Several weeks ago I wrote about the World of Suzie Wong and my admiration of Nancy Kwan. When I did a little research, I learned she had written a book about her late son, Bernie Pock. This week I read that book.
Celebration of a Life: Memories of My Son (N &N Publications, 1997) is more scrapbook than narrative, but in this case it totally works.
The inscription page shows a beautiful photo of Nancy with young Bernie, blond hair and all. In the preface I read how Nancy Kwan learned she was pregnant with Bernie while filming Tamahine in the UK and Tahiti. Because the film was “physically demanding”, Nancy was sure Bernie received his love of stunts and martial arts as far back as in the womb. In his adult years, he was a successful Hollywood stuntman.
Nancy Kwan’s first husband was an Austrian ski instructor named Peter Pock. Sometime after the two split up, Nancy moved with Bernie to Hong Kong to care for her sick father. Bernie attended school in Hong Kong from the age of nine until he was 16. After Nancy married director Norbert Meisel, they moved to Los Angeles.
As a young man, Bernie met and fell in love with an older woman who discovered she had full-blown AIDS after they began their relationship. Bernie was advised to get tested and learned shortly afterward that he, too, had contracted AIDS. The couple married before Devorah passed away in 1992. Four years later, on June 5, 1996, Bernie died. He was 33.
The book includes not only a preface by Nancy Kwan, but also a letter by Norbert to Bernie’s paternal grandmother in Austria. Bernie’s poems, paintings, sculptures, and sketches fill many pages, as do letters written to Nancy and Norbert after Bernie’s death. I also enjoyed the photographs of Nancy, Bernie, and Norbert as well as movie posters featuring Bernie.
Nancy Kwan is one of my favorite actresses. She’s been compared to Audrey Hepburn, but to me she’s even more girl-next-door. It saddens me that she lost her only child at such a young age. Celebration of a Life is a wonderful way for Bernie’s memory to live on, not just for his mother but for her fans and his.