Saturday, December 01, 2007
remembering - world AIDS day

When "Spoon River" went to Broadway, the original actors----there were only four of them----were part of that cast----Betty Garrett, Robert Elston, Joyce Van Patten and Charles Aidman......Above is a picture of Robert Elston and Joyce Van Patten, which I captured from The Playbill cover when we were at The Booth Theatre. It was without a doubt the single most exciting theatrical experience for all of us..... I have written about this phenomenon before, but let me just say, because we were all there from the beginning of Chuck Aidman's dream of this show, we were a very close company. There were just the four actors and the two 'folk singers'.....in Los Angeles, the male folk singer was Steve Pearlman who decided not to go to New York and was replaced by Hal Lynch..... In this picture above, Steve is over on the left side playing the guitar and Robert is standing behind Betty. Bob was a wonderful actor and a very dedicated 'theatre' man. When Theatre West first started in January of 1962, Robert was responsible for the very first Project that was seen by the public. He was also a Wonderful Director....Beau Bridges has said about Bob, that the experience he had doing "The Corn Is Green" with Betty Garrett and Robert directing was the single most memorable theatre experience of his young theatre-life....That is high praise, indeed. After "Spoon River" closed, all of us returned home to California, except for Bob. In fact, he never did come back to Los Angeles. New York was his town and teaching acting became a very important part of his career. He taught acting at the HB Studios---Herbert Berghoff and Uta Hagen's school---a renowned acting school with a top top reputation, run by two of the greatest stage actors and directors Broadway and Off Broadway has ever known. Robert was a very big part of that famed school..... Eventually, he had his own 'school' and his own Theatre, too....I always admired him for his dedication to Theatre. This was hos passion and this was his life. Working in Television and/or films was really not the life for him....and he made the life he wanted, right there in Manhattan, working in the Theatre, Teaching, Acting, and Directing..... Over the years we stayed in touch....through letters and cards and phone calls....Some time in 1987, I heard through the grapevine that Robert was HIV+ and that his medical condition at that point was what was known as full blown AIDS.....I called him and had a wonderful long very dear conversation with him....We did not mention his struggle, but it was certainly present in both my mind and his, without actually saying anything about the gravity of his situation....

Soon after that I sent him an announcement of an Art Show I was having.....He wrote me this very sweet card....which is here, below.....In this card he eludes to his coming trip to Berlin....it was for work, but it was also for some alternative treatments available only in Europe at that time for people with AIDS----this was way before the so called "cocktail" came into being----this 'cocktail' which saved many many lives, though it is not a cure, by any means----But, there was no 'cocktail' back in 1987. Then, in November----I received this Postcard from him....It was Postmarked November 23rd, 1987.....
You can see, the last line of this Postcard says...."Amsterdam and then London and then home....Love Bob...." He never returned home. He never returned to Manhattan and his beloved Theatre. He died, in Amsterdam on December 10th, 1987, just 18 days after writing me this Postcard. He was 55 years old.

Today is World AIDS Day, and I remember Robert Elston----this talented amazing teacher/actor/director/friend, with love and a heavy heart because he was cut down in his prime by a terrible terrible disease, for which there is still no cure twenty years later....I remember him, and the other 44+ people I knew who died of AIDS related illnesses on this important and serious day of reminders and remembrances.

More To Come.......







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36 Comments:
had this to say:

Hard to believe so many people have died from this terrible, terrible illness, and that it has now been around for so long. Naomi, yours is a wonderful tribute to an obviously very talented friend - thank you for sharing his story with us.

PS: I just have to say also, just be careful about putting your address up on the internet like that! Not sure if you thought about it or realised it was on the postcard...maybe I'm being a bit of a mother hen here, but just thought I'd point it out..!

Saturday, December 1, 2007 at 3:42:00 AM PST 

Anonymous Long Day With Short People
had this to say:

What a lovely tribute. Your post made me realize that I have never known anyone with AIDS. I'm certain part of that is my age...at 38 I am part of that generation that had lots and lots of safe sex education.

I am in awe of your professional experience, Naomi. What an exciting, creative life. I'll just keep living through you as I sit in my bathrobe feeding breakfast to the SP!

Saturday, December 1, 2007 at 4:20:00 AM PST 

had this to say:

It is a plague of Biblical proportion, Naomi, and I pray that we will find the cure for it soon.

Saturday, December 1, 2007 at 5:52:00 AM PST 

had this to say:

Hi Naomi. Thank you for sharing some fond memories yet heavy-hearted when talented lives are shortened due to AIDS. Take care and do have a good weekend.

Saturday, December 1, 2007 at 6:10:00 AM PST 

had this to say:

Thank you, my dear Girl About Town, So Very Much....I don't know what I was thinking...Well, I WASN'T thinking...lol!
It is fixed! And I thank you very very much!

Saturday, December 1, 2007 at 6:24:00 AM PST 

had this to say:

Another nice tribute :)

Saturday, December 1, 2007 at 6:28:00 AM PST 

had this to say:

Naomi, as I read your post I was struck by what a great friend you are...in life and in death.

Saturday, December 1, 2007 at 6:47:00 AM PST 

Anonymous gautami tripathy
had this to say:

What a great post. In India, it is growing at a fast pace and the GOVT is yet to wake up. It is like they are trying to brush it under the carpet. Sad indeed.

Michele sent me here to ponder over it.

gautami

Saturday, December 1, 2007 at 7:08:00 AM PST 

Blogger TLP
had this to say:

As usual you have written a beautiful post. You have led the most marvelous life, and you are a more marvelous person. Thanks for this post.

I had a friend, Iris, who died of AIDS way back in the very beginning when we knew so very little about it. People were afraid of her. When I visited her in the hospital they made me wear a mask and gown. It was a horrible time. There she was dying and people avoided her. She didn't last long.

Saturday, December 1, 2007 at 7:50:00 AM PST 

had this to say:

what a beautiful tribute to what was truly a wonderful friendship. such a shame that such a talented and generous individual who had so much more to offer the world, fell victim to the ravages of aids. here's praying a cure is found soon. enjoy the rest of your weekend, naomi! ;)

Saturday, December 1, 2007 at 9:55:00 AM PST 

had this to say:

That was beautiful.

Perhaps every day should be World AIDS Day.

I watched far too many of my friends sicken in San Francisco in the 80's while our government remained silent. What a waste.

Just now I was watching a CNN feature on South Africa where they say 68% of the world's AIDS victims are located.

Heartbreaking.

Saturday, December 1, 2007 at 9:57:00 AM PST 

had this to say:

You're welcome Naomi! Glad I could help. :)

Saturday, December 1, 2007 at 1:53:00 PM PST 

had this to say:

Just by looking at those photos it seemed it must have been a grand theatrical show. I do sometimes like theatrical shows when they're really good. Loosing someone very dear to your heart is really painful. You must have felt so bad to learn about his passing away just days after you've gotten his card. Anyway, memories of your good friendship will always remain.

Saturday, December 1, 2007 at 3:08:00 PM PST 

Anonymous RennyBA
had this to say:

What a wonderful tribute Naomi and as always a fascinating read - I just love to hear your stories from the past and this was really interesting - thanks for sharing - the postcard from Berlin was very nice.

Wishing you a wonderful end to youro week :-)
www.terella.no

Saturday, December 1, 2007 at 3:49:00 PM PST 

had this to say:

Thanks so much for bringing World AIDS Day to the forefront of our minds by this post.
It is awful that Robert was taken by this horrible disease at just age 55. He had so much more to do and to offer the theater world and those who loved him.
It is wonderful that you have kept his card and postcard. You are so good about keeping all those momentos from years past. This makes you able to remember in much more vivid detail your friendships and experiences of years past
Also, I am very glad that Girl About Town had you mark out your address. I came here after you'd marked it out, but I am glad she caught that. Although most bloggers are good people, there's always a possibility for someone wacky to find their way to our blogs.
I'm a wacky person... but in a GOOD way!!
:-)

Saturday, December 1, 2007 at 4:52:00 PM PST 

Anonymous Lyn
had this to say:

So many; far too many losses of friends and loved ones who suffered the ravages of AIDS. I have known personally, been close to, and mourned the loss of three great friends and I hope and pray on this day dedicated to WORLD AIDS that medical science will find a cure soon.

Saturday, December 1, 2007 at 6:23:00 PM PST 

had this to say:

Beautiful tribute! I have to write mine one of these days, about my dear friend Andrew who died in the first wave... in 1983. And subsequently our good friend Matthew died a year later. We were all thick as thieves from the time we were little kids, and to have them die of this horrible illness was just such a tragedy indeed.

Here by way of michele today, Naomi!

Saturday, December 1, 2007 at 7:19:00 PM PST 

had this to say:

How sad that he died. This was a lovely tribute to your friend. This terrible disease has taken so many. Very sad.

Saturday, December 1, 2007 at 7:44:00 PM PST 

had this to say:

Thank you for a moving tribute and for breathing life into one of the many who have been reduced to a number by the disease. It is by remembering the faces, the names, the hopes and dreams, that we will continue to fight.

Michele sent me. Glad to be back.

Saturday, December 1, 2007 at 11:29:00 PM PST 

had this to say:

So many lost and so many more will be because of this terrible disease. What a touching tribute to your friend and very talented actor and teacher. Such a loss to be taken so young.
Here via Michele's today..but u know I'm one of your regulars lol.

Saturday, December 1, 2007 at 11:42:00 PM PST 

had this to say:

That was a lovely tribute. How sad it must have been to lose a dear friend like that, as well as your other unnamed friends. I always say: As long as people are remembered, they will live forever.

Saturday, December 1, 2007 at 11:56:00 PM PST 

had this to say:

Sad to lose so many to this illness and all too often at such a young age. Seemed it took so long before the issue was treated seriously -- as though some in our society were expendable.

This is a very lovely tribute to your friend and a striking reminder to all of us that AIDS is still very much in the present. A cure still needs to be found. Treatment alone is just not enough.

Sunday, December 2, 2007 at 12:08:00 AM PST 

Blogger PI
had this to say:

It was good that he was working and doing something he loved almost up to his death, tragic though it is. On TV here everyone is wearing the red ribbon and yesterday at the theatre the staff were collecting in buckets for Aids. Hopefully the progress will continue and a cure will be found.

Sunday, December 2, 2007 at 3:23:00 AM PST 

had this to say:

Such a shame he never made it home and such a tragedy that he died from this awful disease, like so many more people you have known.

You have written a lovely tribute to him here and he sounds like he was such a gifted person in so many ways. How wonderful that you knew him and had the wonderful 'Spoon River' expereince with him and the others.

Sunday, December 2, 2007 at 8:01:00 AM PST 

Anonymous Deana
had this to say:

Aids has even reached the small quiet towns and counties like mine. I have a very dear dear friend who is HIV positive. It is hard to believe at times.

This was a wonderful tribute and thanks for the reminder. I didn't know it was yesterday.

Sunday, December 2, 2007 at 8:29:00 AM PST 

had this to say:

Aids is such a sad, sad disease, it's taken so many wonderful, talented people.

I worked with a fellow once who was HIV positive. We kind of became acquaintances and then friends. He shared with me how many medications his doctor had him on just to keep him alive! He was a wonderful man, unfortunately, we both changed jobs and I lost touch with him. One year the Christmas card I mailed him came back, so I don't know how he is. Gosh, I haven't thought about him in years. :(

Sunday, December 2, 2007 at 9:49:00 AM PST 

had this to say:

Naomi, this story about Bob touched my heart and even broke it a little.

He sounded like a warm, gifted and generous man. It's a shame he was taken away too soon by a killer disease and you're right, not much has changed in 20 years. Sad, isn't it?

Thanks for sharing this story and introducing us to your dear friend.

Sunday, December 2, 2007 at 1:15:00 PM PST 

Anonymous Anonymous
had this to say:

Such a tragic and horrible and unnecessary illness. We need to find a cure! Now!
And such a sad loss of a wonderful human being. It made me feel good though that at least he was on the trip he wanted to take when the end came.
UH OOOOOH.....I have been seeing on everyone's blog that has Blogger, I'm NO longer able to click "other" for my URL. I'm afraid I'll be leaving less and less comments. Sorry about this, but I do not have, nor do I want a Google/Blogger account. My provider is Squarespace and I don't want to sign up for this account. I have NO clue what's going on with all the Blogger blogs, but this stinks!
Terri
http://www.islandwriter.net
(NOW I have to put my name, etc. because I have to click "anonymous" below.

Sunday, December 2, 2007 at 2:27:00 PM PST 

Anonymous Anonymous
had this to say:

A member of my family has AIDS and has been living with it for more than 15 years now. I'm 28 and thanks to the media attention over HIV in the early 90s, I went through my teenage years knowing whait AIDS was and how not to get this illness. I don't know exactly what the situation is like in the US or in other countries, but the number of people who contract HIV in France has been increasing over the last few years. The media no longer seem interested in talking about it and the campaigns are not as huge as they used to be in the past.

Thank you Naomi for sharing your memories with us. I'm convinced that fighting AIDS is not only a matter of money: remembering the loved ones who are gone is sometimes more efficient than figures.

Sunday, December 2, 2007 at 2:49:00 PM PST 

had this to say:

Good Sunday afternoon to you, Naomi.
Hope that you are feeling good now that the much needed rain finally blew away the last vestiges of smoke remaining from the fires !
Loving Annie

Sunday, December 2, 2007 at 3:28:00 PM PST 

had this to say:

Thank you for sharing such a dear and personal story. I had a friend in the early 80s that kept getting brain tumors, other cancers and it wasn't until much later, just before his death that we learned what AIDS was and that he had it.

Sunday, December 2, 2007 at 4:12:00 PM PST 

had this to say:

What a beautiful and moving tribute, Naomi. I hope with all my heart that the cure of this disease will be find very soon.
Thanks for sharing your memories with us.

Sunday, December 2, 2007 at 4:33:00 PM PST 

had this to say:

To remember, no matter how bittersweet, is one step close to depersonalizing AIDS for those who've not lost loved ones to this horrid disease. Your heart speaks loudly here.

You're a deeply caring and supportive friend who thinks much more of others than yourself. That genorsity, the gift of you Naomi, is a constant thread woven into your blog tapestry We will remember Robert.We will remember relative and friends. We must also remember those who have noone in this world, while he or she battles HIV/ AIDS.

We must also do more than read or listen about AIDS. You are someone I admire greatly who has done that on a large scale. I use my artwork for arts in healing.

Currently, on the World Awareness Day page of my blog, I'm raising awareness and money for Visual AIDS through giclee prints of my painting "Power of Hope." We all must do more than "hope." We must take that next step...and another...until we find a cure. This project of mine is active through the holiday season.

Monday, December 3, 2007 at 6:29:00 PM PST 

had this to say:

Naomi -
whenever I drop by, I realize why I have your blog bookmarked. You manage to share your life with us, beautiful photos of today and and beautiful memories of the past. Thank you for your post on World AIDS Day and your friend Bob.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007 at 9:52:00 PM PST 

had this to say:

Very nice tribute and remembrance, Naomi. I enjoyed reading it.
~S

Friday, December 7, 2007 at 10:35:00 AM PST 

Anonymous Anonymous
had this to say:

I receantly lost my boyfriend to this sad desease, that i too have. He was a talented singer and piano player.He inspired me to keep going,at a time when i was ready to leave this world.The only thing that keeps me going is that god has to have reason for everything, even letting us meet these wonderful people. They're almost like gifts from him.I cant wait to see all of them again. Till then keep giving the gift back.

Monday, October 6, 2008 at 1:12:00 AM PDT 

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