i'm guilty of not taking a regular newspaper or watching the news very often, so was grateful when kevin wing notified me via email of ray orrock's recent death at age 79.
as is true for almost all deaths of people i've come to know and love, my mind immediately searches for and plays a little movie of our last time together, our last conversation, our last hug goodbye
in this case, it was at amador theatre. i spotted ray orrock and his wife marlene in the audience 3 years ago initially, and learned my daughter was sharing the stage with a couple of their grandchildren in the annual summer drama performance directed by debra knox. i've seen him each year since, always looking forward to a quick visit from our seats or standing in the aisleways,
always, that smile.
and always, that "sandra, yes, of course i remember you," that makes me blush, but makes my day.
because there was a time i prayed he would forget me completely. -forget my face -forget my name - please God! -
a time i dreaded ever accidentally running into him, a time when on the occasions i spotted someone who even remotely resembled orrock, i ditched the scene
makes me laugh now, but at the time! -oh!- i was mortified.
all started in 1993 when i set out to write a profile about him for our college magazine. the joy of joys as a journalist student at the time, was it gave me such a legitimate excuse for meeting and interviewing people i liked and admired. ray orrock had been making me smile and laugh for years with his column in the daily review newspaper, so he was naturally at the top of my short list for potential features.
he was a wonderful interview! .. hilarious, gracious, kind -generous with the stories-
and i was quite proud of the profile i wrote about him; one of my very best i'd say, because i so agonized over every word, every transition.. and because i so loved him.
this helping to put into perspective how thrilled i was to leave that interview with an inscribed copy of the best of orrock (a collection of over 100 of his funniest columns). he wrote, something like..
to sandra, who gives a new name to the word charm, love ray o.
what you see here, is a second copy of the best of orrock, with the inscription
to sandra "skoozy" kay, best wishes -which i will explain a little later
but worth mentioning here that the first book went -quite suspiciously- missing.
jealous boyfriend - trash can - i think. anyway.. back to my wonderful interview and spectacular profile
which my professor upon reading referred to as a ... what did he call it? - "a stupid, pathetic, valentine" - if i'm recalling correctly, "trash"
and he demanded i rewrite it or it would not be published at all. big, thick, red crosses through entire paragraphs. jokes, i thought were fantastically funny, underlined 3 times with notes off in the margins: POLITICALLY INCORRECT.
what's a young, talented girl in justified admiration of a humor columnist to do? i could not imagine the article not being published.. not after spending all that time to schedule the interview; have the interview; and agonize over every word
writing favorably about people was apparently "not journalism" i should "work for hallmark"
so i made the erroneous corrections he demanded and resubmitted the piece.
and while he still (and funny, how i can't for the life of me remember his name) , but while he still critized my revised additions, he did publish the 3rd (or 4th?) draft.
in my mind the story went from fabulous, authentic, inspired and entertaining to
and adding to my already exaggerated psychological pain, the photographer failed me also. i specifically requested a picture of ray orrock smiling. SMILING! he brought back a picture of ray orrock looking down at a computer AND THEN when i said, "what happened? -why not a shot with him smiling?" he said, "you never asked me to do that." ( what a .... (delete)!).
the whole thing was a global disaster. i counted on ray orrock just being so busy in life, he'd forget we ever met, and my original plans to send him a copy once it was published: NO WAY.
i thought about changing my identity, leaving the country, traveling south for the evers..
but ended up staying local, wore hats and sunglasses and fake mustaches until the whole thing blew over
i'd give anything to see the original profile i wrote... because in re-reading this finally published 4th draft profile in 2008, "from priesthood to punchlines -a peek inside the life of daily review columnist ray orrock"
this profile i remember calling "mutilated and humiliating! completely unauthentic!" -i don't see where that professor got his hateful, hostile way afterall. it reads just as sweet, loving, humorous, organized and flattering as i originally intended.
laugh now to think i waited two years before i made contact again; by mail.
and six years before i made contact again in person. but, that ray orrock.. he not only pretended to remember me, he said he remembered the profile and thought it was great.
i just blushed and changed the subject. thought i could drown that horrible memory (to death!) by creating a new and improved one -and talked him into being a guest speaker for my creative writing students during a class i taught through the pleasanton community parks and recreation service in 1999. "yes, i'm a teacher now,"
and damn it if he wasn't just wonderful, funny, gracious and fantastic in every way again! he held no grudges.. and it was such a treat for all of us -the picture we took together became the cover of the book i put together at the end of class, and a copy of that same picture hangs on my wall above my bookcase.
redemption for me at last! was being able to proudly send a copy of that winter anthology with a dedication: thank you ray orrock for an evening of laughter and encouragement.
i had no way to pay him for his time and talent, so took him out to dinner instead and selfishly soaked up some more of his great stories and company. we went to girasole in pleasanton, which is famous for it's "skoozy" bread, and helps explain the newer inscription.
tortured to search for and not find my original inscribed copy of his book, i made certain to bring a new one to our dinner date. and in the worst way... in the most unlady-like, immature, selfish, egotistic, awful, unjustifiable way.. i wanted to ask ray if he would re-write those sweet words about me bringing new meaning to the word charm, but thank God, ('cuz i certainly would have failed on my own) i kept my manners..
and thank Ray, i have many great memories.
i will feel it -that painful, empty, awkward, longing - when i look around in the theatre this summer, and he's not there with his wife to see, to greet, to visit with,
but i will give my attention then to my daughter, his grandchildren, all the beautiful children performing on stage, and smile to witness these new memories in progress