Back in November 1999, I was in New York when Chris Allen
and I were producing a staged reading of a new version of the musical Paint Your Wagon. In spite of the
terrible film adaptation, it is a very good traditional Lerner and Lowe musical.
The script is flawed, but the original 1951 score is great, complete with many
large men’s chorus numbers and a handful of beautiful ballads.
While I was there, Nancy brought our kids out for their
first trip to NYC. They were young
teenagers at the time, between 10 and 15 years old, and had been to see nearly
all of my shows as they were growing up. So the first night they were in town
we took them to Times Square which they thought was kind of OK.
Then we went to the stage door of the Minskoff Theatre,
where the musical of Saturday Night Fever
had recently opened. We were met there by my dear friend Gerry Griffin, who was
on the crew for the show. Gerry also happens to be my daughter Emily’s
Since it was only 7:00pm, Gerry took us right onto the
stage. It was the light-up disco dance
floor from the movie. While we were standing on it, Gerry had it flashing its
cool lights and explained to the kids how it cost over a million dollars to
build and how it needed several hundred electric cables to run it.
As we were standing on the stage looking out at the empty seats
in the theater, Gerry said to the kids “you guys are on the stage of a Broadway
theater! How cool is that?” The kids just looked around then nonchalantly said “weren’t
we going out for pizza tonight?”
Sigh! It’s just another backstage, Dad! We’ve seen a million
I come from a big family – I was number four out of eight kids. My brother Jeff was just one year younger than me. He and our younger brother, Kyle, who was three years younger than me, were always a pretty close-knit “team.” Jeff grew to be a big guy, but he was also a thoughtful, sensitive and quiet man with a huge heart. If you ever needed someone to talk to or needed a hand with a project, Jeff was always the first one there. And not just for me and our family, but for his circle of friends, his church and his business associates. Needless to say, he was also an amazing husband and father for his family.
he was younger than me, for all of these reasons he truly became the person I
looked up to the most.
Tragically, Jeff’s life was cut way too short when he died five years ago at just 56 years old. He died of complications from the Lymphoma he had been quietly fighting for most of his adult life. By “quietly” I really mean that. He never complained and rarely spoke about his condition, even when we pressed him to.
They say you can tell the true measure of a man by what he leaves behind. You couldn’t find better proof of that than Jeff’s amazing wife Patty and their four awesome children – Gabrielle, Ben, Nate and Zach. Right from the start, Patty was the perfect fit with Jeff. Even though she was by nature a quiet person, she was never intimidated by our large, raucous family that surrounded Jeff. And the strength she has demonstrated over the past five years is an example for us all. It is so great to see what terrific adults Jeff’s kids have all grown up to become. I am so proud of all of them and enjoy their company immensely every time I see them.
Every day I
strive to be as good of a man as Jeff was.