No, you are not hallucinating.
The Spin Cycle is BACK!!!
Can I hear an "Alleluia"?
I am so happy I can't stand it!! THANK you Jen at Sprite's Keeper returning from your sabbatical and providing new blog fodder!
The prompt this week is...Reunions. Fitting, since the Spin Cycle gang is coming back together at last. But when I think of "reunion" the only thing that comes to me, the reunion of all reunions in my life, is something I've ALREADY WRITTEN A SPIN CYCLE ABOUT!
And since I'm a little slow around here (still flat on my back with the ice pack), and just realized TODAY that Jen had come out of retirement, I've decided to just go ahead and repost this piece I wrote a year ago.
Yes, it's a rerun. But it's a damned good rerun. And it's a greatest reunion story I have. I promise that next week, I'll celebrate the return of the Spin Cycle by actually writing something new.
In the meantime, please enjoy....
I was a Theater Major at the University of Texas. The college experience of people in a Drama program at a university is very different from that of most college students. Namely, because for a Theater Major, about 80% of your classes take place right there in the Drama Department building. You take courses in acting, dance, voice, stage craft, theater history, costume history, makeup, lighting design, period movement, stage combat. And in addition to classes, you are expected to participate in productions, either as an actor or, more commonly, as a crew member, building sets or sewing costumes.
Theater majors spend 12 hours a day in the Drama building. With the same people. The same people in every class, in every production. And as it is with any group of people thrown together with an exciting but stressful common interest, especially at such a formative time in our lives, we became incredibly close, incredibly quickly.
The other attribute particular to drama majors, is that most of us were coming out of a high school situation where we were considered the geeks, the oddballs, the artists. And here we were, all the drama geeks together in one place, reveling in our dramaness, in each other and in ourselves. FREEDOM!!
My first two best friends at UT were David and Randy, both gay men, and both the funniest human beings on the Planet Earth. I honestly don't remember laughing more than when I hung out with these two. They were "my boys", and we played all the time - drinking and dancing at gay bars, hanging out backstage when on crews together.
At the end of Freshman year, I got together with Randy and three girls - Becca, Lannyl and Margaret, and we decided to get a house together. Becca was witty and bawdy, but was also the "homemaker" amongst us, with a big warm laugh, and wicked sense of humor. Lannyl was vivacious and smart, a go-getter who made things happen. Margaret was "The Mom", a natural teacher and leader, with a huge heart and big personality. We found a rambling, ramshackle, two story, 5 bedroom house and moved in over the summer. The 5 of us became inseparable.
Margaret, Becca & Randy
What an adventure it was! The house was a complete disaster, wallpaper peeling off the walls, no air-conditioning, open-gas heaters, ancient appliances. The entire house leaned sharply to the west. The electricity was so patchy, that an electrician once told us that the only reason it was working at all was that the wires were leaning against each other in just the right way. If we turned on two appliances at the same time, we'd blow a fuse. It wasn't much, but it was ours.
Lannyl & Randy
We spent the summer fixing the place up - cleaning and scrubbing, pulling down all the shredded wallpaper, installing new linoleum and formica in the kitchen, painting, painting, painting.
We christened the house The San Gabriel Estate (it was on San Gabriel St.), but most people simply called it "The Estate". It quickly became the HUB of the Drama Department.
Parties! Good Lord did we have parties! Our Halloween parties were legendary. And I mean that literally. Actual UT Drama legends were spawned at our parties. Crazy. Every year we had a Christmas Cotillion, the formality of which we took very seriously. Everyone was expected to come in formal apparel, whatever that meant to you.
Halloween at The Estate - Randy, David, Margaret, Becca, Larry
Men! Good Lord, did we have men! Many, many men. I found out later that there were legends about that too, most of which were totally false. I swear. Stories that we passed men from bedroom to bedroom. Untrue. Though we did kind of take turns dating many of the same men. Which was sort of necessary, since cute, straight men were something of a rare commodity in the drama dept. But we were all very civil about it.
Friendship! Good Lord, were we close. We did everything together. We LAUGHED. Occasionally fought. But mostly laughed. Our original little gang of 5 who lived at The Estate grew and changed. One day, we girls came home, walked into the living room and caught Randy making out on the sofa with...David! So now "my boys" became "our boys" and eventually moved out into their own apartment, which quickly became The Estate Annex. We soon found someone to take Randy's room (though no one could have replaced him). Doug moved in and quickly made the place his own. Doug was a big guy with a big personality (Dougie was always cast as Falstaff!) and we adored him. He was all of our big brother. Doug was a party animal, and brilliant organizer of fun.
Doug as Lawrence of Arabia on camping trip to Padre Island.
Other constant denizens of The Estate were Wendell, Kim, Steve, Christy. Yes, there were boyfriends, and girlfriends (for Doug), but they were fleeting. It was the friendships that endured.
Kim & Randy. And unknown drunk passed out in background.
But then, college was over, and we each went our separate ways. We tried to stay in touch for a while. But it was hard. In those days, we had no computers. No emails. If someone moved or changed their phone number, you just...lost them.
Over the next many years (almost 30!) I ran into old UT friends on occasion. I saw Kim, Randy and Becca in New York once. Margaret called me once when she was in LA. I ran into David in Austin at a film festival. But that was about it. I saw Kim occasionally here in LA. I knew that Becca, Randy, Wendell and Christy were in LA at some time, but I didn't know how to reach them. I'd see people on television or in movies, and I knew that several friends were in plays on Broadway. But we seldom communicated. We all had careers, and eventually families.
Then a couple of years ago, somebody talked me into joining Facebook.
I started typing in random names of old friends. And there was Randy. My Randy. We "friended", then we chatted. About a week later, I got an email from him. He had just heard some horrible news. Becca had died. Sparkling, funny, bodacious Becca had died of brain cancer, leaving behind a husband and 10 year old son. She's lived in Los Angeles, and I didn't even know it.
Quickly, Randy and I started tracking down the others. David was in Austin, and owns his own web design company. He and Randy are still the two funniest human beings on the Planet Earth. Lannyl was in New York City, a REAL housewife of New York, who has taken time off from a successful Broadway career to raise her two kids. She drives an SUV around Manhattan, taking her kids to school and soccer, and chairs fundraising events. Margaret was in Scottsdale, a high school drama teacher. I told you she was a natural teacher and leader! Steve too is a teacher, living in Florida, teaching 4th graders. Still the sweetest man I know. Kim had an apartment in LA, but was mostly on the road. She'd decided to throw aside a successful film and television career in favor of her true love, theater, and she was going from show to show across the nation. Wendell was right here in LA too. On his third wife (oops, did I just tell everybody that?), but this one's the keeper, and has finally extricated himself from showbiz and become a businessman. Well, he calls himself a "banker boy". Doug was the hardest to locate, but we finally did. He's now a theater professor in Peoria! Dougie is shaping the youth of tomorrow! AND has two little boys himself, about Jude's age.
We all joined Facebook and started having the funniest, wittiest, cleverest message chains imaginable. Memories, memories, memories. We laughed. We cried. We missed our Becca. We didn't want to lose anyone else without letting them know how much they meant to us. How important a part they had played in our formation. Because truly, it was during those years that I became who I am today. My true formative years.
Finally, Margaret, the leader, decided to organize a reunion. In Austin, of course. She picked a weekend, printed formal invitations, and the San Gabriel Estate Reunion was born. The main event of which was a "Cotillion" (of course) in a banquet room at a hotel.
Me, Kim, Margaret & Lannyl heading to the Cotillion.
What a weekend! Once the word got out, folks came out of the woodwork. We ended up with about 40 old friends! People came from all over - Los Angeles, New York, Florida, London. It was unreal.
Me and The Boys - David & Randy
The minute we all got together it was alchemic! The spark was still there. We just ignited. It was as though we'd never been apart - 30 years just fell away! We immediately fell into our old roles. We picked up conversations started long ago. We mourned the loss of our beautiful Becca. The bond was still there.
Margaret, Randy, Lannyl, David & Me on Cotillion night.
I was blown away to realize what an incredibly special group of people this was. How remarkably fortunate we all were to have found each other, long ago, as young people. Not just wonderful human beings, but remarkably talented people. In our gang we have an Oscar winner, a Tony winner, a Tony nominee, Broadway stars, tv stars, movie stars. Really an amazing collection of people.
The girls with Doug (in his formal kilt).
And everyone looked pretty amazingly good. A couple of guys had started to look like old people, but at least they looked like really cool old people. But in general, we all looked damned good for a bunch of almost 50 year olds!
Christy, Me, Wendell, Lannyl, Margaret
And you know what? We've stayed together. We really have. We're now in constant contact through Facebook. I see Lannyl every time we go to New York - her kids play with Jude. I had lunch with Randy and Wendell just the other day. David has even created a website for us, so we can post stories and keep up. We keep trading recipes! Randy and I play games together on Facebook.
What is it that draws people together? A time? A place? Shared interests? Chemistry? Probably all of these. In the end, what brought us back together was loss. And love. I think that with age, the conditions surrounding love fall away, and we're left with a pure love, a pure friendship. The bond endures.
Please head over to Sprite's Keeper for more spins on "Reunion". And while you're there, tell Jen how happy you are to have the Spin Cycle back!