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The passing of my dear friend, Willie Garson is as yet impossible to

reason, given his love, his embrace and his appetite for life, for

music, for acting, poker, New Orleans, the magnificence that is Tom

Jones and for the company of friends around a table filled of

conversation, flavour, gossip and laughter. The many admirers and fans

of his acting will not be surprised that the wit and verve that he

brought to the characters he portrayed, was only part of the puzzle. 

Willie was splendid company not in that frivolous way in which time can

be squandered. I think of him in the present tense, a joyful,

opinionated man, sometimes exasperated at the stupidity, viciousness and

vanities of life and what passes for leadership in politics and

business. Then there was his love and care, for his friends and his

family, most of all his son, Nathen, a young man for whom, Diana and I

hold the most tender and consoling thoughts, this evening. 

I have the most wonderful photograph from the day that I first

introduced my younger sons, Dexter and Frank to Willie, when just

toddling. They are teenagers now, so I would not embarrass them by

reprinting it here. You will have to take my word for the delight in

Willie’s face; somewhere between that of a man regarding a magician

presenting a trick and that which might be read as, “Oh boy, there’s

gonna be some trouble here”. 

When Willie first confided in me about his illness and the rigor of

proposed treatments, I sent him a framed, autographed photo of Sammy

Davis Jr., one of his favorite entertainers. The singer was sporting the

style of horn-rim glasses that both Willie and I have favoured all these

years, although I would say Sammy probably carried them off with more


I hoped that Sammy’s exuberant flourish in the photograph would act as a

good luck charm and tonic to Willie’s spirits. I believed with all my

heart that my friend would be the exception who disproved the rule, as

he gathered his strength and weathered the brief elations, the crushing

disappointments, the crazy energy, determination, fatalism and the rage

that are all part of any prolonged resistance against mortal illness. 

There is a lot of pious nonsense spoken about courage in art and show

business. I’ve always claimed that “courage” was better used to describe

an innocent soul facing a firing squad but I would revise that

melodramatic example to take in anyone having to parcel out their

dwindling energies to leave this place with all the grace, good humour

and gratitude that the indignities and insults of failing health allow

and this was the last of Willie’s achievements. 

Goodnight, my friend. I raise a chaste glass to you and one day I shall

finally master the rules of this card game as you have done. Keep a

place for me by the bandstand. 

With love and condolences, to Nathen, Jerry, John and all Willie’s many

loving friends and colleagues. E.C., Diana, Dexter and Frank

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