We knew that Bob was a very shy man, rarely, if ever, interviewed -- and never one to run around seeking attention for himself. So when friends of his, who saw the show in New York, told him about us, we were put in contact and he said he'd like to see the show, but that he would come on his own, without fanfare. We wouldn't know he was out there when he did come and, frankly, weren't even sure IF he would come. Still, we had great hopes and he did say he really did want to come.
So, this past Saturday night, as we were standing in the lobby greeting the audience members, as we usually do, this one man was hanging back until the crowd had mostly cleared. Jimmy saw him first. It was Bob.
He fell into Jimmy's arms, full of praise for the show, thanking us for treating his mother with such dignity and respect, and even weeping a bit. It was a glorious moment for us. And I said to him how proud we were to reintroduce Ethel to a new generation of theatergoers, and, unlike so many others, without treating her as a big gay joke or a loudmouth pseudo-drag queen. As the three of us stood in the lobby, hugging and talking, it felt like we were all old friends -- and for Jimmy, who has loved Ethel his entire life, we felt like we were giving the world, and Bob, the gift of the real woman with the larger than life heart.
We also posed for a picture together. And I had every intention of honoring his privacy, keeping the photo as a personal keepsake, and allowing the moment to be just something between the three of us if that was what he wanted. Still, I wanted to take a chance. I wanted to share this moment with you, dear reader. So, we asked him if we could post the photo.
Not only did he say yes, but he wrote the most beautiful letter I could ever imagine. AND he said that if the letter meant something to us (!), I could share that too. So, here it is:
Your show is certainly a happying experience, and meeting you and Steve was a heart's pleasure for me too.
I've never been one to create, much less circulate, photos that herald my 'Son of Ethel Merman' identity, but at this time and in this artful and special case, I'm happy to do it. Please give Steve my permission to post our photo on his blog.
I'd like to share one realm of my after-show, driving-home-over-the-mountain thoughts with you. If Steve feels that these are appropriate to share with his readers, he has my permission and appreciation for doing that.
For me, your show evokes a new, heart and soul perspective on the 'adoring' that so many gay men have experienced for Judy and Ethel. Your own particular story - your own adoring of my own mother, Ethel -came comfortably into my heart, laugh by laugh, poignant moment after poignant moment, all the way from its unfolding to its fulfillment. And now, there it rests.
But there's something more resting with it - another story that you and Steve have created for your audience. Within the artful weave of your Ethel Merman story and the larger story of your union with Steve, I thrilled to the how and why story of Ethel and Judy adoring gay men. Yes, I have a unique, lifetime's perspective on the truth of that, but your show is its own beautiful showing of the many layered truth in why my mother befriended, respected, companioned, and adored gay men.
A gay friend once called me a "straight homophile" and when I asked him what he meant by that he said, "Simple, you're straight and you love gay men." We laughed deeply over the truth of how that came about: "exposure to good, loving people and my proper upbringing".
THE BIG VOICE: GOD or MERMAN is clearly an informing, affirming delight for a gay audience. But so it is for anyone open hearted and straight too. Within the weave of its wonderful stories, we get to see the unique and human-precious qualities of two gay men, artful, courageous, and honest, and, through you, we can better understand - and celebrate - why Judy and Ethel adored gay men. And that's a wonderful thing.
Thanks for the wonderful show ! I'll be in touch when I return. All the best, Bob