Editor's note: This story was originally published in the Beacon Journal on May 10, 2009.

David Kaufman has no trouble remembering his first encounter with Doris Day. He was 6 years old and his parents took him to see The Man Who Knew Too Much, with Day, at Cleveland's old Colony Theater (now Shaker Square Cinemas).

Day's journey before and after that film has been much documented, notably in Kaufman's massive biography Doris Day: The Untold Story of the Girl Next Door, which came out in hardcover last year and will be in paperback in June.

Generally staying out of the spotlight these days, the 87-year-old Day did not consent to be interviewed for the book, nor does Kaufman expect her to read it. As he notes in the book, Day — her own, selective autobiography notwithstanding — has long been determined to overlook the past, especially the unpleasant parts.

But neither did she build roadblocks. Kaufman was able to talk to friends, fans (some of whom became very close to Day) and colleagues in offering a detailed and often revelatory chronicle of the woman who began life as Doris Kappelhoff in Cincinnati. Since the book appeared, he has gathered even more information and hopes someday to make a major revision of the book.

Still, there's a story to be told about the biographer, too, and how he went from being a movie-loving kid growing up in Beachwood to the biographer of both Day and playwright-actor Charles Ludlam.

That story begins when Kaufman, now 58 and living in New York City, was in kindergarten, the youngest of four children of a lawyer father and homemaker mother. He was already gaining a love of movies, through his mother, and of the stage, with his parents taking him to plays from an early age. The acting bug bit about that time, too. But over time, his focus shifted from being onstage to writing about people striding the boards.

''It's in high school where I read [Somerset] Maugham's Of Human Bondage and [D.H.] Lawrence's Women in Love, and knew that I wanted to be a writer,'' he said during interviews that included telephone talk and e-mail. Feeling as if the writers were speaking directly to him, Kaufman realized that writing offered a sort of immortality. By the time he was in college, he had started a nightly diary that continues to this day. He calls it ''my most important work.''

College was Kent State at first, but his freshman year included the shootings on campus. Unhappiness pervaded the college, he said, and in his second year, he transferred to Boston University.

As was the case for many students of that era, he experimented with drugs and sex, but he also focused on writers and writing; another early influence was Virginia Woolf. When college was winding up, he began working in the college division of a publishing company in Boston, but he had his eye on New York and life as a theater critic.

He got a publishing job, and stayed in the business until the late '80s, but was doing copious amounts of freelance work, including a weekly theater column.

By 1986, he said, ''I felt like I had taken my writing career as far as I could, and could only take it further by allocating more time for it.'' He left publishing to focus on writing full time, for the New York Times, the Daily News, Village Voice and other publications.

His biography of Ludlam — Ridiculous!: The Theatrical Life and Times of Charles Ludlam — grew out of a profile he wrote of the ''ridiculous theater'' pioneer for Interview magazine in 1989. At the time, Kaufman was also shopping a biography of singer Ruth Etting (who would be played by Day in the movie Love Me or Leave Me). The editor considering the Etting book said she would be more interested in a Ludlam book.

Ludlam had already died of AIDS by the time Kaufman began writing about him. ''Even though I had seen him perform on stage, I struggled with the very idea of being able to write a biography of a person I couldn't speak to directly,'' Kaufman said. ''But as my first editor told me from the outset, when I was through with my research, I would know Ludlam better than his friends or lovers or associates, since I would get to know him from all of their perspectives.''

That lesson served Kaufman well when he turned his attention to Day, since again he was gathering others' perspectives while not getting a face-to-face with his subject. But researching a life lived so long in public was a daunting task.

''There were eight trips to L.A.,'' he said. Time spent in archives. Collating clippings. (The book thanks more than one librarian.) Enduring expenses like rights to Day photos. And interviewing just about everyone who was alive and able to provide insight into Day; very open about his own life, Kaufman was able to get others to open up about theirs. In the end, he was able to sum up a woman whose seemingly pure image was built on a life dotted with four marriages, financial reversals, missed opportunities and plenty of heartbreak.

Kaufman said he ended up spending eight years on the Day book, four of them while continuing to write other pieces. When he cut back on the freelancing, he got by with an advance on the book and what he vaguely referred to as ''other resources.''

And, in the end, Kaufman had a portrait that was not only well received — he has done dozens of radio and TV interviews — but also brought fresh attention to what Day actually accomplished, as opposed to cliche-ridden summations from the past.

Still, Day is not happy with that attention, Kaufman said, since she prefers not to be pursued by paparazzi and newshounds. One supermarket tabloid tried to get Kaufman to help with Day stories; he declined. And even praiseworthy attention is not for Day now. A tribute at the Kennedy Center Honors has gone undone because Day will not appear.

''She does not want to be seen,'' Kaufman said. Day was insecure about her looks even when she was considered one of the screen's great beauties, he said, and made 20 movies before she could watch one in its entirety. She had a facelift in her 60s and breast implants when she was 50.

He hasn't given up on meeting Day, and says some of her friends would still like to get them together. But he also knows that at some point, he will have to move to other projects. He even has one in mind — a look at another singer and actress with a spectacular life, Mary Martin.