Brenda Adelman is an actress who recently presented her powerful one-woman play at the Center for Spiritual Living in La Crescenta. The play, which she wrote and performs in, is a tale of triumph over tragedy. It is the story of her family that was torn apart when her father Jerry killed her mother Barbara. Last week we learned of the events leading up to that shooting; today is the final installment of “My Brooklyn Hamlet.”
By Brandon HENSLEY
Brenda Adelman used to have a family. It had a half brother, two loving parents, and came with a nice house in Brooklyn, N.Y. Those parents? Fuggedaboutit. Jewish in every sense of the word, although her mother, Barbara, had a bohemian side. She blossomed into an artist, a traveler who took Brenda around the world, reading Shakespeare and having all kinds of adventures.
The father? Well, he was a wannabe Italian. You know the type: black leather jacket, wore a fedora, smoked cigars and drove a Cadillac. Real nice fella, though. Jerry Adelman, from Adelman’s Auto Parts. What, you didn’t know Adelman’s Auto? Everyone knew that place. Best car parts around.
Anyway, as Brenda grew up, her attachment to her father only increased. She became his “Brenda, the Great Defenda.” He took her shooting, and let her fire a .38 Smith & Wesson revolver. The recoil almost separated her shoulder, but she never told him. Didn’t want daddy’s little girl to know she was hurt.
As she got older, she went out to socialize more. As she would come out into the living room looking real pretty and all, Jerry would stand in front of his daughter and recite lyrics from Allan Sherman: “What a face, what a figure, two more legs you’d look like Trigga!”
But there was a dark side to Jerry and his marriage to Barbara. Think Henry and Karen in “Goodfellas.” Back and forth they constantly went. Brenda recalled sometimes play her flute in her room to drown out the yelling. There was infidelity, and there were threats. Brenda of course loved her mom as well, and had to play the role of “Great Protecta” for her. One time when Brenda was in high school Barbara “freaked out” because Jerry had bought a silencer for his gun. Jerry didn’t know what the fuss was about. Much ado about nothing.
When she was 22, Brenda was living in Vienna, Austria. She was an actress, an actress with a self-conscious weight problem, but an actress nonetheless. She was at times a queen, a vampire, or a Shakespearean cross-dresser.
Sure enough, Brenda got into her own relationships, ones that mirrored her parents: Intense physicalness with emotional distress. Eventually she met Len who was separating with his wife at the time. She moved to L.A. with him and they became engaged.
Her parents had separated along the way – Jerry had an affair with their realtor Tina – but they got back together. Again, real crazy stuff. But that was just the beginning.
One October day in 1995, Brenda came back to her L.A. home from an all-day acting workshop. She was excited from all the networking opportunities she had experienced, so much so that she had forgotten to call Len during the day, something she usually made sure of.
Brenda’s excitement when she walked through the door was met with Len’s solemn demeanor. “There’s been an accident,” he said. “Your father.”
“What happened to my father?” Brenda asked. But it wasn’t him.
“A gun,” Len replied. “Your mother is dead.”