The Untold Truth Of Stephen Sondheim

There is nothing particularly notable, Stephen Sondheim claimed, about being the child of divorced parents. “Children of broken homes? There are 5 million per square inch,” he told The Guardian. “I have not lived a very bizarre life. … The world is full of mothers and fathers like mine.” However, even Sondheim admits that there was nothing normal about his subsequent relationship with his mother, whom he described as an “extreme case.”

Sondheim claimed that after his father, Herbert, abandoned his mother, Janet, for a younger woman, Janet became “creepy,” and turned her rage for Herbert against her son, manifesting it in disturbing ways. “She took it out on me because she had no one else to take it out on … I went to a show with her and she not only held my hand, but looked at me during the entire play. And she would sit across from me with her legs aspread. She would lower her blouse and that sort of stuff. But I was surprised rather than shocked” (per The Guardian).

Sondheim was estranged from his mother throughout his adult life, though he continued to support her financially. In another shocking incident from their relationship, The Guardian describes how Janet contacted her son by note shortly before a hospital visit that she thought might kill her. Her note read: “The night before I undergo open-heart surgery … the only regret I have in life is giving you birth.” Janet died in 1992, but Sondheim did not attend her funeral.

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