Saturday 30 December 2006

Just One Thing: A New Year’s Memory

Asked by the fabulous Cindy Li to blog five things you might not know about me, I simply could not avoid YAM (Yet Another Meme). If you know Cindy like I know Cindy, you’ll know she’s not a woman whose wishes one can easily deny.

So instead of writing about how 2006 was the most paradoxical year of my life, with the highs the highest and the lows the lowest, I was going to write five things you might not have known about me. I started to do so, and a memory emerged that is so personal and powerful and important that I’m going to stick with just this one thing about me you might not have known and that is my relationship with a man named Jack.

Having had since childhood a hunger to be noticed, I fancied as so many young people do that I would go to Hollywood and become a famous actor. I can sing, I can dance, I have charisma and presence. Thing is, I am an absolutely crap actress. I can’t act my way out of a paper bag much less inspire people with my flat interpretations of characters.

Besides, I had long noticed that my high school’s stage crew office always seemed to be filled with cute nerdy guys who carried around tools and tech stuff. For some reason, I found this twitterpating.

So what did I do? Naturally, I started working with the stage crew. This then became an interest that brought great new experiences with the handsome nerdy guys with the cool, more techno-oriented folks behind the scenes. Not only did I have many a new exposure (as it were) but I also learned to wield a hammer, sling a power saw and get darn tricky with the tools of the scene-building biz.

By 20 years old, I had become a skilled stage carpenter, having spent five years honing my honing skills and studying under incredibly capable and even genius set designers, including the great, irreverent international designer Jack Schwanke.

Describing Jack is tough, because he was one of the most unique humans I’ve ever known. I’d link to a bio, but most of Jack’s work has been catalogued in those things we used before the Web: Books and library folios. Jack was what I’d call a true eccentric. He lived his life honestly and loudly and with great passion and humor. He shocked most people and was loved by many. I met him when I was only 17, and we became very fast, very close friends despite his having been nearly three times my age and possibly the most outlandish queen imaginable.

Jack and I climbed pyramids in Mexico. We ate cabrilla with our fingers and nearly ended up in a Mexican jail once when he got into a shouting altercation with a cop. I hunkered down in the truck and envisioned my young life ending in a not so happy way. He designed scenery for opera and theater while I and the crew built and perfected his wild, erotic and visionary work for both U.S. and international venues.

Reinforcing certain loves my father had once shared with me: opera, great coffee, and the joys of a meal shared with friends, Jack became one of my greatest heroes. He showed me worlds I couldn’t possibly have imagined. He was my gay, eccentric father and best friend for some very important years of my life.

One time, he took me, an underage American girl, into underground gay bars in Mexico City. I’ll always remember this one sad handsome man sitting alone in a rather tired but elegant bar literally underground near the Palacio de Bellas Artes looking like the drooping white lily on the table in front of him.

I miss the theater sometimes, but not that much as I’ve been fortunate to find my place on the stage anyway without having to act a bit, much to the benefit of the creative world!

Mostly, I miss Jack tonight. He died alone in a hotel room in Mexico City on New Years Eve twenty two years ago. Somehow, no matter what I’m doing on New Years, my thoughts return to Jack.

I don’t know what makes a Happy New Year, because happiness is cyclical. But I do know this one thing: The people who so deeply touch our lives as Jack did mine make the days of the year, and the years of a life, all the richer for their simply having been.

Filed under:   general
Posted by:   Molly | 19:16 | Comments (31)

Comments (31)

  1. EGADS! Has it been 20 years now?! Lawdy! I still remember getting that call at Brown Door right after midnight (don’t recall who called might have been Richard Snider) and passing the phone to Karen and passing along the news to a few people (I recall Marika and Doyne) on the porch and Marika claiming “What do you mean he’s dead? He can’t be dead – we’re designing a show!!”

    A coincidental aside – Just been in contact with Fuzzy. She asked about you.

  2. P.S. On second thought, it might have been Barclay.

  3. twenty TWO years, Lee. Frightening thought, my dear old(er) friend ­čśë eh?

  4. Yeah, 22. Never said math was my strong suit! ­čśë

  5. Happy 2007 Molly!

  6. molly dear

    thank you for sharing another beautiful personal glimpse of yourself with a world(wide web) that benefits so much from you!

    happy new year, let’s get together soon, eh?

  7. Probably one of the most moving memoires I’ve read in a blog in a long time, thank you for sharing.

  8. Pingback: inner.geek » Blog Archive » Tag, I’m it.

  9. I KNEW I was drawn to you for a reason! I’m a theatre person first and foremost (stage manager), then became a marketing director for a theatre (still there) and then a web designer (still learning). You’ve been an inspiration for several years now, but I knew there was something else to it! Cats, theatre, CSS and the web…

    I look forward to meeting you someday! Hopefully I’ll be able to afford and attend one of the AEAs in the future. Thanks for sharing such a amazing memory. And may 2007 be a good one for everyone.

  10. I haven’t seen you act. I read what you write. But you don’t *write*. You paint.

  11. ve the mother to be a puppy shower. Yes I knew Jack..

    Your web site seems to keep blocking my reply. It just disappears. If you would like to hear about my years as a friend of Jack Schwanke’s contact me.


  12. You have inspired many conversations between people who knew Jack Schwanke. Recalling memories of his troop of standard poodles, raising trukeys and chickens (those two hobbies don’t last long together) and watching him paint, sculpt or create whatever came to his mind. It was amazing what he could fit into VW bug.

    I met Jack in 59 when he worked on the Navajo reservation. He and my mother were close friends. I still have several paintings in my home to remind me of him. Thank you for sharing some of your memories and letting us know he continued to give others inspiration.

  13. One of the most moving memoires I ever been read in a blog in a long time, thank you for sharing.

  14. Wow, you have lived a truly exciting life. I have to say i’m jealous.

  15. You worked as a stage carpenter in Hollywood California? That must have been so exciting!

  16. Yes indeed, you have led the life of travel and liveliehood. I can’t help but wonder why anyone would leave that behind?

  17. thanx you..

  18. When I directed opera for the Tucson opera, Jack was the designer. HE WAS BRILLIANT. I do love Jack and his talent. Your writing about him brought tears. (I wonder if James Sullivan is still alive?)

    I brought him to LA a few times to design for the operas I was directing there.

    I still miss Jack and think of him often.

    Thank you.


  19. very interesting that is.

  20. Molly. Pozdrawiam i zapraszam na Mazury. Czarter jachtow

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