A Chicago Story
Volume 3 Book 8 Part 2 of
Living in the Bonus Round

In Memoriam to Greg Burley.
[ Book 3-7 ] -- [ Pt 1 ] [ Pt 2 ] [ Pt 3 ] [ Pt 4 ] [ Pt 5 ]
[ Pt 6 ] [ Pt 7 ] [ Pt 8 ] [ Pt 9 ] [ Pt 10 ]

March 9-12, 2004.
Making Friends in Chi-town.
I was working on this diary entry when, at the last minute, I got word that our beloved friend, Greg Burley in Rochester, finally passed away. He had been in a hospice for several weeks. Here's the note from Bud Minard:
Our beautiful friend, Greg, died at 5:55 PM today.   I was there.   He pulled off his oxygen line this morning and said enough is enough !

He knew he was receiving wonderful, loving care at Isaiah House and told them so.   He did so much for himself and instructed the volunteers, sometimes, if they weren't sure what to do.   He was very matter-of-fact and BRAVE !

I visited him at the hospice every day. It was a joy to be with him because he could respond, and even smile a little, until yesterday.   A couple of days ago, I gave him a hug when I was leaving, tweeked his ear, he SMILED, swung at my hand, and kiddingly said, "Doonn't doo that !"  The next day I did the same thing and he looked up at me, SMILED, and said, "You're just like Steve !"    Yesterday he responded but was very tired and slept most of the time.    Today he could hardly open his eyes....and slept.

Earlier today their son was copying a poem titled "Fly Away".    You could tell he was letting each word touch him as he wrote.   He looked up when he finished...teary eyed.

His whole family was there...his mom, his 5 brothers, his wife, and their son and daughter.

They helped him leave ..."I love you. Let go..it's time !"    Then the tears.

When I first met Greg it was at a performance of The Last Session where his brother, Chris, was playing the role of "Jim." I went out to the lobby and what I remember most was this huge smile and gentle, passionate hug as he told me how much the songs meant to him. He had already endured the Friendly Fire of cancer therapy. Cancer of the brain! And had actually succeeded in fighting it off.

I remember he wore that big scar as proudly as any war veteran. It was a big C-shape up behind his ear. When we returned to Rochester, he had been making plans to create a little theatrical troupe at his church, the Covenant United Methodist Church. Readers of this diary will remember when I invited him to sing "When You Care" with me. He was like a two-year old getting candy for the first time!

When we sang for the Sunday morning service, there was not a dry eye in the house. To say he was beloved in that congregation doesn't even scratch the surface of how much they adored him.

I wrote Bud back and said that this world will be a little colder place without Greg. He was a source of light and love that can only be described as irreplaceable. All we can do, really, is hold him in our hearts and remember him. Then at least some of that love and warmth will never really go away. We loved you Greg Burley. You were a rare and precious gift.

As we open The Big Voice in Chicago, we will dedicate the show to you. You were the best.

On our first day in town, Jimmy got a call from an agent he'd sent a photo to. Could he come in right away? So, on our way to rehearsal we decided to find our way to this agent's office. This would mean our first time to plan a trip and negotiate our way using the elevated subway, the famous "L." I love this train. It swoops and swerves between all these buildings, almost like flying!

The station near us.

We are staying in John Sparks' apartment, which is way north but close to the lake (which we haven't visited yet). We got up early and were halfway to the L station when I remembered that I had left the disc with the script rewrites back in the apartment. The trip involved changing trains three different times so I knew we had to rush to get there in time.

Part of this journey would go through a section called "The Loop." I haven't read up about "the loop" but on the little map it looks like all the different colored lines converge in a "loop" around the inner part of downtown.

Again, I don't really have a mental perception of Chicago's shape or its suburbs or anything. I feel totally lost! The layout feels like a combination of NY's huge "citiness" combined with LA's massive suburban spread. But unlike LA, Chi-Town actually has a public transportation system.

Rushing in, I had my camera but I didn't snap that many pics because we were running. After changing lines we got into the loop, left one line, hit the street, entered a different line and waited up on another platform where I snapped a couple of pics just before the train got to us.

The gleaming beautiful city of Chicago.
We just barely made it to the agent's office, which was in a big modernized warehouse just down from a building labeled The Oprah Winfrey Show. (I made a note to myself that we had to find a way to get Oprah to the show. Of course, EVERYONE is trying to get to Oprah. But hey, I'm living in the bonus round. Everything is possible in the bonus round.)

We got to the agent's office and she was so impressed with Jimmy's resume that she sent us directly over to a casting director. So, who knows? It'd be cool if Jimmy picked up a commercial or something while we're here. We dropped off his pic and we raced back down to the L, making it to our run-through almost on time!

Jimmy out in front of the Theatre Building Chicago,
where our studio production is being held.
There we met Jeff, our stage manager. For those who don't know anything about theatre, the stage manager, especially in a smaller type production like this, does everything from setting up the stage to sitting in the booth and punching all the buttons that cue the sound and lights. It's a very difficult job.

Tom (L) is the technical director. Jeff is the stage manager.

This is Tom Ballantine the PR/marketing director.
He's been doing a great job of attracting press attention.

Next door is the Bailiwick & David Zak.
I told David I was using the diary to pressure
him to produce TLS.

That night, we were taken to dinner by the woman I mentioned in the last diary entry. Her name is Sue Carey and besides being absolutely beautiful and classy beyond words, she is a writer and former circus performer. She has asked Jimmy to work with her on a new musical she has written about her experiences with abused children. Finding the system full of abuse, she established a foundation and a home where she devotes a great deal of time helping these kids.

This is Sue Carey. She took us to dinner that night.
That's Jimmy sucking on chocolate.
Her story is riveting. We spent three hours together at dinner and I think we barely even scratched the surface of her life. And to our amazement, the musical that she has put together has absolutely fantastic music and a story that needs to be heard. Next week she's throwing a huge party for The Big Voice at her house. Already, a hundred people have RSVP'd. Thanks to Sue, our profile here in Chicago is starting to rise. But I'll continue her story next week.

When we finally got back to the station near our "home," we were walking past this music store right across the street. Jimmy suddenly shouted out to me, "Hey! Look in the front music rack!" And right there, was the vocal selections book for The Last Session!

A familiar songbook three blocks from our apartment.
Naturally, we took it as a great sign. The next morning we stopped in and took pictures, of course.

They also had a copy of my friend, Paul Zollo's book,
The Songwriter's Answer Book,
written while we were both at National Academy of Songwriters.

It's a bird!

Then I made friends with this huge multi-colored parrot in the window of a pet store. It would copy all my body moves. I'd move my head and and down. The bird would move its head up and down. I'd flap my arms. The bird would flap its wings. Jimmy had to drag me away!

The next day, after another run-through, we visited an old friend of Jimmy's named Michael Lasswell. Michael is a well-known set designer and his partner Mike Ehrman directs opera. Classy people! But what I loved was the bookends in their kitchen with Lucy, Ethel and the bread-making scene from "I Love Lucy."

Lucy & Ethel bake bread!

Mike Ehrman & Steve. Jimmy with Michael Lasswell.

Cocktails, anyone?

So, tonight, Friday we open and as Amy from the TLS list reminded me, today is the 7th anniversary of the Bonus Round diary site!

We are excited. The run-throughs went beautifully. We love the staff and the facility. Now let's see if the audiences and critics here in Chicago are ready for Jim and Steve!

[ Book 3-7 ] -- [ Pt 1 ] [ Pt 2 ] [ Pt 3 ] [ Pt 4 ] [ Pt 5 ]
[ Pt 6 ] [ Pt 7 ] [ Pt 8 ] [ Pt 9 ] [ Pt 10 ]

© 1996-2004 by Steve Schalchlin.
You have permission to print from this diary and distribute for use in support groups, schools, or to just give to a friend. You do not have permission to sell it.