I told arts journalist and advocate Andrew Patner, who passed away today, my short career story, which starts with a marketing internship at McCarter Theater in Princeton. Andrew knew McCarter artistic director Emily Mann’s late father, Arthur. Arthur Mann was an American history professor at the University of Chicago who had written a book on New York City mayor Fiorello La Guardia.
I told Andrew I’d seen George Lucas at the Hollywood Bowl. Andrew explained that Lucas had married Mellody Hobson, who was responsible for the George Lucas Museum of Narrative Art coming to Chicago. The plan was to build the museum on the lake, which was sacred and allegedly protected ground in the city. But Hobson knew the mayor and the Obamas so maybe it would happen.
I told Andrew that someone had just texted me, “Real talk: is Gustavo Dudamel handsome?” “Depends on the hair and the angle,” Andrew said. This was correct and did not require a customary Andrew elaboration; we moved on.
Know-it-alls are annoying, and Andrew did know it all. But Andrew’s was a knowledge rabbit hole you wanted to jump down. He didn’t talk over you, he didn’t talk at you; he told stories. So many of our stories are about ourselves, but his weren’t: his were about a city, a time, a family, a cultural moment. Even the one about watching Behind the Candelabra, the HBO Liberace movie, was about more than that: “Tom and I watched it with Jean-Yves Thibaudet at the Four Seasons – it was Jean-Yves’ idea. My parents saw Cats on tour in Japan in Japanese and they said, ‘well that’s the only way we’d ever want to see Cats’. That was me, Tom, Jean-Yves, the Four Seasons, Liberace and HBO: how else are you going to watch that?” Andrew didn’t drop names: he held them up.
It was cold in Chicago when I saw him on January 9 of this year, so he drove me from Symphony Center to the Lyric Opera. The 7 minutes in the car was the city tour from the hilarious quirky guide you always hope to get. “That was a commie hotel…[The W]” “I picked up a sailor when I was an intern and brought him back there because hello you have to do that once, right?… [the Sears Tower]”. Coincidently or tragically, I had lunch with a new mutual friends of ours just yesterday. “Does Andrew actually know everything?” I asked. “Yeah: people ask Andrew for tours of their own cities.”
I looked through some old emails—pitches, plans for Chicago or New York visits, nothing of any great importance. I noticed that a few years ago I had tried to get Andrew to do an interview for WFMT via phone. That didn’t work. “An interview is a conversation between two people in a room together listening to and looking at each other,” he wrote me back. I remember thinking at the time that was pretty grand and totally unnecessary, but this was before I’d been in a room with him. That was a person to meet in person.
My condolences to Andrew’s partner, to his mother, his brothers, and to his friends. I’ll really miss him.
(Photo by Todd Rosenberg via Twitter.)