The performers were channeling the home’s residents to us — and as a coda to their own stories, we felt the pain of abandonment
I had some trepidation before venturing into the Renberg Theatrer for the Neo Ensemble Theater and Saving the Lives of Our Own's One Voice event for the Motion Picture Home's Long Term Care facility on Tuesday night.
First, it was pissing down rain. Second, I received a message that my friend Keith Emerson was in dire straits after a bowel resection in England. I'm frequently looking for signs, and interpreting omens. These two weren't good. This event would either fuel our mission with our die-hard fellow travelers, or provide the punch line for the jokes that would be told at the next MPTF board meeting.
As I entered the L.A. Gay and Lesbian Center that was home to the Renberg, my buttocks were clenched more out of anticipation of a public reaming over a possible rained-out media failure than any vestiges of homophobia that I continually shun.
I couldn't have been more wrong. I remember a friend telling me that seeing U2 in concert was a life changing experience. I responded that 'it should be, seeing that they're spending the annual budget of a third world country on effects, logistics and T-shirt screening.
Tuesday night was a life-changing experience. There were no musicians hovering over lakes of dry ice smoke, there were no flash pods exploding in time to drum solos. You wouldn't be able to see the Fender and Marshall logos that identify the phalanx of amplifiers. There was no orchestra pit.
Gene Simmons' tongue was nowhere in site. The aroma in the theater was not tinged with the smell of pot, but you could smell the bouquet of love and commitment. When Shirley Jones and Marty Ingels sang "You Don't Bring Me Flowers," what could have been schmaltz was instead sheer poetry and love.
As Ingels was led off stage by his wife whose beauty defies description, he aimed a familiar "verb followed by pronoun" that was a direct hit on Jeffrey Katzenberg's peeling veneer.
The only pyrotechnics that went off were exploding in our hearts. John Schneider sang without amplification, sitting at the edge of a dimly lit stage. Richard Dreyfuss paced about the proscenium, damning the fund's admonitions of 'turning over every stone' to find a solution. He identified the lie and chastised those heartless architects of long term care denial.
His fingers poking his chest, he proclaimed 'they didn't turn over this stone!'
Dawn Wells and Nichelle Nichols rode herd over the performers, their brilliance lost in mainstream media but not on us. Bill Smitrovich's portrayal of Ed, an ex-makeup artist who now suffered from Alzheimer's was inspiring. Connie Stevens read the words in my mother's voice — a vocal cocktail that was part humor, part fire and brimstone. They were channeling the residents to us, and as a coda to their own stories, we felt the pain of abandonment.
We were experiencing the soul that we were working to save. The ship that was sinking and sending out maydays had become buoyant again. The calvary had arrived dressed to the nines and illuminated by paparazzi flash. The heart of the Motion Picture Home had not flat lined — the corpse that the vacated Dr. David Tillman and his henchman Seth Ellis were anxiously waiting to cremate had been intobated. Had they been Dr. and the Bride of Frankenstein, they would have shook their fist at the heavens, "It's ALIVE!
We would remind those two that not only was hope alive, but the nursing home was, too. No thanks to them and the now infamous Successful Aging paradigm that arrived as a wolf in sheep's clothing.
When John Schneider said "Thank God for Daniel Quinn," the sting of the slap in the face to those who tried toextricate Daniel from his mother's company forcibly, and in partnership with the LAPD was felt again. Daniel Quinn and John McCormick created the possible from the impossible. The stigma that comes with being forcibly separated from his mother by the LAPD, at the behest of the Motion Picture Home has never healed, but it has scabbed over.
Daniel is made of stronger stuff, and his accomplishment last night was not only a testament to his commitment to his mother, my mother, and the rest of the residents of the nursing home — it was an illustration in humanity. One that we can all learn from. We love Daniel for his strength, his integrity — and his devoted friends!
Nobody wanted to leave that night. We gathered in the courtyard after the performances. We hugged each other. We planned for the next event.
We wondered what happened with the lip service paid to our problem by George Clooney and his A-lister friends. If we are grading on a curve, they would get a D-. The real A-listers were in rare form last night. They know what commitment is about, and do not march in lockstep to the whims of Katzenberg and others who sit on the thrones at the head of studio conference tables.
They answer to a higher power.