You can’t help but love Kris Kristofferson. Superstar singer and songwriter, Kris is also a great actor with many film credits from “A Star is Born” to “A Soldier’s Daughter Never Cries.” But Kris, who’s 77, is suffering from a form of dementia called “Puglistica.”
He has severe memory loss from years of head injuries from boxing and football when he was younger. This is no joke. He remembers his songs and is able to play them pretty well. He knows his family. But memories of his career are almost all gone.
Kris’s wife of 30 years, Lisa Meyers, is by his side as much as she can be. But over the course of the last few days here during Grammy week, Kris’s issues have been revealed. He looks fine and has no physical deficits. But when anyone asks him about an old project or song, or tries to engage him, his face changes. With a real sweetness he says, “I wish I could tell you about that but I don’t remember anything.” He then explains his condition.
Lisa says, “It’s not Alzheimer’s.” She’s right, to an extent. But Boxer’s Dementia seems to mimic that disease. When I mentioned his hits “Me and Bobby McGee” and “Help Me Make it Through the Night,” Kristofferson looked at me blankly. Of “A Star is Born,” he said, “That was a long time ago.” He doesn’t recall Leelee Sobieski, who played his daughter in “Soldier,” or Kaylie Jones, James Jones’s daughter, who wrote the book upon which the movie was based.
But he knows his songs. He played at the Grammy Foundation legacy concert on Thursday night, and he’s scheduled to perform on the Grammy show Sunday night. At the Special Merit Awards yesterday, Ringo Starr referred to Kris’s memory loss. Kristofferson took it in stride. “I just got hit in the head too many times,” he told me.
Nothing can change what a great guy he is, though, and a superstar. We all remember that.