Yesterday began with an email to Rachel Rockwell. By dawn, Rachel is on the phone and we talk about the challenges before us in MARY POPPINS, the largest physical production Paramount has attempted to date. Our talk meets concerns head on and then I ask her if I will see her that night at Bernie Yvon’s memorial, a celebration of his life hosted by Terry James at The Marriott. “I’m directing it, so yeah, I’ll be there. I’m meeting Amber for three hours to prep “Supercaifragilisticexpialidocious” for rehearsal and then heading up there to stage the program for Bernie. I have to do it.” So, no day off for Rachel and her assistant Amber Mak. I call Tim and let him know Rachel and I talked and mention the gathering for Bernie. “Oh boy. You’re going to have a heck of a day.” Yeah. I wasn’t looking forward to it. Last week I identified a cowardice and selfishness in myself to resist and avoid the emotional upheaval that was keeping me withdrawn and isolated from everyone, anyone mourning the loss of Bernie. All I had to give as an explanation, my excuse, was, “my heart keeps breaking over and over.” Pretty lame. Weak. But. What strength I found in the friendship of others who were clearly becoming heroes to me. Terry James:” See how you feel that day. There is no wrong or right as long as you do what YOU need to do. All he cares about now, is us. xo.” After a productive day at the office and some good work done on TOMMY with assistant, Trent Stork, I start thinking about the drive north with the worst knot in my stomach. I text my friend Bill Osetek, “We have to sit together tonight!” His reply, “Of course.” Hero.
Arriving at the entrance, a ritual of warm hugs, so tight, and tears and smiles of understanding so comforting, the looks and nods so loving, I don’t think I’ll ever think of this place the same ever again. I’ve worked here many times so long ago, unforgettable work, but now the foyer becomes a welcoming home to a family I always had and last night we were there for each other. Heroes.
There’s a change happening cathartic. A confidence shared by a friend I haven’t seen in years of how damn sad, even angry he felt without Bernie and I hear myself say to him, “Ya know, he really wants us to have a good time tonight!” Well, that’s right!” he says, “Thank you!” Ha. No. Thank you! Hero.
And the program begins and the memories wash over us; beautiful images and words poignant then hilarious;the heroism just doesn’t stop. One by one, friends and family stand up to speak and sing and dance and I’m realizing the power of each individual’s vulnerability in the moment…to bare one’s soul. Naked. Before a house of those unified in love of a man who has touched our lives profoundly. More than many of us ever knew. Production photos and videos show Bernie’s range as an actor and astonishes. At the core of it was his fearlessness. The fun he had being uninhibited and honest, unguarded. How he bared his soul, his essence, in every performance without the least bit of concern for anything else but what was the truth for him. Care free. Vulnerable. True to himself, always, and there for us forever.
Example after example of sharing on that stage as we attend a friend who reaches for another struggling with their deep affection and loss…one simple reach of a hand and they go on to speak and sing and we keep on with them. Bernie’s Dad, “Big Bernie,” completely galvanizes with his grief and his immeasurable joy for his son’s life. His heart and courage echoed by Bernie’s partner Matt Raftery. A real “one-two punch.” A rush of love so boundless. So grateful. Eloquent. And ultimately so healing to all of us. Both of them, heroes.
This is the stuff we are capable of as human beings. The paradox that is strength and vulnerability. To feel so deeply to be brave. This is the stuff for which we are put on this earth. To be there last night will forever be imprinted in our collective of hearts and minds. May it continue to grow everyday in our lives and in our work. We have great stories to tell. We have heroes among us.
Love and thanks,