Friday, 19. September 2014 17:47
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Name Comments
406)
Steve Ruskin  
Location:
-
Wednesday, 27. August 2003 16:14 

Many Summers ago, I had booked Rusty and two others comics to play at The Long Beach Island Foundation of the Arts & Sciences in Loveladies, New Jersey. It was billed as a fun Summer night with terrific New York comics. A storm of epic proportions swept the island, causing major flooding and parts of the ocean to joion across the thin Island. Cars could barely move. People had to tilt to one side to get out to avoid the water rusing in when the door opened. Despite the weather, the house was packed.
I remember Rusty sitting backstage reading through all the local papers - The Beachcomber, The Sandpiper - and pulling out little nuggets of local color to add to his songs. My daughter was with me at the show and Rusty asked her about all the typical LBI things that she enjoyed. More material for his songs.
The audience was totally drenched, soaking wet. The venue had a large tin roof like an airplane hangar that just echoed the pounding rain. The first act...well she bombed and began pelting the audience with beach balls as she left.
Rusty came out to this and just killed. His warm and personality just won over the whole crowd. They loved how he put in all the little things only folks from the area would know. He was doing, "Gold Card" at the time. A great parody of Tracy Chapman's , "Fast Car" changed to highlight the appeal of a premium charge card to the opposite sex.
So frequently when I am down at the shore and it beings to really deluge I remember fondly how Rusty turned that crowd around. He was a gifted performer with a great ability to craft parodies on the spot. But more than that he was a terrific person. Backstage that night as the other two comics, myself and my daughter and the theatre manager were preparing for what would most certainly be the worst show imaginable, Rusty calmly began preparing his set. His upbeat spirits and love of performing won over the audience but also the backstage folks, not an easy thing.
They still talk about that night, the fact that the show went on even amid the flooding and massive rains. And they remeber that boy from New York with all the funny songs and the great presence.
The West Bank shows were fun, but Rusty was really good during Hurricaines!
405)
James T. Edwards  
Location:
Chicago
Monday, 18. August 2003 20:56 

Rusty Magee helped me survive my second and last year at Brown University. By the beginning of my sophomore year, I was convinced that I had no business at the Providence School for Troubled Children. In addition, like many overly dramatic 19 year olds, I was convinced that my angst was unique, a new chapter in the history of romantic tragedy. My inner voice said, “You’re a loser, and no one will ever like you.” Desperate for love (19 years old), and years behind my classmates socially, I withdrew into bad writing, good reading, and solitude. I seldom spoke, and when I did I resembled the old farts from my hometown in the cornfield—my lips didn’t move, and I couldn’t look you in the eye.

Seeking an outlet for my pathetic self-absorption, I enrolled in an acting class taught by a gracefully aging thespian and horseplayer named Barnhill. Age, repressed memory, and self-abuse have erased much of that year from my brain, but I’ll never forget the magic period when Rusty dazzled me (and everybody else lucky enough to be in that class) with his beautiful being. At the time, I saw his humor, his music, and his energy as mania, or his need for attention. As years pass, I see that his antics were less about him than they were about me. He didn’t tell me jokes so that I’d think he was funny. He told me jokes simply so that I would laugh, because laughter is a good thing that lets you know life is okay. His comedy is contagious courage. He gave me laughter at the time I needed it more than anything else. Like so many others, I was Rusty’s best friend.

I wasn’t the only one in the class who was dazzled. I was around when Rusty and Eve began their college romance. If that relationship had been a 1930s romantic comedy—and it sure looked like that to me—you would have recognized me in the bumbling third-wheel role that Ronald Reagan worked so hard in “Dark Victory,” except Reagan had better writers and more scenes. Their kindnesses to me were thrilling. I’m glad to know they both found their true loves later on.

The acting class was a scream. During the year, I was actually cast in a few roles, primarily for the purpose of raising Don Wilmeth’s blood pressure. Accents and characterization were beyond me, but the hourly-staff seemed to enjoy the extra time I added to rehearsals. The theatre department suffered my presence (or lack of it) with patient aplomb.

By the end of the Spring term, Professor Barnhill had gently convinced most of the class that our potential contributions lay outside The Profession, and we spent the last month in open-mouthed awe watching Rusty, Eve, Kate, and a few others perform special projects. Their blazing potential was obvious, and I wasn’t surprised to learn later that the stars in the class went on to Yale and then New York.

During the eighties, my contact with “my buddies from Brown” consisted of reading the occasional reference in the New Yorker’s “Goings On About Town,” or unexpectedly seeing Rusty or Eve on a screen and elbowing the stranger next to me, saying, “Hey! That’s my friend!” Such is the life of a rube.

This leads to my favorite Rusty moment. In 1990, I’m living in Houston, and attending an Astros game. I’m walking around the concourse of the Astrodome in a huge line of Texans, while another huge line of Texans passes in the opposite direction. Suddenly I see a Detroit Tigers cap approaching me, and I think, “Damn, it’s Rusty!” It’s thirteen years since I’ve seen him, and I’m not expecting this genius I read about in national magazines and see on TV to remember me. When we’re two yards apart, still not sure it’s him, I say, “Rusty Magee . . .?”

He turns, says, “Jim Edwards,” and passes by.

The lines move on, and I think, well, okay, that was cool. I’m actually ready to let it go at that, when I hear Rusty scream, “JIM EDWARDS! CHRIST ALMIGHTY HOW THE HELL ARE YA?!”

We embraced, and I was dazzled once again. Rusty graciously invited my wife, Stephani, and me to the preview of “Czar,” and, after, we got to have drinks with Rusty and Lewis Black as they tweaked the script the night before opening.

Rusty’s huge talent is such a generous thing. He includes you in the joke. When we met at the Astrodome, he made a piece of theatre out of it. We played our roles with perfect timing, and the audience was just us. Like all great comedians (and this he shares with Lewis Black), he’s a great audience. He laughs at your jokes, as if what you said was really funny, and then he delivers the topper. I walk away feeling as if I were actually trading jokes with him, like we’re both in the game together.

Rusty made me feel like I was in on it. I’m glad everybody else feels the same way. I’m glad I got to be there near the beginning, but it’s hard to give up the hope that we’ll cross paths one more time, somewhere.

Thanks, Rusty.

James T. Edwards
Chicago

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404)
BENGUIGUI Michel  
Location:
NIMES FRANCE
Saturday, 16. August 2003 07:12 

J'ai connu Rusty lors de son séjour en France en 1972 ou 1973. Nous nous sommes revu assez souvent lors de ses passages en France.
Son humour et sa joie de vivre resteront à jamais gravés dans ma mémoire et dans mes souvenirs.
J'espère avoir la possibilité de revoir Allison et Nathanael toutes les fois que les occasions se présenteront.
Je suis actuellement en voyage en Californie et je pense à lui car je suis aux Etats Unis.
Il me manque beaucoup et je regrette de n'avoir pas eu la chance de lui dire que je l'appréciai énormément.

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403)
Michelle Fernandez Starlin  
Location:
Austin, Texas
Tuesday, 12. August 2003 15:24 

What a beautiful idea this is. I should have known that a man like Rusty, adored by so many, would have a way for everyone to express themselves.
A move to Austin and a wedding left me out of the NYC loop. I found out a month after the fact that Rusty had left us for a better place. A world without pain and suffering.

I had the honor of really getting to know Rusty when we did "What you Will".
Since I lived 2 blocks from him, on W 73rd, I was lucky to get rides to and from rehearsal. So many from the cast would pile in his car and would get dropped off along the way. He was a wild driver, we had so much fun. Rusty and Shilue would make me laugh so much I didn't want the ride to end.

Everytime I hear Elton John's Tiny Dancer, I think of the time Rusty played it at a Moonwork's gig. It was a sing-along and our table was the loudest, thanks to Timmy and Hannah knowing all the lyrics. What fun memories.

I've actually been thinking of Rusty quite a bit lately. Now that I read his mothers' entry it must be that I knew about his birthday (same as my fathers).
One of Rusty's dear friends (which I met in the upper west side car pool) Lewis Black, is doing a show in Austin. I was thinking how I would love to hang with and old friend of Rusty's and hear some great stories.

Alison, Nat and family,
My heart goes out to you all. I'm sure you are all well aware the wonderful, positive, special man you all had the pleasure of being so close to. He would talk about his family all the time. How wonderful and beautiful his wife is and how smart and gifted his son is.
I feel so lucky to have had him in my life and to have his great CD.

Rusty, I miss you very much. I will always remember how you never let your pain keep you from a good joke and a smile.

all my love,
Michelle

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402)
Bettie Magee, Rusty's Mother  
Location:
Natick, Massachusetts
Thursday, 7. August 2003 23:18 

Yesterday on your 48th birthday day, I hoped you were sharing Angel cake with Robert Mitchum. The red granite bench at Angell School in Ann Arbor sparkled in the sun, It is your gift to your beloved school. 150 of your friends were there - Your son Nat and Jamie/Jane's Lorraine and Otto read your Whitman "Sweet Appreciation" with gusto. Al Hill was great at piano, played "I Wonder if Joanne's Back in Ann Arbor" - then Joanne English spoke. Tributes to you from classmates so terrific, beautiful photos and collages, a beautiful day dedicated to you blessed by M.C. Jessica Mitchell with a glorious party at Zweiflers next door.
Young attractive principal of Angell, Robin Jackson was so helpful - I read stories you wrote in Grade 2 from Susan Mathews, Kenny remembered
his turbulent years at Angell never dreaming he would be speaking about you in the old Auditorium. Betty Quenon, Margaret Wagner Loveless, so many dear ones made your day unforgettable. We all missed you alot.
I note that Eve Gordon made #400 messages in this guestbook on your birthday.
"I love you alot, Rusty" as you always said. Love, Mom
.

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401)
Kathy Schwabenlender  
Location:
Charlotte, NC
Thursday, 7. August 2003 11:38 

I was thinking about you too, Rusty, on your birthday.
400)
Eve Gordon  
Location:
Santa Monica
Thursday, 7. August 2003 05:32 

Happy Birthday, Rusty! I am thinking of you with great love, as always. I raise a glass to you, grateful that I had you in my life for a while, grateful that I will always have you in my heart.
399)
Sean Kelly  
Location:
Fairfield, CT
Wednesday, 6. August 2003 19:57 

Happy Birthday, Rusty Magee! Despite the sadness of the past year, no one in the world knew more about celebrating life than you, old friend. Today we celebrate your life!

Your sense of humor and your gift of love keeps me alive everyday. I will never forget you, and I think of you everyday, but especially today, August 6th -- St. Rusty's Day.

Cheers, and god bless you!

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398)
Jack Heifner  
Location:
New York, NY
Friday, 25. July 2003 03:12 

I knew Rusty had been ill, but the last time I saw him in a West Side cafe (sometime before Christmas this last year) and we chatted briefly. He was, as always, the cheerful, happy man I'll always remember. I've been away since January and asked tonight about Rusty, only to find out that he had left us. Sorry for the long delay in letting Alison and Nat know how much my heart is with them. I remember so well many wonderful nights with Rusty at The West Bank Cafe. I feel much of my life in the 1980's was spent there--performing, hanging out, being together. It was, as for many of us, our theatre home. Rusty wrote the hilarious title song and performed it in my play TROPICAL DEPRESSION, as the terribly untalented Jim Dupuis. He played for us and added his great talent to the revue OLD OYSTERS (with Wayne Knight, Diane Kamp and Margo Martindale). I used his wonderful "New York Romance" in a show I did with The Acting Company at the old Ballroom. It remains one of my favorite songs. Rusty was a bright light in our lives and he was loved by so many people. I'm sorry I wasn't in NYC for the memorial. My sympathy to everyone, friends and family...I don't need to tell you what a great man Rusty was. We all knew he was a genius, a damn good man and we're all so much richer for having known him.
397)
Eve Gordon  
Location:
Santa Monica
Thursday, 24. July 2003 08:59 

This is in response to Scott's amazing message (below).
I just want to tell you, last year, when I was spending a weekend alone with Rusty, just hanging out and trying to help him feel better, we lay on the couch and listened to his CD, Sweet Appreciation. Moment for moment, he told me everything he was thinking at the time, I told him how it all affected all of us, and we just relived it. And here's something he said: "A friend of mine told me that Mozart's best work was probably lost forever, performed at a 'salon' somewhere. But I have this. This is some of my best work, and it's here forever."
That was you, wasn't it, the friend? We all tried, every day and in every way, to think of stuff to say to Rusty to make him feel good, to keep his spirits up, to help him. I just wanted you to know, that Mozart thing really lifted him up. Even if it was meant to be poignant or ironic, Rusty absolutely took it as a reminder ...of his good luck.

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