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From the archives April 2010

by Steve Mona on Thu, May 3 2012 10:49 PM



I wrote the following story in April of 2010 and shared it with just a few people that knew my friends Bill and Frank. I'd been thinking about them recently and thought I'd share this.

They had a memorial service for Frank Marino and Bill McIntyre on April 27th at The Player’s Club on Gramercy Park. “They” are theatre people, both from on the stage and behind it. Some had names I recognized, others faces but they all had one thing in common, a love for Bill and Frank. They are the people that enrich our lives in so many ways, many of them without anywhere near the compensation they deserve. They were funny and poignant; sad and loving. They told stories of days gone by and small acts of kindness; of friendship and loss, success and failure; life and death. But I digress…

Frank Marino and Bill McIntyre were theatre people too; Frank a stage manager and Bill an actor. They were my next door neighbors up in Greenwood Lake and they were a couple, spending over fifty years together. I met them in July of 2006 when Elaine and I moved into the old house next door. I remember the real estate agent, when she told us about the people that lived around us, leaning in and whispering, “there’s an old gay couple at 43 but they’re very nice.” I chuckled, wondering why whispering was at all necessary. When we first met Bill and Frank I’m quite sure they didn’t know what to make of us; Elaine with her English accent and corporate clothes and me with my tattoos and motorcycles. I found out at the memorial service that they too were told how nice we were; I’m not sure if the person that told them that whispered it as well. During the first week we lived there I was looking around the quite overgrown yard and noticed a path between the two properties. I saw Frank next door and inquired about the path. He told me that he and Bill had been friendly with a previous owner and spent a lot of time at our new home. I remarked that I’d best clear the path and Frank smiled. A few days later as Elaine and I returned home from a shopping trip we saw an ambulance in their driveway. We slowed, saw no one about we could ask questions of and pulled in front of our house. I kept glancing over; I’d not yet settled in to being a retired cop just yet. Elaine looked at me and said, “well go on, you won’t settle down until you know.” I walked over to find that Frank had fallen off a ladder and landed atop a glass table shattering it and cutting his leg badly. I helped the ambulance driver carry him up the very steep walkway and gave Bill my number asking him to call me from the hospital to let me know what was going on. Although I barely knew either of them at the time I was already being drawn in to their circle of friends. You could not help but like them.

Over the next couple of years I got to know them a bit. I was starting to write and Bill’s advice to me was never work with puppets. (Another story all together.) Frank told me tales of backstage at the theatre. I remember him telling me how a minor player in the play Grease would give him fits because he couldn’t even make it to the theatre on time. Frank was quite sure at the time that this young man named John Travolta would never make it in the business. There were calls to run over and let the dog out when they were stuck somewhere and times when I had to tinker with their old Audi to get it started.

They’d always tell me I rescued them but the truth was I learned so much from them that they added to my life in a way no one else could. Now and then Bill would bake me a cake as a thank you; almond and coconut and horribly delicious to the point I’d eat way too much of it.

I’d always considered myself open minded and counted in my life friends of all kinds. Anyone that knew me well enough wouldn’t think it at all odd for me to befriend this elderly gay couple. I invited them over when we had barbeques and my friends liked them as much as we did. As open minded as I was I never really understood the whole same sex marriage issue. What was the big deal? If you could register as domestic partners, as one can do in New York State, why did they have to get married?

I couldn’t see the point. That is until one day in 2008 when we received an announcement card in the mail. It featured a photo of Bill and Frank in 1958 on one side and a photo of them from 2008 on the other. The card announced their 50th Anniversary. I stared at the card and had an epiphany. Why shouldn’t they be married? These two men stayed together 50 years, way more than most “regular” couples I know. They would both say they spent that time with the wrong man, half kidding as they surely experienced the same trials and tribulations as any other couple, but they stayed together nonetheless. I told Elaine of this revelation and in her best understated way simply said, “love is love right?” Yes it sure was. I walked over to Frank and Bill’s, half to congratulate them, half to confess my stupidity and subsequent enlightenment. Little did I know at the time that I would soon see firsthand how not being married could become a problem.

Frank passed away of a heart attack on March 24, 2009. Bill wasn’t recognized as next of kin by the state of New Jersey, which is where Frank died but thankfully the NYPD officer who made the notification didn’t quite care what the state of New Jersey thought. There would be nightmares involving the house, the cars, just about everything they owned despite the presence of a will. In his moment of grief Bill didn’t deserve to be treated like a stranger to the man he spent more than half his life with. It is a sickening statement that in the midst of the Tiger Woods and Jess James’ of our world same sex marriage is somehow the end of civilization as we know it.

I did what I could to help, certainly not as much as Ellen, Bob and countless other friends who came to Bill’s aid. Each time I got a frantic call I did what I could to calm him down and fixed what I could fix. Bill apologized for being a pain, which he wasn’t. When I finally got him to stop apologizing he replaced it with thanking me profusely. I told him to stop, that I was doing what I knew he would do for me; that he was my friend and thanks were not necessary. One day, after I’d taken care of some minor thing there was a pregnant pause in our phone conversation. Finally, Bill spoke up.

Steve?

Yes Bill?

Fuck you.

I laughed intently. “Fuck you” would become Bill’s thank you. I heard it often and laughed out loud each time. I tried to call at least weekly, I thought of him often and hoped that he was okay. When the house looked like it might be sold I brought his VW Beetle onto my property to store it and started it weekly when the weather got cold. When the battery died I bought a new one and I had the car inspected when it was due. It wasn’t at all an inconvenience. It was simply what one does for a friend.

Bill died on March 19, 2010 almost a year to the day of Frank’s passing. The Beetle is still sitting in my driveway and I still think of Bill, and Frank, often. My life is richer for having known them, however briefly.

They had a memorial service for Bill and Frank on April 27th. They treated me as if I knew them; they let me say a few words about my friends Bill and Frank, about their friends.

Thank you Ellen and the rest of the crew for letting me be a part of saying goodbye to two remarkable men. And to Bill and Frank? Fuck you both.



 

 



 




by Art Vlazny on Fri, May 4 2012 12:46 AM
Steve, the more i know you annd get to know you......you surprise me with the people you are able to surround your self with, i know that my life is that much richer for knowin ya and being able to call you Brother....and i want to than.......no....Fuck you Steve........LOL
by MOM on Fri, May 4 2012 7:02 AM
Son I need not tell u the value of friendships.. in ur life u have found that....I need not preach whats right or wrong....in ur life u know that.....even tho..(in ur life) u know how proud I am of u....I still need to say it.....I am so proud of who u became "In ur life" and MINE
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Steve (NK Slider) Mona

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