Diana Nyad’s famous Cuba to Florida swim is now a film starring Annette Bening and Jodie Foster. Diana’s friend, top editor and former Time magazine journalist Elaine Lafferty, chronicled it. Happens Elaine is also my friend.
Elaine: “Raised by an abusive father, Diana had demons. No simple sports star. Narcissistic. Self-centered. Extreme athlete like ones who for some reason have to climb Mount Everest.
“I know Diana 25 years. Everything was always all about Diana. She’s trained for years. Stop anywhere one second and it’s ‘Come on, have to get going.’
“People later said she cheated and really didn’t do that whole swim. Please. I was there. I’ll testify she didn’t cheat.
“I was on her 2011 and 2013 marathons. On this historic one I’m on the satellite headquarters boat ‘The Voyager.’ Ragtag crew. Doctor on board. We followed screaming. Her strokes were 50 per minute through a pitch black night.
“It was gruesome. Sharks and barracudas circling. Her arms marked with stings from lethal Man of War jellyfish. Her face and arms were stung. Once she almost died. In the water. At night.
“With the spotlight we saw her choking on salt water. Screaming. She wasn’t getting enough oxygen to her muscles. We couldn’t take her out. Touching or helping violated the rules. They put a plank in. She was frozen. Her chest was not heaving. No air coming from her nose. We shouted ‘Diane . . . Diane . . .’ she then came around.”
A deep dive
More from Elaine on Diana:
“Rules were never take her out of the water so we could never put her safely back onto our boat. The water temperature was 90.2 degrees.
“It was gruesome. Torturous. People were around in kayaks. I beat one shark on the nose with a wooden paddle. We weren’t allowed to put electronic equipment in the water that might harm the shark. It was dangerous, cruel, although she felt protective of the creatures.
“That 110-mile marathon epic — a GPS tracker was on her — was in 2013. Age 64, she was fighting 8-foot waves. And making such a historic journey without the aid of a shark cage.”
Pool of talent
Diana — tough, steel trap mind — born in New York City, raised in Ft. Lauderdale, was a champion long-distance swimmer in high school.
Due to the actors’ strike, Diana — with whom I’ve spoken before — is avoiding interviews. Bening plays her. Foster’s role is the devoted coach Bonnie Stoll. Both met with Diana when the project began.
Years back when we spoke, Diana had told me: “At one point, my 5 mph speed was a perfect storm.” Yeah, why? “Because I’d caught a wave.”
The film is playing at the Paris Theater. Diana loves it even more than she loved that hot towel when she finally landed on land.
And now some holiday dating rules: Guys should try for homeless women. They’ll stay overnight. Or, bisexuals. Your shot at a Saturday night date doubles. Forget necrophiliacs. They only want you for your body. If a sign over her bed says, “Ask for our group rates” — forget it.
Only in New York, kids, only in New York.