Gary Joseph (1950-2012)
Gary Joseph died this past Sunday (October 14, 2012). He was my very great friend with whom I saw probably 1,000 movies over the course of our friendship, which lasted 26 years. His death leaves a giant hole.
Many people have friends in their lives that they have known for 26 years, but I will bet few can remember the exact moment that they met these friends. I can. I met Gary, appropriately enough, in a movie theatre where we were both taking a film class. He sat two seats away from me, stuck out his hand and said, “I’m Gary Joseph.” I did not know it at the time, but a unique and important person had entered my life. When we met, Gary was 35-years-old with red hair and a red beard. When he died on Sunday he was 61 and what hair he had left had turned gray.
Yes, our wonderful friendship included going to a lot of movies. We did not just go to regular multiplex movies (although we saw plenty of those) but to special screenings and events at MOMA, Museum of the Moving Image, Film Forum, the Paley Center, the Film Society of Lincoln Center, Brooklyn Academy of Music and many other places. On four occasions we flew to California for film events. Once we flew out and back to Hollywood two weekends in a row. In 2010 and 2012 we lit out for Hollywood again, for the Turner Classic Movies Classic Film Festival.
Gary introduced me to many great movies, some of which I show to the students in the sociology classes that I now teach. A few of these films include “Ace in the Hole” (1951), “A Face in the Crowd” (1957) and “Seconds” (1966).
Gary collected movie posters. Whenever someone related to one of his posters was making an appearance, we went, and always got them to autograph the appropriate poster. I remember the two of us, just this past April, at the Blue Note Jazz Club, on Third Avenue, attending a performance by famed French musician and music writer Michel Legrand. After the performance we charged into Legrand’s dressing room and asked him to autograph Gary’s movie poster of “The Umbrellas of Cherbourg,” among other items. Legrand could not have been more gracious. Gary once gave me the assignment of getting actor Alan Bates to autograph his poster from Bates’ first film “Whistle Down the Wind,” a movie Gary truly loved. Bates was appearing on Broadway and Gary had arranged to meet Bates after the show on a particular date, which Gary then could not make. As a result, I was given the privilege and thrill of meeting Alan Bates, as Gary’s proxy, and securing the autograph.
Over the past two weeks, with Gary in a hospice, I thought about our meeting in that film class all those years ago. I wondered what my life would be like now had I sat in a different row that day and not met Gary. I think this is important because of something Gary told me many times: “Things happen for a reason.” While I cannot even begin to fathom a reason for his death, I do know that there was a reason fate brought us together. We loved movies, which were really the social fabric of our relationship. They were the excuse to get together. Our jaunts, more than anything, were about our companionship, love and concern for each other. Gary picked up a lot of tabs, but he was exceptionally generous with his friendship, time, support and concern for me, not to mention my less than stable work life. He wanted good things for me. He called me “buddy boy” which he got from the movie “West Side Story.” While I know there are many who will miss Gary, including his family, friends, colleagues and, most of all, his wife Lois, for me this loss of a contemporary is especially poignant, sad and painful.
Whenever Gary and I would part company he would say to me “to be continued.” We still said that to each other over the past two weeks, knowing full well that time was short. I have heard it said that death does not end a relationship. It is hard to believe that the things Gary loved and enjoyed will still be able to exist in a world without him. For me, the world will be a less colorful place without Gary, but over the coming days, weeks, months and years I will try hard to continue my relationship with him. I know that every time I finish seeing a bad movie (and we saw our share) I will hear Gary’s voice saying, “What were they thinking??!!”
Posted on October 21, 2012, in Feature Articles and tagged A Face in the Crowd, Ace in the Hole, Alan Bates, Brooklyn Academy of Music, Film Forum, Film Society of Lincoln Center, Gary Joseph, Michel Legrand, MOMA, Museum of the Movign Image, Seconds, The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, Turner Classic Movies Class Film Festival, West Side Story Paley Center, Whistle Down the Wind. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.