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Monday, 07 May
And He Was

I'm back from Chicago, but I'm afraid I just don't have the heart to write a bunch of nasty bullshit about it today. Today we lost Howard Bulson, one of the sweetest men I ever had the privilege to appear on stage with.

Thank God that I didn't have to sing in front of him--God knows he didn't need any more of that misery, although he certainly heard worse in his time. I remember his immaculate white suits; I remember his out-of-time polite courtliness with ladies: once, while smoking with him and a female cast member in the back alley behind the Rendevous, we were set upon by a young guy looking for a smoke. The young guy started a line of patter with the actress, a lot of ridiculous nonsense along the lines of "Damn, girl, you look good! You're a house on fire!" etc. etc. Howard drawled laconically, "Say, who writes your material?"

I remember how, when he showed up for the first musical rehearsal, we told him what material we needed him to play, and after an hour or so, he excused himself. "I've got it," he said, and left. We looked at each other worriedly. This was like worrying that Albert Pujols would forget what a baseball looked like or Carlos Mencia forgetting what it's like to be an intolerable asshole. He showed up at the next rehearsal unruffled and had, in fact, remodulated many of the songs so that they were more easily sung by the cast members. Without being asked to, without suggestion. And, apparently, without effort.

Friday would have been his 73rd birthday. We were going to have such a party in his honor; we knew he was sick, terribly sick. He had pancreatic cancer. But it got him before we could get there. As usual, it wasn't Howard's timing that was off: it was ours. Missed it by that much. If Howard were still here, he'd gently tell us to start over, from the beginning. We'd get it this time. And if we didn't, Howard would say, That's all right. We'll do it again.

We're still going to get together, I think. We have to. It's not a party any more . . . I suppose it's a wake. We'll get together this weekend and celebrate a life, and what a life: a life of behind-the-scenes, a life of accompaniment, a life spent making other people look much better than they might have otherwise. What could be nobler?

Good night, Howard. The songs are still here to be played, but I don't think they're going to sound right any more without you. Come back, and all is forgiven for you having left us. Come back so we can say, That's all right. We'll do it again.


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Comments

You know, you're a funny guy, but this is special.

Comment number: 013840   Posted by: nickd on May 8, 2007 03:15 PM from IP: 88.151.24.108

nickd is so, so very right. You should spend some time chasing your voice sans bons mots, not for giggles, exactly, but to see what you can do with it. Maybe you have already. I don't know. This is the best valediction on Howard that will appear in any media, and a remarkable bit of writing.

Comment number: 013853   Posted by: mike on May 8, 2007 07:19 PM from IP: 66.213.242.235

Wow, I was just talking about Howard with someone the other day. We didn't even know he was sick.

What a fitting tribute to the man. I'm glad this is the way I heard about his illness and passing. Thank you, Skot.

Comment number: 013858   Posted by: Suzanne on May 8, 2007 09:07 PM from IP: 66.235.35.226

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