The doctor practices on Madison Avenue, five blocks from Grand Central Station, in a narrow little office set amid a frenetic corner of Manhattan. Every day, hordes of commuters bustle past this particular ophthalmology clinic without really seeing it, let alone registering the mellifluous name on the sign, let alone, after so many years, recognizing that this name ever meant anything beyond the practice of ocular medicine. Fame is fleeting, and such, but she is still here, a 6-foot, 2-inch redhead hiding in plain sight, wearing a wide-brimmed hat and ducking under an umbrella amid an early spring rain, almost daring you to ignore her.
The doctor, in her role as a medical professional, has already made it clear to me that she is eminently concerned with maintaining propriety. When I first contacted her, she informed me that she wasn't interested in recounting any of the extraordinary events of in the life of Renée Richards, for fear that yet another telling, in the midst of the impending release of a new documentary (that follows two autobiographies and a television movie starring Vanessa Redgrave and dozens of magazine-length profiles and tabloid exposes over the course of three decades), would reduce her to the status of "blubbering idiot." As an alternative, she invited me to an informal lunch, along with the documentary's director, Eric Drath, and a friend of hers, a fellow eye surgeon.