Marvin equals Mensch

Please, don’t let this feeling end
It’s everything I am
Everything I want to be
I can see what’s mine now
Finding out what’s true
Since I found you
Looking through the eyes of love

I did it. I finally sang for Marvin Hamlisch. He wasn’t there in person but I know he heard every word and I will always be grateful I showed up for him, at the very, very end, because there is no place I would have rather been.

Marvin Hamlisch was buried at Congregation Emanu-El, the largest Reform synagogue in the New York, where George Gershwin‘s funeral was held in 1937, and the ceremony was fitting a man who gave so much of himself to a grateful world.

He was eulogized by President Bill Clinton, the chairman of Sony, Sir Howard Stringer, and others, including his beloved wife Terre.

President Clinton described Marvin as a “great, giving genius.”  “Genius is rare enough, but a good-hearted genius is rarer still,” he said. “A good-hearted, humble and hilarious genius is almost unheard of.”

I can tell you, Marvin was a good-hearted genius. I experienced his wonderful, upbeat personality first-hand, and as most of you know, I will never forget his kindness and generosity of spirit.

I sang as part of a 600 voice choir of fellow musicians conducted by Essential Voices USA director and Marvin friend, Judith Clurman. The choir included Lucie Arnaz and Rupert Holmes. We sang “The Way We Were” and “What I Did for Love.” Tony Award-winner Idina Menzel also sang with us, performing Marvin’s favorite, “At the Ballet” from A Chorus Line.

Other guests included ex-Yankee manager Joe Torre, Kelli O’Hara, Ann-Margret, Raul Esparza, Robert Klein, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Leslie Uggams, Richard Gere, Tony Danza, Kathie Lee Gifford, Diane Sawyer and her husband Mike Nichols, the film and stage director.

Marvin’s funeral was heart wrenching and difficult, poignant and joyful. I cried so much I thought my contact lenses were going to slip from my eyes. I thought no one could possibly feel the loss I was feeling until his wife Terre took the podium and shared memories of a man whose “life force was huge.”

He was likely to cheer her up in the morning by jumping on top of the bed and performing an entire musical – complete with music, lyrics, all the parts and the dancing chorus – “to the disbelief of myself and our dogs.”

“Marvin taught me how to live life with gusto and magic,” she said. “He would order every dessert on the menu so everyone could taste everything and miss nothing in life.”

Marvin Hamlisch had so much to live for and was taken from us too young. He was working on a new musical, “Gotta Dance,” at the time of his death and was scheduled to write the score for a new Soderbergh film on Liberace, “Behind the Candelabra,” starring Michael Douglas and Matt Damon.

I’ve struggled mightily the past week. Why people like Marvin — and others — are leaving the planet too young and too early is a mystery. While I don’t have easy answers, I know Marvin isn’t really gone, not to me.

When I think about how Marvin held my baby the night she was born; when I think about “At the Ballet” and how the song transformed me and made me want to be a performer; when I close my eyes and remember seeing A Chorus Line for the first time, I know Marvin is, and always will be immortal: he will never die, not ever.

I wanted to share Marvin’s significance in my life with my daughter so I gave her a printed copy of my blog post from last week. She read it, cried and put the post in her special domed-cover treasure box. This is where she keeps her most precious mementos: important cards, pictures, her Wicked playbill. And now, placed reverently next to the playbill, is my story about Marvin, along with a lyric sheet from his funeral.

Inspired by my love for Marvin, and no doubt influenced by her own small connection to him, my daughter has decided to sing At the Ballet for an upcoming audition at our amazing local theater company, LVP.

I have no doubt that as they discover his work, Marvin’s music will make a significant impact on the next generation. His contribution to culture, to music eduction, to movies and Broadway is unparalleled. But even more important, his connection to his friends, family and people he hardly knew was priceless. Marvin always showed up, gave of himself selflessly and simply didn’t know how to say no. If there is another word for Mensch, it must be Marvin.
Marvin’s Academy Award, Grammy, Tony, Pulitzer Prize winning legacy of work will be with us forever. The love and connection I feel toward him will likewise be with me forever. Marvin, thank you for being there for me and for all of us. We are all so very lucky that you were that kind and benevolent genius. You will live on in my heart forever.

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One Response to Marvin equals Mensch
  1. Anonymous
    November 18, 2014 | 11:47 am

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