Michael McCarty, ladies and gentlemen, was finally intending to get a Smart Phone.
And I think maybe God just wasn't having that.
You see, because Michael's phone still flipped open, he did not have constant access to social media at his fingertips, nor could he send or receive 250 text messages per day. This meant that when he wanted to initiate communication with someone, he would email OR.... dare I say... call them. What an outrageous, old fashioned idea! He was the last of a dying breed.
I met Michael on a production of Ten Chimneys at the Cleveland Playhouse. He was the legendary Sidney Greenstreet, I was a young Uta Hagen. He was a veteran of stage and screen with a career that spanned decades, I was a wide-eyed fetus in comparison. But before long, the reality of the play was the reality of life, and like Uta, I looked at that white mustache, those warm yet piercing eyes, those cheeky little dimples and felt instantly loved and rooted for. As an actor, he showed up and just did it. As a colleague, he had somehow mastered a way of telling stories about working with Broadway mavericks in a way that was entertaining, not egotistical or namedropping. As a friend, he made me feel like I was worth making time for. “Pencilled in”, as they say. Literally... because he didn't have an app for that.
With Michael, I was given an education and a backstory about showbiz without making me feel inferior. (Not even when we lunched at New Leaf right after my callback for a show that he had been in the original Broadway production of. Good....... Lord.) I loved seeing everything be old hat for him, and I think perhaps he enjoyed seeing many things be new for me; “doing the dance he danced so long ago,” as it were. I can't help but wonder now if that made him think about time. On this planet, our paths crossed when one of us was closer to the beginning, and one of us was closer to the end. But one unspoken thing we shared in the middle, I think, was loneliness. Because let's face it, no matter how many shows you do, no matter how many faces you see, once in a while it is the hardest part about this business. The last time we spoke, it was a Saturday evening, less than a month before he died. I was home in my PJ's, eating Rosemary chicken, and watching Errol Flynn's “Robin Hood”; like many friends, lacking the energy or the money to go out for a night on the town, as is often the case towards “the beginning.” Not long after I'd settled into the sofa, my phone rang. It was Michael. “Hey kiddo!” “Hey, McC, what's going on?” “Oh, nuthin'. I just missed your voice and wanted to see what you were up to.” Suddenly, the image was clear... Me: broke as a joke watching a DVD, Him: bored with binge-watching in the Valley. Two cases of loneliness solved with one phone call. We gabbed for over an hour.
Oh, you schmuck, what am I supposed to do without those phone calls? Without that belly laugh that shook your whole being? Without movie dates and lunches all over town that included advice like “Oh don't be intimidated by so-and-so. Get a load of THIS story....”? Although it's funny... I could be wrong here but, now that you're “gone,” I can almost sense you closer in a way. You may not be tangible anymore, but I swear I can still feel safe and under your guidance and care somehow. So to compensate for you leaving a little too soon, my friend, I will make you a deal: You promise to hang out up there and watch out for me, maybe even do your best to steer some of the cosmos in my favor once in a while. And in between charming the mavericks and taking Broadway bows myself, I will always save you a seat at the movies.