....who seems to know everyone? Not as a name dropper (lord knows, I know plenty of those people! Do they irritate you as much as they irritate me?), but someone who, when you're out and about, says hello on a first-name basis with everyone they encounter? A dear friend of mine died suddenly recently, and as I watch tributes pour in on Facebook for him (his Friend count says 1.7K!) it's amazing to me how one person can touch so many lives....so many.
I first met S the year I moved to Chicago. He's one of the first true friends I made when I moved here. He worked at the Jewel in my neighborhood. At that time, in order to get cash (there were no ATMs back then), I would go to the Jewel and cash a check at the service desk. One evening when I was cashing a check, the gentleman who helped me said, "I just saw you in Ballad of the Sad Cafe. You were amazing." I was humbled and flattered, Ballad being the second show I'd done in Chicago, my first starring role, and for someone to recognize me and be so kind made me feel so good. Turns out the gentleman was S, and we became fast friends from that day on.
I won't go into lengthy stories about him. I will say that we drank A LOT at a lot of bars -- Gaspar's, The Gaslight, Joel's (some of these don't exist anymore) and I spent copious amounts of time with him at his apartment on Buckingham, where he lived for years. We dated, kind of, then became friends after. S, I believe, was a confirmed bachelor, loving women but couldn't really pull the trigger on being with one for a long stretch, which, I think, suited all of his paramours just fine. I met his closest friends, I met friends that he'd just made. S was a person who knew no strangers. I never heard him say a bad word about anyone. He did a mean Robert DeNiro impression, was enthralled by the movie True Romance, and was jovial and jolly and smart and funny. He smoked waaaaay too many cigarettes and could drink most people under the table. He would find a bar that he wanted to call home and then be a dedicated patron to the point where everyone who worked there and any regulars that perched there as well knew S like family.
One funny story. When I was the box office manager at The Goodman, sometimes an employee of mine would sheepishly walk over to my desk and whisper, "There's a Mr. Wilson on the phone for you from a collection agency." The very first time that happened, I was dumbfounded. When I picked up the phone, it was S, laughing his infectious laugh. After that, whenever Mr. Wilson would call, we all got a kick out of it.
We lost touch during the pandemic, for which I feel bad. I'm not perfect, nor was S. He had a bad habit of making plans with you and then cancelling at the last minute. I was frustrated for years by that quirk of his and thought it was just me, but when I spoke to some of his friends, they also got the shaft from S at the last minute. I'll never know why he did that, but I will say it did put some distance between us. After that happened a number of times, I learned to make other plans when we had plans because 99% of the time, S would cancel on me. Even so, I loved him and miss him now and will miss him forever. He was a huge part of my life for many years and I'm grateful for his friendship, for all the wonderful conversations, belly laughs, and general terrific times. I'm sorry, S. I wish you were still on this earth. Flights of angels, S.
Love hard, my friends.....love hard. Life is short. Don't wait to tell someone how much they mean to you. It can make all the difference.