‘Love, Dishonor, Marry, Die, Cherish, Perish: A Novel’ by David Rakoff

ove-dishonor-marry-die-cherish-perish-novel

I wish I could buy everyone David Rakoff‘s  latest (and sadly last) book:  Love, Dishonor, Marry, Die, Cherish, Perish:  A Novel.  Those of you familiar with David Rakoff’s writing know that for the most of his career, he has been a memoirist similar to David Sedaris.  This last (and last) book is a departure, a novel  in rhyming couplets written while he was dying of cancer.  I bought the audiobook of it, read by the author (edited by Ira Glass) and completed 13 days before his death, I wanted to hear it how he wanted it to be heard.  I walked all over Manhattan on Christmas Day, alone, listening to his words in his voice.  It is achingly beautiful.  I am buying the physical book today.  I am not the only one that thinks so, I have collected exerts of his book reviews here (attributions below).  They read more like love letters than reviews and rightly so.

Rakoff’s accessible and unpretentious style is at times reminiscent of the quicksilver Algonquin dazzle of Dorothy Parker or Ogden Nash, along with the greater emotional reach of Frank O’Hara.  The verse also formalizes the novel’s events, lending them a Homeric aspect — if only Homer had been chattier and had described a hippie-ish fellow as “Clad in the uniform he’d worn since Ohio: / Birkenstocks, drawstring pants (think Putumayo).”

The book is a heartfelt, charmingly profound American epic.  At a breezy 113 pages, it charts pretty much the entire 20th century, through a series of interlocking lives.  Early on, we meet Margaret, a redheaded, brutally poor preteen who leaves school to work in a Chicago slaughterhouse.  When the male employees jeer at her, she retreats, in her thoughts, “To a place close yet distant, both here and not here; / Present, but untouched by doubt or by fear.”

Margaret has a vicious stepfather: “Frank said that one time, in Wichita, Kansas, / He’d killed a man who had addressed him as Francis.”  What follows is vivid and ugly, but the scope of the storytelling remains fresh and optimistic.

The book leaps to Burbank, California, where a family barely gets by in the wake of the Depression:  “The yard a brown painting of motionless calm / The packed, ochre dirt and the lone, scraggly palm.”  There we meet Clifford, a boy who lives to draw:  “Above all, the thing that had captured his heart, / And opened his world: reproductions of art.”

Clifford is also inspired by radio broadcasts of a show called “Rex Bond, Inveterate Explorer,” and he develops a crush, imagining “He’d find Rex bound up in some old, empty warehouse / And carry him home (in the dream it was their house.)”  His sexual awakening occurs as he faints, after he’s asked to sketch a nude male model; he experiences “A vaguely elating but frightening bubble, / He felt buoyant and free and yet somehow in trouble.”

Clifford develops a touching and tumultuous relationship with his shy, awkward cousin, Helen, and the narrative shoots forward another decade or two, as the adult Helen works as a secretary in Manhattan.  She suffers the indignities of an affair and office gossip, until, at a Christmas party, “Helen just stands there, observing it all, / Sipping her gimlet against the far wall.”

Rakoff is adept at portraying the challenges and loneliness of his female characters, along with the swagger and arrogance of their husbands and bosses.  We revisit Clifford, now grown and living in a beloved San Francisco, where he draws underground comics.  When his work is attacked by conservatives for its gay subject matter, Clifford responds:  “I know it won’t sway you the smallest scintilla / To point out the sex is quite firmly vanilla.”

Time hurtles forward, to the 1970s and ’80s, where a love triangle blossoms, centering on Susan, a spoiled, Lacroix-clad denizen of the art world, who attends openings where “the waiters were done up like Jean Genet felons.”  Susan is pursued by the best friends Josh and Nathan, and a wedding occurs at Posner’s, a Long Island catering hall with “Venetian pa­lazzo floors pounded by horas / Cut-velvet drapes framing chopped-liver Torahs.”

Susan had never donned quite so bourgeois
A garment as Thursday night’s Christian Lacroix.
In college—just five years gone—she’d have abhorred it
But now, being honest, she fucking adored it.

As lives are ruined, or at least deformed, through deceit and ambition, other calamities erupt, including the scourge of AIDS.  As some characters sicken, others remain aloft, astride their high-powered fortunes, in homes with  “Framed scenes of hunts on a hunter-green wall / A pillow: ‘Nouveau riche beats no riche at all.’ ”

Rakoff artfully depicts shifting social impulses, as Susan changes her name to Sloan and then Shulamit.  As the century draws to a close, characters practice all the verbs in the book’s title.  Ultimately, some wonderfully surprising connections between the most disparate people are revealed.  The book ends with an especially lovely revelation that’s both ruefully comic and crushingly sad.

david-rakoff

This video clip is advertising the release of the book.  It feels more like a tribute, with a reading of one of it’s passages by Ira Glass, Red Green, Dave Hill, Jackie Hoffman, Jodi Lennon, Linden MacIntyre, Bruce McCall, Stuart McLean, Rick Mercer, Jon Scieszka, George Stroumboulopoulos and Calvin Trillin:

 

Happy Birthday David Rakoff

Today is David Rakoff‘s 50th birthday.  He is quite possibly the wittiest writer we have seen this century.  The 2oth century had Dorothy Parker and the 21st had David Rakoff.  He has also had the great fortune of being an excellent orator of his own works, reading a David Rakoff book is a treasure, but listening to him read it brings color and light and darkness (oh the amazingly beautiful darkness) to the words in the ways he intended.  His death is an enormous loss for the world.  Please do yourself a favor and read (or listen to) something that he has written, I guarantee you will become a veracious fan.  The world is a better place because David was in it and still feels the loss that he has left.

I have re-posted several of my favorite David Rakoff posts today, please give yourself a gift and read/listen to one of his books soon.  You deserve it.

David Rakoff 1

Name:  David Benjamin Rakoff
Born:  November 27, 1964
BirthplaceMontreal, Quebec, Canada
Died:  August 9, 2012 (aged 47)
Location at time of death:  Manhattan, New York City, New York, United States
Occupation:  Essayist, journalist, actor
Nationality:  Canadian-American

David Rakoff was born in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, the youngest of three children. His brother, the comedian Simon Rakoff, is four years older than David and their sister Ruth Rakoff, author of the cancer memoir When My World Was Very Small, is the middle child.   Rakoff has said that he and his siblings were close as children.[4][6] Rakoff’s mother, Gina Shochat-Rakoff, is a doctor who has practised psychotherapy and his father, Vivian Rakoff, is a psychiatrist.  Rakoff has written that almost every generation of his family fled from one place to another.  Rakoff’s grandparents, who were Jewish, fled Latvia and Lithuania at the turn of the 20th century and settled in South Africa.  The Rakoff family left South Africa in 1961 for political reasons, moving to Montreal for seven years. In 1967, when he was three, Rakoff’s family moved to Toronto.  As an adult, he said that he identified as Jewish.

“I will stipulate to having both French sea salt and a big bottle of extra virgin in my kitchen. And while the presence of both might go some small distance in pigeonholing me demographically, neither one of them makes me a good person. They are mute and useless indicators of the content of my character.”
― David Rakoff, Don’t Get Too Comfortable: The Indignities of Coach Class, The Torments of Low Thread Count, The Never-Ending Quest for Artisanal Olive Oil, and Other First World Problems

Rakoff attended high school at the Forest Hill Collegiate Institute, graduating in 1982. In the same year he moved to New York City to attend Columbia University, where he majored in East Asian Studies and studied dance.  Rakoff spent his third year of college at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London and graduated in 1986. Rakoff worked in Japan as a translator with a fine arts publisher. His work was interrupted after four months when, at 22, he became ill with Hodgkin’s disease, a form of lymphatic cancer which he has referred to as “a touch of cancer”. He returned to Toronto for eighteen months of treatment, including chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery.

“Being a stranger was like being dead,
and brought to mind how, in a book he had read
that most folks misunderstood one common state:
The flip side of love is indifference, not hate.”
― David Rakoff, Love, Dishonor, Marry, Die, Cherish, Perish

From 1982, Rakoff lived in the United States (minus his four-month stay in Japan in 1986), first as a student, then as a resident alien. In the early 1990s he was issued a green card, a subject about which he wrote in one of his early newspaper articles.[8] After living in the United States for twenty-one years, Rakoff was motivated by a desire to participate in the political process and applied for U.S. citizenship. Rakoff chronicled the experience of becoming an American citizen in an essay published in Don’t Get Too Comfortable. He became a U.S. citizen in 2003, while at the same time retaining his Canadian citizenship.

Rakoff was a prolific freelance writer and a regular contributor to Conde Nast Traveler, GQ, Outside Magazine and The New York Times Magazine. His writing also appeared in Business 2.0, Details, Harper’s Bazaar, Nerve, New York Magazine, Salon, Seed, Slate, Spin, The New York Observer, Vogue, Wired and other publications. He wrote on a wide and eclectic range of topics.

Rakoff published three bestselling collections of essays, which include his own illustrations. Both Fraud (Doubleday 2001) and Don’t Get Too Comfortable (Doubleday 2005) were awarded a Lambda literary award (which recognises excellence among LGBT writers who use their work to explore LGBT lives), both times in the “Humor” category. Half-Empty (2010) won the 2011 Thurber Prize for American Humor.

In 2010, while writing the book Half Empty, Rakoff was diagnosed with a malignant tumor, Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and later developed a post-radiation sarcoma behind his left collarbone and began chemotherapy.  He died in Manhattan on August 9, 2012.

 

 

Happy Birthday Candy Darling

Sheila take a bow

Today is the 66th, 68th or 70th birthday of Warhol superstar Candy Darling.  There is some speculation on her birth year, but no speculation on how fabulous she was.  You absolutely must watch Women in Revolt.  It is brilliant in it’s simplicity, its naive composition and it’s ground-breaking subject matter.  Candy only lived 29/31/33 years, but had an ongoing cultural impact by inspiring songs by The Velvet Underground, Lou Reed, The Kinks and The Smiths.  That is so impressive.  The world is a better place because Candy was in it and still feels the loss that Candy has left.Candy Darling (November 24, 1944 – March 21, 1974) was an American actress, best known as a Warhol Superstar.  A male-to-female transsexual, she starred in Andy Warhol’s films Flesh (1968) and Women in Revolt (1971), and was a muse of the protopunk band The Velvet Underground.

Candy Darling was born James Lawrence Slattery in Forest Hills, Queens, son of Theresa Phelan, a bookkeeper at Manhattan’s Jockey Club, and James (Jim) Slattery, who was described as a violent alcoholic.  There is some conjecture around her year of birth.  According to former Warhol associate, Bob Colacello, Candy was born in 1946, while IMDb has listed her year of birth as 1948.  Her friend, roommate, and posthumous editor, Jeremiah Newton, states that she was born on November 24, 1944.

Her first assumed name was Hope Slattery.  According to Bob Colacello, Darling adopted this name sometime in 1963/1964 after she started going to gay bars in Manhattan and making visits to a doctor on Fifth Avenue for hormone injections.  Jackie Curtis stated that Candy adopted the name from a well-known Off-Off Broadway actress named Hope Stansbury, with whom she lived for a few months in an apartment behind the Caffe Cino so that she could study her. Holly Woodlawn remembers that Darling’s name evolved from Hope Dahl to Candy Dahl and then to Candy Cane. Jeremiah Newton believed she adopted her forename out of a love for sweets.  In her autobiography, Woodlawn recalled that Darling had adopted the name because a friend of hers affectionately called her “darling” so often that it finally stuck.

Before they met, in 1967, Darling saw Andy Warhol at the after-hours club called The Tenth of Always.  Candy was with Jackie Curtis, who invited Warhol to a play that she had written and directed, called Glamour, Glory and Gold, starring Darling, as “Nona Noonan”, and a young Robert De Niro, who played six parts in the play.  It was performed at Bastiano’s Cellar Studio on Waverly Place.  Taylor Mead brought Warhol to see it and afterwards went to the club Salvation in Sheridan Square, where he was joined by Candy and Curtis at his table.

Warhol cast Darling in a short comedic scene in Flesh (1968) with Jackie Curtis and Joe Dallesandro.  After Flesh, Candy was cast in a central role in Women In Revolt (1971).  She played a Long Island socialite, drawn into a woman’s liberation group called PIGS (Politically Involved Girls), by a character played by Curtis. Interrupted by cast disputes encouraged by Warhol, Women in Revolt took longer to film than its predecessor and went through several title changes before it was released.  Darling wanted it called Blonde on a Bum Trip since she was the blonde, while Curtis and Woodlawn told her it was more like “Bum on a Blonde Trip”, titles which were both used in the film during Candy’s interview scene.

Women in Revolt was first shown at the first Los Angeles Filmex as Sex.  Later it was shown as Andy Warhol’s Women, an homage to George Cukor.  Unable to get a distributor for the film, Warhol rented out the Cine Malibu on East 59th Street and launched the film with a celebrity preview on February 16, 1972.  After the screening there was a dinner in Candy’s honor at Le Parc Périgord restaurant, on Park Avenue, followed by a party at Francesco Scavullo’s townhouse, where they watched TV reviews of the movie, some of which called it “a rip-off”, and that it “looked as if it were filmed underwater,” and “proves once again that Andy Warhol has no talent.  But we knew that since the Campbell’s Soup cans.”

Among the guests at Darling’s party were D.D. Ryan, Sylvia Miles, George Plimpton, Halston, Giorgio di Sant ‘Angelo and Egon and Diane von Furstenberg.  Jackie Curtis stood out in the cold, along with other gate crashers.  When a security guard asked, “My God, what are they giving away in there?” one of the guests responded, “Would you believe, a transvestite?”

The day after the celebrity preview, a group of women wearing army jackets, pea coats, jeans and boots and carrying protest signs demonstrated outside the cinema against the film, which they thought was anti-women’s liberation.  When Darling heard about this, she said, “Who do these dykes think they are anyway?… Well, I just hope they all read Vincent Canby’s review in today’s Times.  He said I look like a cross between Kim Novak and Pat Nixon. It’s true – I do have Pat Nixon’s nose.”

Darling died of lymphoma on March 21, 1974, aged 29, at the Columbus Hospital division of the Cabrini Health Center.  In a letter written on her deathbed and intended for Andy Warhol and his followers, Darling said, “Unfortunately before my death I had no desire left for life . . . I am just so bored by everything. You might say bored to death.  (D)id you know I couldn’t last.  I always knew it.  I wish I could meet you all again.”

Her funeral was attended by huge crowds, including friends Pat Ast and Julie Newmar; a piano piece was played by Faith Dane; Gloria Swanson was remembered for saluting Darling’s coffin.

Darling is the subject of The Velvet Underground’s song “Candy Says” and was one of several Warhol associates mentioned in Lou Reed’s “Walk on the Wild Side”.

The Kinks’ song “Lola” was supposedly inspired by Candy Darling.

An image of her, taken from Women in Revolt, was also featured on the front cover of the 1987 single “Sheila Take a Bow” by the English group The Smiths. The last song on lead singer Morrissey’s solo album You Are the Quarry is called “You Know I Couldn’t Last,” a clear reference to her famous deathbed quote.

 

 

Happy Birthday Harpo Marx

Today is the 126th birthday of Harpo Marx.  We have all seen the brilliant mirror scene that he did with Lucile Ball when I Love Lucy went to Hollywood.  To think that it was almost 20 years after Animal Crackers and he was still at the top of his game.  The world is a better place because Harpo was in it and still feels the loss that Harpo has left.

NAME: Harpo Marx
OCCUPATION: Film Actor, Comedian
BIRTH DATE: November 23, 1888
DEATH DATE: September 28, 1964
PLACE OF BIRTH: New York, New York
PLACE OF DEATH: Los Angeles, California
Originally: Adolph Arthur Marx

Best Known For:  Harpo Marx was a talented comedian and mime best known for his performances as part of the Marx Brothers comedy act.

Comedian and actor Marx Harpo was born Adolph Arthur Marx on November 23, 1888, in New York City. The second oldest of five boys born to Samuel “Frenchie” Marx and Minnie Schoenberg Marx, Harpo was the only Jewish boy in his public school class and, after being bullied one too many times, dropped out at age 8.

Harpo and his brothers, Leonard (Chico), Julius (Groucho), Milton (Gummo) and Herbert (Zeppo), performed countless odd jobs while growing up to help support the family. Minnie, however, was bound and determined for her boys to become stars of the stage. In 1910, the Marx Brothers singing troupe was formed, which was originally dubbed the Four Nightingales. Minnie even leased a harp for the occasion for her second eldest, and hence his stage name was born.

In 1912, the Marx Brothers’ singing act devolved to madcap comedy, and the new show became the hallmark of their fame. Because Harpo couldn’t compete with the comedic wits of his brothers, his lines were taken away from him. Though insulted at first, he soon became a gifted mime, particularly in his use of facial expressions and a honking horn. He never spoke professionally again.

The Marx Brothers comedy act was wildly successful, and they eventually made their way to Broadway and in films, including Animal Crackers, Horse Feathers and Room Service. Harpo also traveled the world entertaining troops during World War II and made numerous television appearances.

Harpo married actress Susan Fleming in 1936. The couple adopted four children to whom Harpo was a devoted and loving father. He published his autobiography, Harpo Speaks, in 1961 and died three years later following complications from open-heart surgery.

 

 

Happy Birthday José Clemente Orozco

Today is the 131st birthday of the revolutionary Mexican muralist José Clemente Orozco.  How can your not immediately love a muralist?  So much narrative, and the scale?  It required hours of appreciation.  You may not be at Dartmouth and have hours, but if you even have 23 minutes, the video below is well worth the time.  It will alter your view every so slightly and I guarantee you will not breeze by a mural without giving it at least a cursory inspection.

Name:  José Clemente Orozco
Occupation:  Illustrator, Painter
Birth Date:  November 23, 1883
Death Date:  September 7, 1949
EducationNational Preparatory School, Academy of San Carlos, School of Agriculture
Place of Birth:  Ciudad Guzman, Mexico
Place of DeathMexico City, Mexico

BEST KNOWN FOR:  José Clemente Orozco was a painter who helped lead the revival of Mexican mural painting in the 1920s. His works are complex and often tragic.

The life of José Clemente Orozco is a tale of tragedy, adversity and outstanding achievement. Born in Mexico in 1883, he was raised in Zapotlán el Grande, a small city in Mexico’s southwestern region of Jalisco. When he was still a young boy, Orozco’s parents moved to Mexico City in hopes of making a better life for their three children. His father, Ireneo, was a businessman, and his mother, Maria Rosa, worked as a homemaker and sometimes sang for extra income. Despite his parents’ efforts, they often lived on the edge of poverty. The Mexican Revolution was heating up, and being a highly sensitive child, Orozco began noticing the many hardships people around him faced. While walking to school, he witnessed the Mexican cartoonist José Guadalupe Posada working in an open shop window. Posada’s politically engaged paintings not only intrigued Orozco, but they also awakened his first understanding of art as a powerful expression of political revolt.

At age 15, Orozco left the city and traveled to the countryside. His parents sent him away in order to study agricultural engineering, a profession he had very little interest in pursuing. While at school, he contracted rheumatic fever. His father died of typhus soon after he returned home. Perhaps Orozco finally felt free to pursue his true passion, because almost immediately he began taking art classes at San Carlos Academy. To support his mother, he also worked small jobs, first as a draftsman for an architectural firm, and then later as a post-mortem painter, hand-coloring portraits of the dead.

Just around the time Orozco became certain about pursuing a career in art, tragedy struck. While mixing chemicals to make fireworks to celebrate Mexico’s Independence Day in 1904, he created an accidental explosion that injured his left arm and wrist. Due to the national festivities, a doctor did not see him for several days. By the time he was seen, gangrene had taken over and it was necessary to amputate his entire left hand. As he healed, the Mexican Revolution was eminent in everyone’s minds, and the personal suffering Orozco experienced was mirrored in the growing political strife happening all around him.

For the next several years, Orozco scraped by, working for a time as a caricaturist for an independent, oppositional newspaper. Even after he finally landed his first solo exhibition, titled “The House of Tears,” a glimpse at the lives of the women working in the city’s red-light district, Orozco found himself painting Kewpie dolls to pay the rent. Given his own struggles, it’s not surprising that his paintings teemed with social complexities. In 1922, Orozco began creating murals. The original impetus for this work was an innovative literacy campaign put in place by Mexico’s new revolutionary government. The idea was to paint murals on public buildings as a method for broadcasting their campaign messages. He did this for only a short time, but the medium of mural painting stuck. Orozco eventually became known as one of the three “Mexican Muralists.” The other two were his contemporaries, Diego Rivera and David Alfaro Siqueiros. Over time, Orozco’s work was uniquely recognized and set apart from Rivera’s and Siqueiros’ for its intensity and focus on human suffering. His vast scenes illustrated the lives and struggles of peasants and working-class folk.

Orozco married Margarita Valladares in 1923, and they had three children. In 1927, after years of working as an underappreciated artist in Mexico, Orozco left his family and moved to the United States. He spent a total of 10 years in America, during which time he witnessed the financial crash of 1929. His first mural in the United States was created for Pomona College in Claremont, California. He also devised massive works for the New School for Social Research, Dartmouth College and the Museum of Modern Art. One of his most famous murals is The Epic of American Civilization, housed in Dartmouth College in New Hampshire. It took two years to complete, is composed of 24 panels and is nearly 3,200 square feet.

In 1934, Orozco returned to his wife and country. Now established and highly respected, he was invited to paint in the Government Palace in Guadalajara. The main fresco found in its vaulted ceilings is titled The People and Its Leaders. Orozco, now in his mid-fifties, then painted what would become considered a masterpiece, the frescos found inside Guadalajara’s Hospicio Cabañas, a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the oldest hospital complexes in Latin America. The work, which became known as the “Sistine Chapel of the Americas,” is a panorama of Mexico’s history, from pre-Hispanic times, including scenes of early Indian civilizations, through the Mexican Revolution, which he depicts as a society engulfed in flames. In 1940, the Museum of Modern Art in New York City commissioned him to create the centerpiece for its exhibition “Twenty Centuries of Mexican Art.” His contributions included Dive Bomber and Tank, both commentaries on the impending Second World War.

Around this time, Orozco met Gloria Campobello, the prima ballerina for the Mexico City Ballet. Within three years, he left his wife Margarita to live with Gloria in New York City. The affair, however, ended almost as quickly as it started. In 1946, Campobello left him, and Orozco returned to Mexico to live alone. In 1947, the American author John Steinbeck asked Orozco to illustrate his book The Pearl. A year later, Orozco was asked to paint his only outdoor mural, Allegory of the Nation, at Mexico’s National Teachers College. The work was photographed and featured in Life magazine.

In the fall of 1949, Orozco completed his last fresco. On September 7, he died in his sleep of heart failure at the age of 65. Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, he was hailed as a master of the human condition, an artist bold enough to cut through the lies a nation tells its people. As Orozco insisted, “Painting…it persuades the heart.”

Happy Birthday Doris Duke

Today is Doris Duke’s 102nd birthday.  She was in the newspapers from the day she was born, her every move chronicled and scrutinized.  Her art collection, the house she built in Hawaii, her love life, she did everything large. If Susan Sarandon and Lauren Bacall star in movies about your life, you are doing something right.  The world is a better place because she was in it and still feels the loss that she has left.

NAME: Doris Duke
OCCUPATION: Art Collector, Philanthropist
BIRTH DATE: November 22, 1912
DEATH DATE: October 28, 1993
PLACE OF BIRTH: New York, New York
PLACE OF DEATH: Los Angeles, California

BEST KNOWN FOR: Tobacco heiress Doris Duke was the only child of American tobacco baron, James Duke. When she was born, the press called her the “million dollar baby.”

Doris Duke (November 22, 1912 – October 28, 1993) was an American heiress, horticulturalist, art collector, and philanthropist.

Duke was the only child of tobacco and electric energy tycoon James Buchanan Duke and his second wife, Nanaline Holt Inman, widow of Dr. William Patterson Inman. At his death in 1925, the elder Duke’s will bequeathed the majority of his estate to his wife and daughter,[3] along with $17,000,000, in two separate clauses of the will, to The Duke Endowment he had created in 1924. The total value of the estate was not disclosed, but was estimated variously at $60,000,000 and $100,000,000.

Duke spent her early childhood at Duke Farms, her father’s 3,000-acre (12 km2) estate in Hillsborough Township, New Jersey. Due to ambiguity in James Duke’s will, a lawsuit was filed to prevent auctions and outright sales of real estate he had owned; in effect, Doris Duke successfully sued her mother and other executors to prevent the sales. One of the pieces of real estate in question was a Manhattan mansion at 1 East 78th Street which later became the home of the Institute of Fine Arts at New York University.

She was presented to society as a debutante in 1930, aged 18, at a ball at Rough Point, the family residence in Newport, Rhode Island. She received large bequests from her father’s will when she turned 21, 25, and 30; she was sometimes referred to as the “world’s richest girl”. Her mother died in 1962, leaving her jewelry and a coat.

 

 

 

 

Carolyn Bridger Anderson

On Tuesday, my aunt Carolyn died.  She always had so much to do and say, always completing projects.  Her professional and artistic friends reach around the world.  She was one of the most intelligent people I have ever met.  The world is a better place because she was in it and is feeling the loss now that she has left.

Pianist Carolyn Bridger, who was the principal keyboardist with the Tallahassee Symphony Orchestra and a former faculty member at the Florida State College of Music, died in an auto accident near Traverse City, Mich., on Tuesday morning. She was 71.

“Carolyn was beloved by her colleagues and many, many students,” TSO executive director Amanda Stringer said in an email. “A fantastic pianist, she played in the TSO over 30 years and performed throughout the country in many different capacities. We extend our deepest sympathies to her family and all others who loved and knew her.”

Bridger, who created the collaborative piano (or accompanying) program at FSU, was a founding member of the TSO in the early ’80s with conductor Nicholas Harsanyi.

“As a player, she was solid as a rock,” Stringer said. “We will miss her presence on stage.”

The Traverse City Record-Eagle is reporting Bridger was in Michigan, where she owns a home in Interlochen, to attend a funeral. She and other family members were returning from the airport in Traverse City when a Brimley, Mich., man crossed the central median and struck their car around 1:30 a.m. Tuesday.

Bridger was pronounced dead on the scene. The driver and two other passengers in Bridger’s car were taken to a local hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.

The Record-Eagle is reporting the man who caused the wreck was arrested on charges of “driving while license suspended causing death” and two other license-related charges. A Traverse City Sheriff’s Office deputy said that all drivers and passengers were wearing their seat belts at the time of impact. Deputies are still investigating the exact cause of the fatal crash on the icy roadway.

The sudden death was a major loss for Tallahassee‘s classical-music community. It left friends and colleagues reeling.

“She was tireless, she never ran out of energy,” said violinist Karen Clarke, a former concert master for the TSO and a professor emerita from the FSU College of Music. “She contributed so much to Tallahassee.”

In the early ’90s, Bridger played a supporting role in founding The Artist Series along with her husband, Waldie Anderson, who died in 2011. The Artist Series made its debut in 1995 with performances by the Eroica Trio and Rockapella.

In 1994, Anderson and Bridger rallied a group of non-professional musicians to form the Big Bend Community Orchestra.

“She was such an inspiration to so many students and she and Waldie were indefatigable music ambassadors,” former TSO executive director Lois Griffin said in an email.

The upbeat, quick-to-smile Bridger was as busy as ever this fall on stages around Tallahassee. In October, she performed as the accompanist with cello player Evgeni Raychev at a recital hall at FSU and, in September, she was featured in the Tallahassee Ballet’s annual “An Evening of Music and Dance” in Opperman Music Hall.

She was booked to accompany on piano for the Tallahassee Music Guild’s annual “Sing-Along Messiah” concert on Dec. 2 at Faith Presbyterian Church. Her Florida State College of Music colleague, pianist Timothy Hoekman, has been tapped as her replacement.

“Carolyn’s musical fingerprint is on almost everything in Tallahassee,” Florida State Opera conductor Douglas Fisher said in an email. “She played countless performances of recitals, chamber music, symphony engagements, public service events and more.”

When it came to range, the versatile Bridger could play everything from Baroque chamber music to cutting-edge material at the Festival of New Music. Her focus was as an accompanist, which meant she could fit in with nearly any kind of music or performer.

“How many famous accompanists are there out there?” former Florida State College of Music associate dean and oboist George Riordan said. “By nature, she was always in the background and making things happen. She ran the accompanying program (at FSU) and taught students how to play with singers, soloists, any type of musician. Her absolute devotion to her students was endless, not only when they students but also after they went out into the world.”

Bridger joined the FSU faculty in 1976 and retired in 2010. During her tenure, she became the resident director of the FSU Study-Abroad Summer Program in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Bridger played concerts all around the world, ranging from Malaysia to the Dalmatian Islands to Carnegie Hall in Manhattan.

A graduate of Oberlin College & Conservatory, Indiana University and the University of Iowa, Bridger also studied at the Mozarteum Akademie in Salzburg, Austria. She won the the prestigious Schubert Prize for Accompanying in Austria. The pianist also had close ties with Interlochen Arts Camp, which is located just a few miles south of Traverse City.

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