T A FILM SOCIETY gathering in 1980, McGregor met a man a few years older than himself named CLEMENT BRACE (left: McGregor; right: Brace; photo courtesy Peter de Rome). The two struck up a close relationship, and remained inseparable until McGregor's death. Like McGregor, Brace was from back East (a boy from Syracuse, in fact), and had had a stab at an acting career in his youth. Unlike McGregor, Brace was still in the good graces of his wealthy family, and the two lived very well. Brace had formerly been the partner of John Dall, an intense and talented actor who co-starred in Alfred Hitchcock's Rope in 1948 and in the 1949 noir classic Gun Crazy, but who had lapsed into alcoholism and died in 1971 at age 52. McGregor's union with Brace put an end to his dream-talking, "almost as if it were a sign that I could finally get on with my so-called normal life," he wrote. "I'd had it up to here with the whole goddamn experience when it finally stopped." Barr and McGregor remained on friendly terms for a while longer, but McGregor's relationship with Brace gradually distanced the former collaborators from each other until they finally fell out, with Brace ultimately blocking Barr from access to McGregor. As Barr eloquently put it, "He and Clement were so Garbo and I was so Alice Faye."

McGregor and Brace lived a quiet and graceful life in Beverly Hills, and began a long-term project to compile their own multi-volume film reference work. McGregor spent hours combing the archives of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, compiling research materials. Friends believe, however, that this was a diversionary tactic designed mostly to keep himself busy, rather than a serious attempt at getting a book completed.

The couple became increasingly reclusive, and McGregor began to lose some of his spark. Although they lived "way up in the canyon hills above the Beverly Hills Hotel," occasional forages down into the city induced little more than noise-and-traffic anxieties, and McGregor grew fearful even of the downhill drive itself. Sensing an imminent heart attack and questing for a less stressful life, in the late '80s they moved to southwestern Oregon, near Ashland, where they'd enjoyed annual outings to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. In 1990, in spite of the move, McGregor suffered what he called a "very serious heart failure," from which he never fully recovered. A year later, Brace fell during a morning walk and broke his neck, confining him permanently to a wheelchair. It was in the midst of this diminishing activity that my letters caught up to Dion McGregor in June of 1994.

As enjoyable as the ensuing correspondence was for me, it was frustrating to have to push the limits of my knowledge of film history while he dodged most of my questions about his own life, especially those about the sleeptalking. I certainly respected his apprehensions, but his occasional answers only encouraged me to continue asking what I wanted to ask, and to simply accept his brief responses as being better than none at all. The correspondence continued amiably for a few months, but then, following a handmade card he sent a few weeks prior to Christmas, it suddenly ceased. I feared that perhaps I'd pressed too hard about the old days and turned him off for good. I wrote a couple more times to no response, and then gave up.

But my occasional Internet searches for the string "Dion McGregor" over the ensuing years eventually turned up a compelling hit. I followed the thread, and learned that McGregor wasn't mad at me after all, he was simply dead! On December 29, 1994, in a Medford, Oregon hospital, Dion McGregor fell into a sleep less fitful and a whole lot quieter than the ones that led up to one of the strangest episodes in entertainment history. On November 3, 1996, he was joined again by his partner Clement Brace.

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