Volume 3 Book 5 Part 2 of
Living in the Bonus Round
(The Big Voice Chronicles)

A group of mourners at the interment ceremony of Marilyn Laskey.
(The woman with the red hair is actress Carol Cook).

[ Book 3-4 ] -- [ Pt 1 ] [ Pt 2 ] [ Pt 3 ] [ Pt 4 ] [ Pt 5 ]
[ Pt 6 ] [ Pt 7 ] [ Pt 8 ] [ Pt 9 ] [ Pt 10 ]
[ 11 ] [ 12 ] [ 13 ]
April 24-May 8, 2003.
Marilyn Lasky's Theatrical Legacy.
It was a shocking phone call that came out of the not so clear blue California skies. Up until this day, the skies had been Spring fresh. An infrequent rain had surprised us, passed over and left crystal clear skies. We could see the whole range of mountains around our valley. But today, there were dark gray crowds crowding the mountaintops, pinching their peaks, threatening and angry.

This call contained a jolt. The kind that happens so quietly and so unexpectedly that you don't realize what it means until later. Like a truck hitting you but you don't feel the soreness until the next day.

Marilyn Lasky was not a person who drew attention to herself. I would see her and her husband Stan doing "volunteer usher duty" at all the theatres in Los Angeles. A tiny, quiet, unassuming retired couple who spent every single night of the week ushering and seeing new shows. That was their joy. They did it every single night of the week.

It was Stan who called us, who quietly told Jimmy that Marilyn had "expired" a couple of days ago and that she'd want us there at her burial. That we were considered "family."

Wait a minute. Had she been sick? Was this sudden?

No. Marilyn was our heart and soul. A theatre night in L.A. without Marilyn?

She knew every director, writer, producer, usher, ever single actor (old and new), and audience member of Los Angeles theatre. She was its spinal cord, connected to it all. If you needed to know anything about anything or anyone going on, Marilyn could tell you. But she wasn't a hire-powered agent. She wasn't a happening personal manager. She was a volunteer usher.

These were Stan's words: Marilyn expired last night.

It's as if someone reached into the main fusebox and pulled out all the wires.

Mount Sinai Mortuary in Burbank, CA

Notice the beautiful star of David in the upper left hand corner.
It was inlaid turquoise mosaic tile.

We gathered here and then were led to the grave.
In the Jewish tradition, bodies are quickly buried
out of respect for the deceased.

An ingraving on the wall.
I love how the Star of David is interwoven with vines from the earth.

At the site, we all gathered around the comforting words of a rabbi.
His words managed to make us feel her life force
without falling into cliche. I appreciated that.

I was the only one openly holding a camera
so I started to worry that I was being disrespectful by pointing it.
I put it on my knee and shot this without looking through the lens.

The Prayer book was written with the pages going from back to front.
We also got to keep our white yalmulkas, the little hats.

Our friend, actress Mary Jo Catlett.

The rabbi emphasized that in the Jewish tradition, it's not how long you live, but how well. That your life is measured by what you leave behind and what kind of effect you had on the people and world.

He asked if anyone had any stories they'd like to convey. People didn't hestitate. Jimmy told a funny story about how Marilyn, after seeing Jimmy on stage, referred to him as "'The elderly gentleman from the Colony.' SHE was calling ME elderly???", he joked. This brought a welcome laugh from the crowd. Jimmy added that she was his theatre barometer. "If Marilyn walked out of a show with her thumb up, I knew I had a hit." But if he got the Marilyn shrug, he knew it was time to worry.

It's funny, but everyone just seemed numb. Many people spoke, but no one seemed to be breaking down. The truck had hit us all. I hadn't even, until this moment, imagined life without Marilyn. And Stan! He was quiet. He would shed a tear or two, but he was his same joking, joyful self. Everyone loves him. But no one felt a need to prop him up. He was keeping US all up.

A touching sentiment came from Barbara Beckley who runs the Colony Theatre. She said that when Stan called her, her last words for Barbara were, "Thank you." This touched Barbara very deeply. She said that Marilyn and Stan, aside from ushering every night of the year at every theatre in town, would not hesitate to take a stack of a couple of thousand mail-outs and stuff 'em into envelopes. "That's not glamorous work," Barbara continued. "But then she turned around and thanked ME. She would do all this work and then she'd thank me." Barbara's eyes were misty but you could read a huge smile shining from the inside.

Another younger man told of how Marilyn was a painter. He asked her why she painted and her answer was, "Because it's something you leave behind after your gone." She believed very deeply in the Jewish tradition of leaving behind a better world than the one you were born in.

Everyone commented that she spent a great deal of energy on AIDS fundraisers. She loved the actors in Los Angeles and saw how the disease had killed so many of the most promising and most talented people.

After the ceremony was over, I realized I never even knew her, all the things she did and all the people whose lives she touched and inspired. As a writer and performer, my theatrical life depend on the Marilyns and the Stans of the world, the people who make theatre their world. They're just THERE. And now...

Afterwards, there was a gathering at the Smoke House near the cemetery.

Just toward the end, David Gallagan, who directs a big theatrical AIDS benefit every year, rose and with producer Judy Arnold and a couple of others, announced that the new Backstage award they had established last year for volunteers would now be named the Marilyn Lasky Backstage Award, "the front of house woman with the backstage heart."

Jimmy with Stan Lasky.

It's hard to calculate the loss of a person like Marilyn Lasky, but it's nothing to the loss we would feel if she had never been around creating such a terrific legacy. She inspired everyone who knew her with her love, her dedication, her life force and her tireless joy at making the world a better place through loving herself, her husband and the many thousands of others who will never know how her life enriched theirs.

[ Book 3-4 ] -- [ Pt 1 ] [ Pt 2 ] [ Pt 3 ] [ Pt 4 ] [ Pt 5 ]
[ Pt 6 ] [ Pt 7 ] [ Pt 8 ] [ Pt 9 ] [ Pt 10 ]
© 1996-2003 by Steve Schalchlin.
You have permission to print from this diary and distribute for use in support groups, schools, or to just give to a friend. You do not have permission to sell it.