I have a recurring dream. I’m at a party and am not supposed to be there. I keep thinking that I‘m going to get found out. It’s just a matter of time. Once, when Bibi and I were doing a gig at the American Museum of Natural History for the Today Show, I had this feeling in real life. I kept asking Bibi if I looked ok. I was sure I was going to get caught. It turned out to be fine, or at least I got away with it. The shoot only took fifteen minutes, though they had booked us for three hours. One would think that gig would be the highlight of the day, but in this case that was not to be so. Since the museum was practically in Bibi’s back yard, and since we suddenly had all this time, Bibi invited me back to her apartment for lunch.
It was then that I first met Barry.
Looking back on that day I can’t really remember if it was the Today Show or Good Morning America and I am not sure if the gig was for President’s Day or the museum’s anniversary, but I definitely remember the unparalleled pleasure of spending time with one of the most fascinating, knowledgeable, genuinely kind people I have ever met.
The first year that Bibi and I performed in the Macy’s Parade was another time I felt I was in danger of being found out. Barry was kind enough to invite me to spend the preceding night at his apartment in order to save me the hassle of coming in from Connecticut at the crack of dawn. That evening I sat around Barry’s kitchen table with Barry, Celia, Bibi and two Scandanavian filmmakers, who were doing a documentary on Barry. It wasn’t bad enough that I was going to get in trouble for faking my way into the parade, now I was sitting around a table at which I clearly didn’t belong.
But, when Celia pointed out that none of us had real jobs, and when one of the filmmakers was making biscuits for Thanksgiving the next day and started complaining about the “stupid American measurements,” I thought there was a chance that I might be at least able to fake it. Besides, it was impossible not to feel welcomed and at ease when Barry was in the room.
There were many other times that I had the privilege of seeing Barry. My family and I would often be invited to spend an afternoon or evening when we were in town. Once, when I found out that he shared an office with Jean Shepherd, I spent an entirely disproportionate amount of time that evening asking him about Jean. He graciously regaled us with stories of their times together and seemed to be really enjoying reliving those moments. A few weeks later he called me up to thank me for sending along a podcast of Jean Shepherd’s old broadcasts. He was sincere in his appreciation and I began to think he wasn’t just being accommodating.
Every time we parted, he would say, “Well, I won’t say goodbye, let's just say, ‘To be continued’”.
Barry was always a gentleman. He was kind, sincere in his relationships, never condescending. He included me, as he did many others, and was gracious without any reservation. Barry once said to Celia, when she was impressed that he knew John Lennon, “Darlin’, don’t be impressed with celebrity”. Barry was genuinely interested in the passions of others, not their fame or lack of it.
In 2007 we moved from Connecticut to Colorado. Before we left, my daughter and I made one last trip to Manhattan. That was the last time I saw Barry in person. When we were leaving he gave me a huge bear hug. It was the hug of a friend to a friend. It was then I realized that, even though he certainly could have been, Barry wasn’t impressed with his own celebrity either, and maybe I did belong at the party after all. At least that is how I always felt around Barry.
I won’t say goodbye, Barry, I’ll just say To be Continued.