More Power Than She Knew
There comes a time in every writer’s career when, regardless what others tell you about what you do, you have to face what you can do, what you want to do, what you find nearly impossible to do, what’s almost too painful to do, what you never expected to have to do. And this is that time. This past Saturday morning, June 23, I got a call from Brighton, England, from Ivan Kotcher that his wife, Kathleen, co-creator of Shocked and Amazed!, had died in her sleep that morning. She was 41.
We speak of people who’ve lived “full” lives, who’ve lived their lives so thoroughly that they could well have been 1000 years old when they died. Imagine someone who’d lived, oh, half a dozen of those lives. Then double it. Now, you’re close to Kathleen. When I first met her, when she was a Master’s student in the University of Baltimore’s publication program in the autumn of ‘94, she seemed much older than she was, and I saw immediately that she was someone who didn’t do things half way if she could help it. And the project which was my Shocked and Amazed! – already several years in the making, at that point – seemed dead in the water, a problem I thought I could coerce, connive, cajole or con her into correcting.
None of that was necessary. Where I’d had a book teetering on unpublishability, she created the periodical I’d barely conceived at that point to replace it. When I’d grown tired of the tediousness of transcribing interviews (the meat of S&A!), she did that, too. All the mind numbing specifics and particulars of publishing a journal, she handled. When the archives quickly became too voluminous for me to manage, she took it all and kept it in such shape that articles – previously unplanned but necessary (usually at the last minute, days from press time) – magically appeared whole. She conducted her own interviews, too, and wrote intros and came up with all the snappy, sarcastic and self-deprecating patter that framed all my literary pretensions. In an era when blogs were in their infancy, she crafted a couple of them for S&A! as well. And all in service to the business she grew to love, taking on the job that never gave her a dime but allowed her to live in the sideshow world, the world of the “other” entertainment, whose people and shows she jumped into immediately and loved from day one.
Because if the woman knew nothing else, she knew love. Total. Utter. As strong as family can be, as important as hers was to her, her friends were as much her family as if they were blood. She might’ve called me “boss” and ragged me constantly about what was or wasn’t going on with S&A!, but her love of the business and her friendship with me was resolute, despite the ebb and flow of such things. When once years ago she asked me – after too, too many days of getting beat up and being exhausted by the business – “Don’t you ever get tired of this?” and I told her, “Sure.” But we were both at it again the next day like manic fools. Such is love.
But love can only take you so far. Many have made the assumption over the years, because the journal’s full name is James Taylor’s Shocked and Amazed! – On & Off the Midway and even though her name appeared otherwise on the cover, that Kathleen was something other than what she truly was. A lot of folks over the years have smiled and nodded – almost with a wink wink nudge nudge – when I’d tell them, “No Kathleen, no Shocked and Amazed!” Usually, their expressions made it pointless for me to try to explain that, though my line was always taken comedically, it was totally serious. She never sought the limelight, the cameras, the media – of course, I have – but if ever anyone deserved to have the attention, she did.
So let this, then, be – in its minor/too brief way – my thanks to her, my acknowledgement of my failure to give her the roses while she lived, if you will: No Kathleen, no Shocked and Amazed! I’ve always meant it when I’ve said it before, and I mean it even more now. RIP, deary. You taught me more than you ever knew.
James Taylor, June 24, 2012