Bruce was a very talented art director/artist that loved to draw from memory, not models. If you know anything about drawing, you know how difficult it can be. I hired Bruce out of Doubleday on the recommendation of my old boss. I had the option of not hiring him, and was told so. I interviewed Bruce and found he had nothing in his portfolio except drawings and soap sculptures. But he had been in the direct mail business for quite a while, so I took the chance. Needless to say it all worked out.
Bruce and I would attend meetings together, and he would sit staring at his pad of paper, noodling. He would break out in laughter if something were said that was funny. You knew he was paying attention. His drawings were either of some sexy looking creature, or the current situation. This went on at lunch also. Every Monday and Friday afternoon, we along with a few other regulars would all go to a restaurant called “Pastabilities,” or “The Clubhouse.” Bruce would immediately turn over his paper placemat and start drawing.
Bruce had other “Talents” such as talking really dirty to a woman, sometimes the boss’ wife, in a sexually explicit way, getting drunk, and speaking Italian, and most of all, hating anything Canadian. It seems his father-in-law a widower remarried a Canadian woman. When the old man died, his second wife inherited all the money the old man had, yet told Bruce he was in the will and would be receiving an inheritance. Bruce was all excited, only to receive in the mail, a ring that may or may not be worth as much as $200!
To cheer up Bruce, who always had a perpetual sad face, kind of like a hound dog’s, but one that smoked 2 packs a day, I arranged for a surprise birthday party at Pastabilities on his birthday one November day. I organized all the regulars, plus some, and created about 2-dozen Canadian flags, and printed 2-dozen versions of “Oh Canada” the Canadian National Anthem. When he showed up, we all waved our little Canadian flags and sang out loud and clear.
Unfortunately, or maybe not, Bruce introduced me to Jack Daniel Manhattans, which has become the drink of preference.
Bruce passed on about 4 years ago, and I miss him. I used to go over to his house to set up his computer, install software, modems, and printers. We would go out to dinner with our wives on occasions, and when we did, we would be laughing until we cried. We once went to an off Broadway play of South Pacific. The scene is where the Hero is being chased by a group of girls, and the lead girl catches up to him. He is about to ask her a question. The girl is alone on stage as she gets away from the group of girls at this point. All the girls in the off Broadway cast were overweight. I whispered to Bruce as the hero was about to speak, “Where is the rest of the herd?” Bruce laughed from that moment on, through the entire play, including intermission, and all through dinner. I had never in all my life seen such a case of the giggles. Of course the little woman didn’t think it was so funny, but hey, I was enjoying myself like a child.
Then one day, Bruce’s wife Gerri came down with cancer. Bruce started doing housework, and taking care of medical referrals and things he never did before like shopping and cooking. Gerri was fighting it and winning so it seemed. Bruce would joke that she was doing good, “but she just won’t die!”
Bruce had just started to fulfill his life long dream of designing his very own log cabin house in North Carolina. He had all the materials set and on the property he bought, when Gerri got ill, so he had to put off his plans. Then Bruce got the news that he was sick with cancer. Mouth cancer, from years and years of smoking and drinking, it finally caught up with him. Gerri seemed to get better, so Bruce decided to build his dream. He had the house completed in March, while he was on his deathbed. He hired an ambulance and was driven to JFK airport in early May, flew down to North Carolina in a hospital bed or gurney, and with the help of some friends down there, moved into his dream home, and a few days later was dead.
Gerri died not long after and they held a memorial service in Sayville where their ashes sat in urns, Gerri and Bruce.
I saw Bruce a few weeks before he died. He had not seen one friend from NY, except for me. We reminisced about old times and I knew it was the final goodbye. As I drove home I did some thinking about Bruce and decided to write him a letter. In the letter I told him that I would miss him, thanked him for being a friend and that every time I lifted a drink of Jack Daniels Manhattan, I would toast him in my mind. It is a promise that I have kept faithfully