A Great Man

So this is a short story about a wonderful actor with whom I had the pleasure of working in 1992.  God that makes me feel old.

Jay Garner passed away a few days ago and left a hole in the entertainment world, specifically the Broadway world.


I had the delight to work with Jay on the National Tour of The Secret Garden.  It was my first "BIG" show and with it came some of amazing stories and amazing friendships that have lasted for what seems a lifetime.  (After all isn't that what friendship is supposed to do).

Jay played Ben the Gardner.  His list of credits was longer than I could possibly imagine and at the time I was simply overwhelmed by the people I was working with on this show.  Just a short list of some of the cast members:

Roger Bart
Doulas Sills
Anne Runolffson
and an up and comer...
Audra McDonald

And the list goes on and on.  At that point of course no one had any idea where we would be in terms of our career...that's not completely true.  All of us..every single one of us knew that Audra was special.  There was something about her that just simply let us know that she was going to rise to high heights.

At any rate, Jay Garner, was an integral part of that tour and he made me laugh each and every day.  I'm going to relate a story that I've told a few times.  It's one of those insider stories that I still share to this day and makes me smile every time I tell it.

One night after the show we all headed back to our hotel, I can't remember which city it was in except for the fact that Anne had ordered a mixed green salad and was given Iceberg lettuce only and I remember sitting there at the table as we discussed the pros and cons of Iceberg lettuce.  It was funny at that time, road humor can sometimes be very insular.

After our post show treat we all passed through the lobby to find Roger Bart and Jay sitting there laughing their asses off.  The story that follows goes something like this.

After the show Jay and Roger walked back to the Hotel and Jay retired to his room.  A few minutes later Roger got a phone call from a panic stricken Jay saying that he thought he was having a heart attack as he was short of breath and felt constrictions across his chest.  Needless to say Roger rushed to Jay's room knocked on the door.

I can imagine Roger talking through the door to Jay on the inside... "Jay you OK?  Jay!?"  How did he feels? How was the shortness of breath?  How was the constriction of his chest?

Jay, who was not a small man, opened the door.  He stood there wearing a white tee shirt in full health holding his mic belt in his hand. The mic belt (for those of you non theatre folk) Velcro's tightly around the chest and has a pouch on it to hold the microphone which is used during the show.

As dry as a dry martini Jay said "Forgot to take them mic belt off."

I told ya road humor was very insular but through all of that Jay taught me not to take the world too seriously.  His dry sense of humor was unparalleled except for maybe Roger (which is why I think they got along so well).  Maybe it was because it was my first big show, maybe it was because I spent every day of that year of my life with these people that the memories are so ingrained within me.  Maybe it's because these were and continue to be very special people.

For whatever reason I'm grateful to have shared that time of my life with them.  I'm proud of their successes.  And I'm a better person for having known Jay Garner.  He keeps me smiling even though he's gone.


Christian said…
What a great story, it is a precious gift to be able to share the company of such friends during ones' life. So easy to forget that...

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