I moved to New York City in 1981 and began working at a small boutique theatrical agency. The client list was quite good but none better or greater than the actor, John McMartin. For any musical theatre geek/lover, he was the creme de la creme, the king of the hill, top of the heap. He was the original 'Oscar' in Sweet Charity on Broadway and the movie and 'Ben' in the legendary production of Follies. When I first started working at this agency, I was tongue tied and in awe of John McMartin when he came to the office. It took me 6 months to be brave enough to converse with him. As my career continued, I had the distinct honor of becoming his agent and more importantly his friend. Many of you are saying to yourselves, "who is this guy?" Well, he has had an illustrious career in the theatre, motion pictures, and television for over 50 years. He has been nominated for a Tony Award 5 times. He has worked with the best and been the best. He has the honored position of being the only actor with a framed poster size photo on the walls of the famed Sardi's restaurant, above the bar.
If you met him, you wouldn't believe the quiet, shy, gentleman that was bigger than life on stage. There were those that thought he was arrogant or pompous or a snob, but he was the most painfully shy person in the world, but when he got on that stage...pure magic. He had the dearest heart and sweetest manner. He was my friend. I can't believe today I say goodbye to one of the best people I ever had the honor of meeting.
When I got the call from my former business associate that he died, my guttural cries could be heard throughout the house. I knew that he had been struggling and the fact he didn't respond to my texts, gave me a clue that he wasn't doing well, but the reality is all too deep and painful. John McMartin was one of the last great true theatre men. An actor that never missed performances until late into his career and that was upon doctor's orders. He held the theatre in such high esteem that calling in sick was unimaginable. John couldn't understand the younger actors that called in sick so frequently. That was not how he was taught or raised. Theatre was his temple, his place of worship.
We stayed connected through lunches and texts over the past decade, after I wasn't his agent anymore. We appreciated each other's sense of humor. We talked about current events and the state of the world. We spoke of shows we'd seen and compared notes, though over the years both of our trips to the theatre got further and further apart. We spoke of our families and how they were doing and what they were doing. His pride in his two daughters was always palpable. They had something very special together. I admired that always. He had a gorgeous life partner that was his biggest champion and fiercest protector. We talked a lot. Sometimes we were just still and quiet. Oh, and he was a flirt. He always was, I can't overlook that. He loved a pretty woman.
Oh, and his singing voice. Silky and smooth. OMG. He never thought he was a singer, but he was so wrong. Go youtube Too Many Mornings from Follies and tell me that isn't one of the most gorgeous sounds you ever heard. Filled with heart and soul. He was a champion in comedy and could rip your heart out in drama. There will never be another because he was the anti-actor. Too humble. Never read reviews. Never thought he was good enough and always the best.
I love this man. I love John McMartin. My heart is broken today and I will never stop loving him. He is in my heart for ever and always. I am one of the lucky ones to have had him in my life. All the Opening nights, the parties, my wedding, the lunches, and texts will be carried inside me and I will speak of him often to anyone who will listen. Broadway got a little bit dimmer today. We all did.
PS: This is a disclaimer because there are no words to truly express and do justice to the level of loss and pain or the amount of love and respect. I am just trying to give a window into my perspective and writing something about this man is to try to help me process this great hole in my heart. I am not an official family member but have been tethered to this man for my entire adult life. I will always miss you. Goodnight, sweet John.
Please re-post, re-tweet or forward to a friend.