I first saw Kevin on stage when his school, mine, and one other were selected from across Southern California to perform at a high school drama festival at Northridge University. We both had leads, and after his school performed on Friday, our drama coach drew our cast together to ensure we grasped how powerful Kevin’s performance was.  The next night was our turn, and afterwards I received a note from Kevin congratulating me and suggesting we meet.

For the better part of a decade, we wrote scores of letters and I was always impressed with his clarity and passion in pursuit of his dream, not to be a star, but to be a working actor.  I think now how I must have bored him with my generic collegiate escapades and broken heart episodes over this or that girl.  Here’s the thing:  Kevin knew my optimum life’s path better than I did. Woven through the fabric of his letters and the many phone calls we had were subtle, and sometimes not so subtle, declarations that I would love – and be successful – embarking upon the same adventure as he. More than once he offered his couch to me so that after I took a one-way ticket to New York, I would have a place to stay and we could chase the dream together.  That brand of generosity reminded me of the time he drove a significant distance to see me in a play of which I had all of about 12 lines.

As to a career choice, I guess one could say I met him halfway. Due in no small part to our discussions, I pivoted away from becoming a firefighter. Instead, I performed in front of live audiences, and a particularly tough crowd to be sure, as they were forced literally by law to be there. Winning awards big and small along the way reflected the wisdom of harnessing my skills to affect positive change while simultaneously affording me the ability to scratch the actor’s itch.  Still, there’s only a few thousand middle schoolers who can claim to seeing those performances.  Kevin never said I was going to be wasted on them, but rather they were going to be fortunate, knowing how much intensity and passion I was going to bring to the table.  Performing in the role of a teacher has been a lifelong blessing, but one can’t help but ponder the path not followed. Perhaps that’s why I’ve always taken, and continue to take, such a fierce pride in Kevin’s accomplishments. 

Unfortunately, we fell out of contact with both of us moving multiple times in a short period during our mid-twenties and no social media as a communication safety net.  Years later, I was teaching at a Saudi Arabian royal academy when I wandered into a rare video store and stumbled upon one of his first movies. Clutching it, I literally raised my hands in triumph as I vicariously immersed myself in the joy I knew he must have felt embracing the success he had worked so hard to achieve.  Saudi nationals turned to stare, no doubt amused at this ex-pat’s sudden celebration. 

One last point that some may consider odd: I’ve always kept my association with Kevin private. Knowing him before he was known was a treasure, and reducing that to name dropping seemed almost sacrilegious. People who know me very well have no idea of what is written here. It’s been said that the child is the father of the man, and the Kevin I knew was a sterling, admirable lad and I count myself fortunate indeed to have been able to call him friend.


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