Steve Bernstein remembers Rich
"Good afternoon (I suppose)... For those of you who don't know me, my name is Steve Bernstein. On behalf of Rich's family--nuclear and extended--and my wife Julie and myself, I'd like to thank you for joining us in celebration of the life of Richard Stone.
We'll start off here today by sharing our feelings and our memories. After a few planned speakers, we'll make the microphone available to anyone else who would like to speak. Since we anticipate there may be quite a few who will want to share, we ask that you try to keep your comments to a few minutes. Julie and I have assembled a video tribute to Rich that we'll show after the talks. And then we'll eat.
Just as an aside... Rich wasn't a religious man and... spiritual, yeah-- but not religious. And here we are on Palm Sunday AND Passover.
It's incredible how the events of the last couple of months continue to take me through my feelings...so many feelings: anger, sadness, fear, resentment...you know, "How could he do this to us?"...all the way, now to today's celebration. I've been trying and struggling with how to give this talk I want to give, trying to make sense of what's happened, trying to rationalize it. It doesn't work. It's senseless. It's irrational. And how do we sum up a whole person--especially somebody as complicated as Rich? Do we try? There's a proverbial group of blind men trying to describe an elephant (excuse me, Rich...) but only knowing the various parts from their own experience, and I think maybe those of us who speak here today will provide glimpses of our experience. And maybe a loving portrait will emerge, something that can approximate how we feel about Rich, who he was and what he meant to us.
When something like this happens, a person's perspective changes. Everything takes on the unreal quality of ritual. At least for me it did. I saw myself outside of myself, moving on with my days... waking up the day after losing my friend and saying: "This is the weather on the first day after Rich." I see myself having Friday dinners with others who loved him and were close to him. And I see me writing down these words about the passing of my friend.
And what words do I use? What's the right tone? And then I realize that there ARE NO WORDS. In much the same way the musicians among us go past the words, go around them--and ignore them completely... There are no words for this time. That being said, I'm going to try.
My relationship with Rich evolved very quickly through definite stages. First he was my employer. Some of us know what THAT'S like. He hired me to write on "Taz-Mania" solely from recommendations, without hearing a note from me. From the time of my first recording session with him, he made me his virtual writing partner, taking me along from show to show. He then became my friend and colleague. During the approximately 10 years we worked for Warner Brothers, he became our neighbor, living first 10 houses up the street and then, after both of us moved, to the same development, he lived 3 houses away. And throughout those years, we became family to each other. I have two older brothers by birth and then I made another big brother by choice. We sort of adopted each other. And I know , without a doubt, that Julie and Rich were siblings from different parents.
Julie met Rich on one of my first "Taz-Mania" recording sessions. She made a suggestion to me about my music, some notes I should change to make it sound better, and Rich made a comment that he could never have let HIS wife talk about changing his music--something like that. Well, Julie pouted the rest of the day and he was so guilt-ridden that he insisted she come to every session after that. And he wouldn't let her leave until she promised. So she did. She ultimately became his orchestrator and then collaborator and fellow composer. And they rapidly became fast and best friends.
We had so much in common with Rich--including all of our STUFF. Whenever Julie or I would go online to order books or CDs or DVDs--whatever-- we'd always order 2 because we knew Rich would want one. And he'd do the same for us. So we had the same stuff. As I said, we lived 3 houses away from him in the same development--different floor plans but, really, the same house. We went to the marble yard together, when our houses were being built, and ended up choosing the same granite and marble. We had to try not to hang the same artwork but still ended up with the exact same framed portrait of Stravinsky over our mantles.
So, what did I know about Rich? I know that he was passionate. Whatever it was in life that gave him pleasure, he dove in and reveled in it.
He was passionate about food. He loved to cook and loved good food. Even when he was unable to keep anything down, he had us over for dinner and barbecued a wonderful meal, complete with enormous shrimp (my favorite oxymoron), homemade jalapeno cornbread and homemade ice cream. When he was in the hospital and then later at home, still unable to eat, his reading material of choice was Bon Appetite magazine. And of course the Food Network was always on TV. Absolutely true.
He was obviously passionate about music. Some of my favorite memories are of riding in his car, just listening to music together. He sort of played DJ for me, sharing his latest favorite CD. I think one of the last ones we listened to together was a PDQ Bach CD. We would just listen to it and giggle. He loved what he did for a living. He told me that he was doing exactly what he always wanted to do. Rich's mom, Janet, told me a few nights ago that when Rich was a young teenager, he told her that he wanted to go to Hollywood and be John Williams--and on a couple cues I think he came really close. Probably too close, I would think. When he wasn't praticing the cello, he would study maps of Southern California, laying them out on the floor of his room, planning his future.
And he was passionate about people. He truly loved the recording sessions here in this room--because of the music, yes-- but I think more because of the people involved in making the music. Those of us who know how painful the tyrrany of the blank page and the deadline can be... Rich put up with that pain so he could be here with his favorite folks.
Rich loved words, but only as a kind of plaything. I spoke about words before--about how they fail us in times like this. Rich knew so well how useless words can be. He knew how I felt. He knew I knew how he felt. Why waste the time talking about it? So we talked about our gardens. And cooking. And movies. And music. Phil Hendrie. Our kids. When he was really sick, in the hospital, I saw him a couple of times. We didn't say much--he really didn't have the energy--but we actually did joke together. We loved to pun together, to play with language together. (I've discovered that it's actually a family trait after getting to know Rich's brother Dave in the past few weeks.) Everyone involved in the scoring sessions will remember how Rich and I always tried to out-pun each other in our cue titles. I tried to find examples but there were so many I couldn't even pick my favorites.
And I quickly learned how to read him when the words weren't there. In recording sessions, when he liked my cue, he'd shake his head. That was scary. When there were problems, he'd tap his pencil on the desk really fast. I learned quickly to hope for the head shake and not the pencil tap.
And he loved kids--his AND mine. He watched my baby boy grow into the little scamp that he is. And he saw my daughter's personality develop, taking true delight in her. And Julie and I have watched his two little scamps, Rick and Mike, grow into these really tall, but more importantly, GOOD and thoughtful young men. He was so proud of them--justifiably so. It comes as no surprise that they're both extremely talented musicians and I know they'll continue to do Rich proud in whatever they do.
Rich was passionate about so much. He just plain LOVED LIFE. Maybe that's why he became a part of my life. Maybe not so much the music but the passion for it. He demonstrated for me daily how to revel in life, how to dive in. I'm going to miss him very much. But that spirit of his, that truly gentle and generous man, will be with me the rest of my days.
At this time, I'd like to introduce Rich's big brother, Dave Stone."
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