Many celebrities have made public statements about Diahann Carroll, who died last week. But the most poignant one for me showed up as a piece in The New York Times this week.
Called “Diahann Carroll Was the Only Mother I Knew,” it was written by Marc Copage, who played her son, Corey, on the groundbreaking sitcom “Julia” from 1969-71. Copage has acted little since he worked on “Julia” from ages 5 to 8, and he has worked as a waiter, often at parties for famous people. In 2010, he found himself cater-waiting a party attended by Carroll, but he hid from her out of embarrassment.
More recently, in 2017, Copage and Carroll had a meaningful dinner together, during which they talked about marriage (she told him it was “overrated”), later singing together to Tony Bennett in the car. When he told her he was writing a memoir, she suggested he call it “Television’s First Black Child Star.”
Copage recalls thinking of Carroll as his mother, and staying at her house, since his parents had separated and his mother had moved to Europe. But her daughter, Suzanne, was not pleased about sharing her mother, and Carroll created some distance.
In her memoir, she explained: “Eventually I had to confront the reason for Suzanne’s anger and begin to remove myself from Marc. ‘Suzie’s my real daughter,’ I explained. ‘And you’re my television son. That doesn’t mean I don’t love you very much. I do. But when the day is over, you must return to your home and I want to do to the same.’ It was such a painful moment. Marc couldn’t understand what was wrong and was terribly hurt.”
I can’t imagine ever seeing an episode of “Julia” again without thinking about this bittersweet vignette.