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Friday, June 21, 2002

Farewell To Bill

My high school's most famous alum passed away yesterday--the elegant Bill Blass. How a world-class guy like him came out of a provincial town like mine, I'll never know. Well, he knew better than to stick around, that's for sure. That's something he and I had in common. (Hope nobody from the old burg is reading this).

His art teacher was still around when I was a student there--putting in her last few years. She's one of the few teachers whose name I can still remember off the top of my head without prompting--Erma Dochterman. She projected some of the same qualities as her famous student--no-nonsense, gracious, imposing.

Of course, Blass hadn't yet become famous when I was at South Side HS (the 50's), but Dochterman would sometimes talk about this incredible guy that she had had the privilege to teach. She was sure he would make his mark. She used to say that she had already earned her place in art teacher heaven by having had a kid like Bill.

I once splurged on a Bill Blass suit--back when I had the figure to do justice to a smart cut of cloth. Man, was it sharp! I don't mind telling you I looked great in it. It was my "presentation" suit--the threads I pulled out of the closet when I had to make a presentation somewhere.

There was one other celebrity to come out of my high school--Shelley Long. What the hell has become of her? Like many a gifted TV actor before and after, the transition to movies from success on the tube has not panned out. Too bad. She was a pleasure to watch. I say "was" because what are the odds of seeing her again? She's probably over 50 by now--way past the point where Hollywood puts its females out to pasture.

You know the drill. They'll cast a 40-year old to play the mother of a 30-year old. Case in point: In "Blue Hawaii," Angela Lansbury, at the time a ripe old 35 years of age, played Elvis Presley's mom . The King was pushing 27. Lansbury once said that it was one of the low points of an otherwise distinguished career.

But I digress. A long way around to simply say RIP to an elegant, charitable, gifted human being and fellow alum. Bill, we'll miss your totally cool presence. I wish I could still get into that beautiful suit.

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