one morning. He was looking sleepy and wearing sweatpants, and you couldn't blame him. It was really early, 2) Another day, a bit later in the morning, he sat at the table next to mine at Once Upon a Tart for a brief meeting, and 3) I nearly creamed him and Ethan Hawke while wheeling a vibraphone for Soundcheck down WNYC's old Centre Street hallway. They were waiting to go on the Lopate show, and I had to be like, "Comin' through Mr. Hoffman! Excuse me Mr. Hawke! Gangway!" like an on-screen stagehand in a 1930s screwball comedy. Today is not the first time I've recalled these passing, fleeting moments with a giant -- they're three of my favorite moments from my life in this city. You were the best." —Joel Meyer, WNYC's Soundcheck

"Quintessential New Yorker, just everything we love about this place — his creativity and his amazing ability to portray the human condition. It's absolutely tragic. Even someone with that extradorary achievement grapples with the demon of substance abuse. We have to keep surfacing this reality in our society and getting people help." —Mayor Bill de Blasio on The Brian Lehrer Show


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Comments [21]

Janet Fisher from West Village, NYC

One evening as the sun was setting along Hudson Street the sky glowed with hues of blues and pinks. Myself and one other shutter bug, Philip Seymour Hoffman, were racing along West Village streets just south of Abingdon Square to capture it on our cameras, he on his bicycle and me race-walking along headed towards the Hudson River. No I did not photograph him since I was more interested in the sky and I only recognized him after the fact.For me it was a special New York moment and whenever I see another painter's sky I shall remember him and this New York moment.
My heart goes out to his children, partner and other surviving relatives and friends.

Feb. 08 2014 12:57 AM
Mike from NYC

My encounter with Phillip Seymour Hoffman was on West 4th right around Jane St. It was a summer night and he was strolling along talking on his cell phone. He was wearing a New York Film Academy t-shirt under a zip down hooded sweatshirt. Our paths crossed by a tree where it was too narrow for us both to pass. I stopped to let him go and he said thank you and kept on with his phone call. It wasn't until after he passed that I realized who it was. It was an ordinary moment but whenever I replay it in my head it's fun to pretend I was in a scene with one of the greatest actors that ever lived. Thanks for the memories, Mr. Hoffman.

Feb. 05 2014 03:35 PM
Liz from Long Island

Thank you for the gift of your talent.

Feb. 05 2014 01:15 PM
loretta from West Village

Grays Papaya 8th street: PSH enjoying his Recession Special just like the rest of us.

Feb. 05 2014 09:34 AM
nycyn from Manhattan

I remember him skating around in drag, like Rollerina (sp), and blowing kisses at the film crew. This was during the filming of "Flawless" on Ave. A. My son and I were local extras. I didn't know it was him until I saw the movie.

Feb. 05 2014 02:19 AM
Janet Fisher from West Village, NYC

One evening as the sun was setting along Hudson Street the sky glowed with hues of blues and pinks. Myself and one other shutter bug, Philip Seymour Hoffman, were racing along West Village streets just south of Abingdon Square to capture it on our cameras, he on his bicycle and me race-walking along headed towards the Hudson River. No I did not photograph him since I was more interested in the sky and I only recognized him after the fact.For me it was a special New York moment and whenever I see another painter's sky I shall remember him and this New York moment.
My heart goes out to his children, partner and other surviving relatives and friends.

Feb. 04 2014 09:59 PM
mturchi from NYC

I was walking down Bleeker Street last summer and around the corner came Phillip Seymour Hoffman carrying 4 tall Starbucks coffee's in a cardboard container. He turned the corner so quickly I almost bumped into him but we made eye contact and the messy situation was adverted. I have seen many well known people in NYC, usually at restaurants. Seeing him on the street just blending in to city life gave me a sudden connection to him.

Feb. 04 2014 08:05 PM
lee from New York

Does anyone have the slightest cognition regarding the absurdity as to the magnanimous attention to this mans(whose contribution to society as a whole was that he pretended to be other people for a living) suicide versus the continual lack of attention paid to the non self inflicted pain and death of our soldiers.Where is the outpouring of sadness about this TRUE tragedy. All we can muster is to stand by while the whores in DC cut our heroes pension.Their respective pain and suffering is on all of your ignorance.

Feb. 04 2014 07:45 PM
Steven Rudin from Massapequa Park, NY

This just makes more apparent how terrible drug addiction really is. I was part of a jury which convicted four rather big time drug dealers several years ago. A tragedy like this brings home the incalculable damage they must have caused, until they were caught that is.

Feb. 04 2014 10:22 AM
Cinematician from New York

I now have the hyper-challenging task of recasting CASABLANCA 2.

Feb. 04 2014 09:10 AM
Victoria from Catskills, NY

It must be over ten years ago now. My husband and I (then boyfriend) were having a romantic get-away upstate in Rhinebeck and spotted PSH at the restaurant at the Beekman Arms Inn. It was a weekday, so we were the only two tables in the dining room. We were fans of his early work and recognized him right away. I remember how he wasn't able to stay in his seat. The restaurant was filled with Revolutionary War memorabilia and Philip was pining over the muskets and paintings of George Washington like a child. He had so much excitement and enthusiasm in his face, you could tell that he got a lot of pleasure from those small details. Our server pointed out that he was an actor and whispered to us that he had the most horrible B.O. We thought the server's reaction was hilarious. Will never forget that run-in with a then minor-celebrity Upstate NY.

Feb. 04 2014 08:04 AM
VV from LI

Yes I'm a fan of this actor but this coverage has been spooky and uncreative. Replaying these interview a day after his death in not exactly reflective. More importantly, he died of a DRUG OVERDOSE!! Let's not get too casual about this terrible truth.

Feb. 03 2014 11:08 PM
Mike Boland from Connecticut

TEN YEARS AGO I signed up for an acting master class and one of the instructors was Philip Seymour Hoffman. I was of course aware of him as a major league talent. He hadn’t won his Oscar yet. But he had been nominated for a Tony. I had recently seen a performance of “Our Lady of 121st Street” that he directed. And I wanted to be in the company of people who could do something like that on stage.
Before I ever got to the class, I discovered that Hoffman and I had a few things in common. We had both been high school wrestlers. And we were both in recovery. He was sober for more than a dozen years at the time. I was clean then for a little more than a year. I figured I would learn something from him.
The first day, we were assigned scenes and partners. And in my scene I was playing Creon, the king from “Antigone.” My scene partner and I worked hard on it over the next few days and then we brought it back into class and performed it. And Hoffman stopped us. “Who is Creon?” he asked me. I told him that Creon was a king. And he nodded his head. Couldn’t he see what I was doing? That’s why I gave him the kingly voice and had him standing straight like a statue. And Hoffman said to me, “he’s just a man.” He said to forget the “king voice.” He said Creon was just a man with a problem.
And all of a sudden, it started to make sense.
I was devastated when I heard Hoffman had relapsed in 2012 because I am always devastated when anyone relapses. It’s such a lonely, fearful place to be. I don’t wish that shame on anyone.
And I was heartbroken yesterday when I heard he had died. Because I always think everyone is going to make it back.
Hoffman made acting look simple. And we admired him. We make kings of the people who dazzle us with their talent. But he was like Creon. He was a man with a problem. It’s a sad day. Rest in peace.

Feb. 03 2014 09:24 PM
Jeff C from Brooklyn

I was lucky enough to be at NYU with Phil, in the undergrad drama dept. I had translated an old Grand Guignol one-act, and needed someone to play the leader of the lunatics who take over their asylum. He walked into the audition, and I knew I had my man - for the same reason he's being so beautifully remembered by so many: he was fearless. So willing to bring his passion and vulnerability to the darkest corners. It was utterly amazing to see the world begin to respond to Phil, as he graduated, and his career and mastery grew. As an artist, he possessed the secret of deep, authentic aliveness that we all crave, and he seemed to bring that to everything he touched. Now we all know how much it cost him to do that. So tragic that he brought such life to so many millions of us, but could not hold it for himself. We will miss you so very, very much, Phil!

Feb. 03 2014 06:34 PM
Eva Garfield from Kew Gardens, NY

His films were always on my "must-see" list, one of the few actors that if he was in it, I would see it. He never disappointed. What a shame, today we lost a good guy and a great talent. My heart aches for his family.

Feb. 03 2014 06:13 PM
Andrea from Philadelphia

You'd think by now people would know that addiction and depression are diseases and that a death like Hoffman's is the result of something more complicated than just being "careless" or "he did it to himself." By all accounts he had struggled with addiction for a long time and had been clean for many, many years before starting to use again. Alexander, you refer to him as a "drug addict" as if that erases everything else about his life. Sorry to disagree with you but we're not all geniuses and PSH's talent was rare and special. And he was a father and friend and colleague loved by many. Even though I didn't know him personally, his performances meant a great deal to me and the fact that there will be no more of them is source of grief.

Feb. 03 2014 05:58 PM
RCD from Connecticut

He was talented but careless and he left the mother of his three children alone.

Feb. 03 2014 03:19 PM
Alexander from NYC

Incredible how a drug addict gets so much attention. Who cares, he did it to himself. Why is he soooo glorified??? Shame on you WNYC! Most of the morning hearing about him. Nothing else going on in the world? Talk about the real issue at hand. We are all geniuses, he's not the only one.

Feb. 03 2014 03:03 PM
Jonathan Pointer from Los Angeles, CA

Some years ago, a friend was attending a wedding as a member of the wedding party. Another member of the wedding party was Philip Seymour Hoffman. As a part of the bachelor festivities, the groom and his groomsmen played a round of golf. It was during this activity that an errant drive hit PSH in the forehead, sending him to the hospital for emergency treatment.

A few years later, while shopping for groceries on the upper west side, I turned to discover Mr. Hoffman standing behind me, just a regular New Yorker with a discernible divit in the center of his forehead. For an instant, I wanted to let him know that I knew the story, but quickly thought better of it and simply smiled and nodded a tacit hello. He smiled and nodded in return…just a regular New Yorker, albeit one who was probably the best we had to offer in the realm of acting.

Heartfelt condolences to his family during these worst of days.

Feb. 03 2014 02:10 PM
Jerah from NYC

Once, my husband and I scraped together some money to go to a Denis Johnson play because we really really love Denis Johnson. And Philip Seymour Hoffman was sitting in the seat behind us, and every time there was something genuinely funny, he guffawed and kneed our seats pretty violently and we didn't mind, cause it was Philip Seymour Hoffman, dammit. And at intermission, a kid who was even more starstruck than us walked up to him and awkwardly told him he really liked his work, and PSH was really nice and human about it and talked to the kid for a not negligible amount of time. I was impressed. And the play was pretty good too.
I really hate heroin.

Feb. 03 2014 01:10 PM
Harriet Levine from NYC - west side

I think my favorite recent Philip Seymour Hoffman appearance was in "A Late Quartet" - a wonderful movie that was thoroughly enjoyed by my friends & fellow musicians here on the upper west side (I am an amateur violinist). He played the second violinist in the Quartet in the movie, and his description of why he enjoyed playing 2nd Violin rang so true to me, since I frequently play 2nd violin in either my orchestras or chamber music groups. He described the role as the bridge in the quartet, bringing the inner (lower) voices together with the first violin. I do not remember his exact words - I will have to see the movie again - however it rang so true to me, who expressed my feelings so well as a 2nd violinist. I was at an off-Bdwy theater production last year and he was seen in the audience, and then again in the intermission crowd. I wanted so much to go over to him to tell him how much I enjoyed his role in the movie and his lines about being a 2nd violinist, however my good friend who I was with told me that he does not like the public to approach him, and she held me back. When walking back into the theater for the second act, he was walking about 2 inches from me, and I wanted so much to talk to him, but I glanced at my friend who was giving me "dagger-eyes" - warning me to not even think of talking to him! (Now I can talk to him in his new location - I hope he hears me). By the way, the Huff Post (Entertainment page) this morning also discussed his role in that movie, and the irony of calling the movie "The Last Quartet" - please see today's article? Thanks, Harriet Levine (I am writing this as I hear his voice now on Leonard Lopate, talking with Catherine Keener, one of my favorite actors, who played the viola in the movie, and also portrayed Philip Seymour's wife).

Feb. 03 2014 12:24 PM

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