Another secret about Jim and his poetic passions: He loved theater and musicals, seemingly the sappier, the better. It’s not something he broadcast much – I would hazard a guess that he didn’t go share just how much he LOVED Carol Channing or a great Cole Porter number or Rodgers and Hammerstein’s work with his mechanic or the guys he got his guns from – but, if he thought you were receptive to the power of it all, he’d definitely bend your ear.
There was so much more to Jim than the rock ‘n roll hard-livin’ lunatic genius. That’s one aspect of his life and there’s ample evidence for it, but dig a little deeper and you’ll see a lovely sap willing to make a fool of himself at the drop of a hat, especially after he’d had a glass or two of whatever high-end whiskey or scotch he happened to favor that month (Pendelton, Macallan, Glenrothes, you get the idea).
It’s like I’ve said before, Jim was never ashamed to wear his emotions on his sleeve, and he was hugely sentimental, almost comically so. Jim liked a great song, sure, but he also seemed to dig the poetry, catharsis and pathos at the heart of most remarkable theater, musical and otherwise. And if, at it’s core, there was a love story full of betrayal, heartbreak and redemption, hey, so much the better. I think it was as close to therapy as Jim would let himself get.
One Enchanted Evening
Amelia says it best: “Jim just LOVED certain musicals, like ‘South Pacific,’ especially the song ‘I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outta My Hair.’ I mean he was just crazy about that show. So in January 2009 there was a revival here at the Curran Theatre and Bonita and I surprised him with tickets for Christmas. He had seen that it was coming to town, and he kept saying how great it would be to go, but for the 13 years that I knew him, he would talk about going to movies and shows but then lose heart. The only way he would do it was if somebody went with him.
“I remember he even put his hearing aids in that night, which you know meant it was a very special occasion. Of course, we had to drive and go to dinner first and then we took him there and I kept looking over at him and he was just humming and singing along, tears streaming down his face. It was crazy how much he loved it!”
In fact, when “South Pacific” was remade with Glenn Close, Jim was so impressed with her performance as Ens. Nellie Forbush that he sent her a print in appreciation. So who was the original actress to play Nellie and sing all those brilliant Hammerstein lyrics? Mary Martin. I’m just guessing, but I bet Jim had a thing for Martin based on her role in “South Pacific.” All I know is he just raved about her and made a point of showing me the shot we’re running here of her recording the “Jennie” cast album in 1963 in NYC.
Again, 1963 comes up. Jim in NYC, starting off his career before rock 'n roll. If you want to see the true breadth of his vision, check out his wonderful 2004 book “Proof,” the Shelley Winters and Russell and Channing proof sheets are featured there.
Confession time: I had sort of heard of Martin because she originated the Peter Pan role on Broadway in 1954 for which she won a Tony. But Jim connected the dots for me by saying she was also Larry Hagman’s mom (at the time Hagman was a huge star playing J.R. Ewing on ’80s mega hit TV show “Dallas”). Ohhhhh, that Mary Martin.
That was the very cool thing about Jim and his passions, he may have made fun (gently) of me for not knowing in 1984 who these people were ... let alone understanding their talent and relevance. Yet, as long as I was not outright disdainful, he went out of his way to explain and provide a context. Certainly, he made amazing photos of most of them, but first and foremost he was a fan; a great and loyal fanatic who just wanted his passions to fall on fresh ears.
“Some Enchanted Evening”
Some enchanted evening, you may see a stranger,
You may see a stranger across a crowded room,
And somehow you know, you know even then,
That somehow you'll see her again and again.
Some enchanted evening, someone may be laughing,
You may hear her laughing across a crowded room,
And night after night, as strange as it seems,
The sound of her laughter will sing in your dreams.
Who can explain it, who can tell you why?
Fools give you reasons, wise men never try.
Some enchanted evening, when you find your true love,
When you hear her call you across a crowded room,
Then fly to her side and make her your own,
Or all through your life you may dream all alone.
Once you have found her, never let her go,
Once you have found her, never let her go.