Gilbert has been dead 32 years and tonight we celebrated the 31st "Gala reinterrment of Uncle Buddy," the dinner which began the year after his death with four of us getting together to commemorate the first anniversary, expanded over the years to include as many as 20 or more people (a mistake) and for the last 20 years or so has just been the devoted 9: 4 actors, 2 techies, a musician, a dresser, and me. The group has seen death and illness but we have remained intact and these are some of my closest friends, though I only see them once a year. As we are all aging and each has his or her own "organ recital" each year, you never know when this will be the last dinner for someone. Our oldest is 80 and she is no longer able to spend the whole evening chit chatting, so leaves early.
Mezzo Soprano, Jeanne Ziaja was the first to leave, dying of a heart attack, all too soon and at a much too young age. Her husband, the 10' tall baritone John continued to join us until health problems kept him housebound. Then we lost Adrian MacNamara, who was an actor and also the first president of the Lamplighters. He served as president for many years. His wife Connie came for a year or two after Adrian's death, but it was a long drive for her. Then Will Connolly, one of Gilbert's best friends, had the audacity to die. A big spark left with him and he is still sorely missed, especially because he was the organizer of the event year after year.
The wonderful actress Marie Clyde, who was one of the earliest Lamplighters and who had been Gilbert's friend and shared a house with him for many years, just gradually stopped coming. So now we are 9.
The drive down was through haze and smoke since there are so many fires burning in California right now. Fortunately none close to us.
But once we hit the San Francisco Bay area it was clear and cool.
That little finger of fog that will envelope the bridge by sundown was just starting to roll in.
We got to the Presidio Social Club nearly an hour early, but Jill was already sipping a cocktail at the bar and Roger was waiting out in his car, so we went to our table to await the others.
The Presidio Social Club was one part of the Army installment when the Presidio was a working base, so it's nothing to look at from the outside.
But inside it has the look, ambience, service and prices of the 5 star restaurant.
Our table was over by the window in the back
I wish the food matched the decor and the attentive staff, but it just has always been sort of lackluster for me. Of course, my special of the day, shrimp scampi, was pretty tasty.
Many years ago, we used to retire to someone's home to keep the evening going long into the night, but none of us is up to that now, so when dinner was finished we said goodbye and headed back across the Golden Gate, through the fog, which was now covering the whole city.
A finger of fog rolling down Mt Tamalpais in Marin county was our farewell to fog and cool weather.
And so it's over for another year, but I feel all warm and fuzzy inside, having spent another evening with our friends. I say it every year...Gilbert would be amazed that we have kept this tradition going for 31 years.