Monday, May 4, 2009

Farewell to a Friend

(Gary with two kids, I have no idea who they are)

This is a copy of my part of Gary's memorial service today at JCC:

This has been such a tough couple of weeks for the theater community. First the death of Gary, and then the death of Bea Arthur this past week. Both were remarkable men. Bea is considered by many to be a Gay Icon. Gary, a Gay eyesore.

The Citizen Patriot article that was published a few days after Gary’s death said that he was a “Caring” person. And yes, caring was in quotations. Gary was indeed a caring person, when he wanted to be. I remember my first trip to Chicago with the Humanities Department. Maria Sayers had worked very hard to put the trip together for the department, organizing students (and we all know what a chore that can be) wrangling with the hotels, and booking the train.

What thanks does she get?

A lovely bottle of Boone’s Farm Strawberry Rot Gut Ripple from Gary, as apparently, he “cared” enough to send the very best. Can you put a price on friendship? Yes, it’s around $3. Now to Maria’s defense, she didn’t say a word, but I do have a picture of her and Ann Green holding up the bottle. Well, pictures speak a thousand words…

Maria, in her genteel and caring manner tried to pass the bottle off to the local homeless guys at the station, but all of them were like, “uh no thanks lady, I’m good!” and quickly moved on.
She was left with no choice but to stash the bottle behind one of the trash cans on the platform before boarding the train. I do believe that were she to try and board a train or plane these days with that offending vintage, she would probably be tasered by a TSA agent.
It is rumored that the station agent is still using the bottle to clean the toilets.

Flash forward a few years later and I am having Lasik surgery to correct my vision. I confided with a few of my colleagues about how scared I was with this surgery. The success rate is pretty high, but there is always that nagging doubt in the back of your mind. Gary was one of those folks who I shared my concern with. I told him that Helen Keller and I shared a birthday, but I wasn’t ready to totally lose my sight. He patted my shoulder in a “caring” way and told me that he would cast me in the “Miracle Worker” should things go wrong. Thankfully things turned out okay, and I returned to work the following Monday to a note in my mailbox. I opened the letter, and it appeared that Katherine Hepburn and Michael J. Foxx had penned this letter while on a roller coaster. The script was all over the page and the letters were doubled and tripled to create the illusion of fuzziness.
The note said: Thomas! I hope your eyes are fine!
It was signed Gary. Yeah, he was “caring” alright.

I was in Ann Arbor one day with Tod, and we passed a bookstore and saw a book of Shakespearian insults on the clearance table. Apparently, the market for such a book has a very small audience, hence the low clearance price. I thought for a moment standing on Main Street, who would most benefit from this book? I thought about our own Dr. J, Dr. Geri Jacobs, seeing as she teaches Shakespeare but I realized that in my almost ten years of teaching at JCC, I have never once heard a scornful or hateful word come out of her mouth. Even at our departmental meeting which can be quite lively. Now, she is very soft spoken, and I do have a hearing impairment, so who knows. So the default person to hoist the book on was Gary. I sent it to him in an envelope with the instructions of “DO NO HARM” and the very next day the phone messages started…

I am sorry for anyone else who may have had to endure these phone insults as I know he probably had a hit list of folks here on campus and god knows where else.

And then Wilder was born. It just warmed my heart, as Gary and I became new Dads about a year apart. But with Gary, it always reminds me of my favorite bible character, Methuselah. It took me right back to Sunday school. Dear Wildy… as some of you may know, he goes to day care with my daughter Anna. The day care lady has already ruled out Anna and Wilder getting married as she couldn’t figure out how to fit Wilder St. Michael Wetzel Righettini and Anna Laura McMillen Oakley on the wedding invitation.
But yes, Gary cared very deeply for his son Wilder, but I think that he was secretly a little disappointed that Wilder wasn’t Bat Boy when he was born.

Or was he????

Gary, you brought much joy into our lives. Sometimes when you entered a room, sometimes when you left the stage. We will miss your antics and general silliness. I hope you are up there in Strawberry Fields with John and George, I can only imagine the fun you’re having. God bless