Tonight was the 25th annual G.R.U.B., the "Gala Reinterment of Uncle Buddy." Will came up with the name back in 1988 when we started having these annual dinners to commemorate the life and death of Gilbert Russak. He had been known as Uncle Buddy to his family, so Will thought he could incorporate that into a title for our annual dinners.
At its height, there were probably some 20-25 people who attended, but over the years, people have dropped out...or died.... Jean. the wonderful Lamplighters contralto, died suddenly but her husband John still came. Adrian, one of the first Lamplighters tenors died, but his wife Connie kept coming, and when we made our annual toast ("Oh. It's you.") we now included memories of Jean and Adrian as well.
Will was always in charge. He picked a restaurant and assembled the troops. He sometimes drove me crazy, always forgetting whom to invite, wanting to ask people that really weren't a part of the group. Always the big presence at the head of the table.
When Will died earlier this year, I wondered whether we would continue. It had been 25 years since Gilbert died and our ranks were shrinking and did we want to continue.
Everyone agreed that yes, this was a very special event for all of us and we wanted to continue.
Jill, who lives in San Francisco, agreed to choose the restaurant. I would send out the reminders.
Gilbert died July 14, 1986 and our dinners have usually been within a few days of that date, but we were in Europe at the time, so we postponed it to today.
Jill chose the Presidio Social Club, located in an old enlisted men's barracks in the Presidio complex, which had moderate prices and available parking. Everything we needed.
Walt and I drove down through Marin County, having left the 100 degree heat of Davis and absolultely thrilled to see the fog bank hanging over the Marin hills.
It was actually downright cold! I loved it.
Our group was small this year. Jean's husband John couldn't come because he was having surgery today. Roger canceled at the last minute, as did Shelley. Connie said she was coming, but didn't. There were only seven of us, but we had a round table, so for the first time we could all talk with everyone, instead of being unable to reach the person at the other end of a long rectangular table.
I asked the waiter to take our picture. In all the years we've been doing this, we have never gotten a group picture and I figured the sooner the better!
The G.R.U.B. Group: Walt, me, Henry, Jill, Willa, Diana, Marie
I love all these people. Henry, Will and Gilbert had been a three-some going on adventures regularly, a tradition Henry and Will continued after Gilbert's death. Henry, who was part of the Lamplighters tech crew and gala-writing committees, and his wife Willa, a Lamplighters contralto for years, now costumer for Pocket Opera, were very close to Will at the end. Jill, our British import a bazillion years ago worked as a dresser for the Lamplighters for decades. She's a wonderful artist and does beautiful water colors. During her working years she spent a lot of time in San Francisco sewers. Diana is the contractor for the Lamplighters orchestra, and for awhile taught clarinet lessons to Jeri. (She was impressed to learn we are flying to Boston to see Paragon Park, the first musical Jeri has orchestrated). Finally there is dear, fey Marie. She was a character actress with the Lamplighters in its early days and shared a house with Gilbert for awhile. We never knew her husband, but laughed when she always called him "Underfoot." He's been gone now for a long time, too. The G.R.U.B. dinner is the only time I ever see Marie. (That, and funerals, of course)
So another G.R.U.B. is in the can and I think we've decided that round tables are the way to go from here on out. It's obvious that our group is not going to grow, but continue to shrink...hopefully not again any time soon!
(Attention Viking people--please note the water bottle on the table, which was replaced when necessary. Now, is that so difficult?)