I was socked in the gut yesterday when I read an unexpected email from an old buddy from my undergrad days. He had come upon an obituary published a year ago, regarding one of my most cherished friends from those days.
Jenny was a part of my life for many many years. I first met her my second year at CSUN, when she approached me out of the blue, and invited me to be a part of an upcoming one-hour version of "Cabaret" which she was choreographing. They were looking for a few good men to play a few good transvestites, as the concept (old hat these days, but back in '75, pretty daring) included both sexes as Kit-Kat girls. "Cabaret" was on my "to-do" list, so I of course agreed.
Deeply into rehearsal, the gent playing the Emcee quit (or was fired, I can't recall), and I bumped up into the role I had dreamed of playing for years.
More important than my playing my dream role, I had earned a life-long friend. Jenny and I worked together many many times in the subsequent years, both on-stage and off. She played my second wife Agnes when I attempted (with limited success) to play "George M!", and she contributed the elaborate tap choreography to the show as well. She choreographed me as Albert in "Bye Bye Birdie," and played opposite me in 'The Time of Your Life" in a tiny loft in Hollywood.
Jenny had a slightly sardonic view of life, which had not been particularly kind to her, so we all rejoiced when she met her future husband Frankie while working as a waitress at JoJo's Burgers and Brew.
They quickly formed a family, and daughter Katie was born. For several years they lived in a tract house in the Valley which Jenn inherited from her mother, as she waitressed and choreographed freelance, and Frank waitered and followed sports.
They both adored gambling, and I accompanied Jenny several times on her jaunts to Sin City. I was loathe to part with any of my hard earned cash, and after our first trip, Jenny designed a gift for me, a baseball shirt with the following lettering, reflecting the level of my betting:
I didn't get much better with subsequent trips, but Jenny and Frank put up with my cowardice. I particularly loved another gift from Jenny, another baseball shirt with the following lettering on the front.
The shirt is a bit misleading until you read the single word printed on the back: PLUM.
When playing the slot machines, when the first panel hits BAR, a slight tingling of excitement can be felt. When the second panel hits BAR, excitement mounts, as you imagine what you will do with your astronomical winnings when the third panel hits BAR. However, when the third panel instead hits PLUM, you've lost.
This pretty much summed up Jenny's view of life.
My last contact with my old friend was via email at least 8 years ago. She had moved to Vegas with her family, which included 3 kids by that time, and began a career as a card dealer. Once I left LA in 1993, we effectively lost touch, but she has remained important in my heart.
It's awkwardly upsetting to be grieving for someone who's been gone for a year, but to me, I have just now lost a cherished friend.
I will remember you forever, Jenny, as my funny friend with the unexpectedly big laugh, the open hearted compassion, and the slyly skewed view of the world.
My life is not the same with the knowledge that you are gone.